June 1, 2010 in City, Idaho

Coin toss decides Kootenai County precinct contest

Incumbent, challenger tied for votes in primary
By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photo

Kootenai County Clerk Dan English, center, tosses a coin to decide a contest between Jimmie Masters, left and Ralph Noyes on Tuesday, June 1, 2010, at the county elections office in Coeur d’Alene. Masters and Noyes tied in votes for precinct committeeman in the May 25 primary.
(Full-size photo)

A week after Idaho’s primary, Kootenai County’s final Republican contest was decided Tuesday with the flip of a coin.

In the race for Precinct 8 committeeman, both incumbent Ralph Noyes and challenger Jimmie Masters received 123 votes. As dictated by Idaho code, county Clerk Dan English tossed a coin and Noyes called “heads” in the air.

It was tails. The men shook hands and embraced.

“We each win, no matter who wins,” Noyes said of his contest with a man who lives around the corner from him at the Prairie Falls Community Golf Course in Post Falls. “It’s not like we have great ideological differences.”

“I’m glad it’s over,” Masters said. “The work now begins.”

English has been clerk for 15 years, and it’s the first time he can remember a county election being decided by a coin toss. He thought he should have a special coin for the occasion, so his son, who recently returned from a second tour in Iraq with the U.S. Army, offered the heavy commemorative coin he received after his first tour, listing his battalion and field artillery unit.

It’s also the first year English can remember this much interest in precinct committeeman positions. Of the 71 Republican precinct races, 38 were contested. One race had three candidates, and two races had four. None of the Democratic precinct races was contested.

Each party’s precinct committeemen are like “head volunteers,” English said. They organize volunteers and represent their party at each precinct. They also are members of that party’s central committee, choosing chairmen and officers and helping set policy.

And when there’s a vacancy in a county or legislative position in their party, they select a list of three people from which a replacement is chosen.

“It was far more competitive than we’ve ever seen it,” English said of the precinct races in this year’s primary, held last Tuesday. “There are different groups that are kind of defined by different philosophies. They’re battling philosophies for control of the party.”

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