Kootenai County, already among the most conservative regions of the country, is about to lose its sole surviving Democratic elected county official.
Longtime Kootenai County Clerk Dan English was defeated 60 percent to 40 percent by Cliff Hayes, the former Post Falls police chief. English had been Kootenai County’s clerk for 15 years.
“It was pretty much a Republican tsunami all over the place, from the national on down and certainly in Idaho and Kootenai County,” said English, who does not believe any particular issue caused his downfall. “I think it’s more just a piece of the overall story. Folks wanted to make a complete change. It was very clear that this was a tough year to be a Democrat or an incumbent, and if you’re both, you’re at double risk.”
Jody DeLuca Hissong, a Democrat running for coroner, agreed with English’s assessment. A chief deputy coroner with 28 years of experience, DeLuca Hissong was soundly defeated – 66 percent to 34 percent – by the Republican candidate, Deputy Coroner Debbie Wilkey.
“I could see the writing on the wall last night when I saw across the nation the big ‘R’ sweep,” DeLuca Hissong said. “I thought uh-oh, Dan English and I are in trouble. They were so sick of (President Barack) Obama although my little office had nothing to do with that. They just voted straight ‘R.’ ”
Wilkey said although she believes she was the best candidate, she also is grateful for the mood of the electorate. “If residents of the county came out to make a change, I’m glad I’m part of that change,” she said. “I’m so fully looking forward to doing the job of coroner. It is a true dream come true.”
With write-in candidates in two high-profile races, and a turnout of more than 60 percent, election returns trickled in slowly Tuesday night and stretched into Wednesday morning. Each time the optical scan machine received a write-in vote, the machine stopped and the ballot had to be retrieved and examined to certify the candidate’s name. Elections Supervisor Carrie Phillips said she finally went home at 6 a.m., only to shower, change and return to work.
“I thought I was prepared with enough people,” Phillips said. “But it still wasn’t enough. It’s just a slow process when you have write-ins.”
Three-term Kootenai County Commissioner Rick Currie, a write-in candidate for his own seat after losing in the primary to Jai Nelson, also lost Tuesday night with Nelson securing more than 85 percent of the vote.
Early returns did not predict the correct outcome of one race for the North Idaho College Board of Trustees. Coeur d’Alene attorney Ken Howard ended up defeating Post Falls businessman Ron Nilson, 52 percent to 48 percent, for an open seat on that board.
In the other race, six-year NIC incumbent trustee Christie Wood defeated Robert Ketchum, 60 percent to 40 percent. The unpaid positions are four-year, nonpartisan seats.