Coeur d’Alene voters passed over a slate of hard-line conservatives and elected moderate or left-leaning candidates for mayor and City Council.
Business owner Steve Widmyer will take over as mayor Jan. 7. He easily beat longtime City Hall critic Mary Souza 56 percent to 42 percent, or 1,163 votes.
Widmyer, co-owner of the Fort Ground Grill and two women’s clothing stores, will replace Sandi Bloem, who is finishing her 12th year as mayor of the Lake City.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Widmyer said Tuesday night at a victory party at his restaurant. “I think we ran a pretty positive campaign and this shows people are willing to move forward in a positive manner.”
Souza, co-owner of Design Events, issued a statement late in the evening: “”We have worked very hard to get our message out to the voters, using every means within our power. Our supporters have offered generous, active and involved help, for which we are incredibly grateful, and we are proud to have been part of the election process in our city. … Now, today, the voters have spoken. They have chosen a different path, as is their prerogative. We congratulate Mr. Widmyer and his team and we wish the best for ALL of Coeur d’Alene.”
Woody McEvers won a fourth City Council term Tuesday with 53 percent of the vote. Joining him on the council will be Kiki Miller, who won with 56 percent, and Amy Evans, who prevailed with 58 percent.
Those three and Widmyer were backed by Balance North Idaho, a political action committee credited with helping moderates retake the Coeur d’Alene School Board last May. Their elections show voters rejecting a push by hard-line conservatives to populate nonpartisan offices in Kootenai County.
Their challengers were endorsed by Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, which has had some success in recent years helping elect conservatives to the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls city councils, Coeur d’Alene School Board and North Idaho College board of trustees.
“People don’t want that hard-line, no-compromise stance,” Widmyer said. “They want people that are willing to work with each other and move forward in a positive manner.”
In Post Falls, City Council member Ron Jacobson beat fellow councilor Kerri Thoreson 60 percent to 40 percent for mayor. He will take over from Clay Larkin, who is finishing his 13th year as mayor.
In the Post Falls council races, incumbent Betty Ann Henderson fended off challenges from Jason Cornwell and Christi Fleischman. Henderson won with 47 percent of the vote.
Alan Wolfe won a four-way race with 34 percent of the vote. Incumbent Linda Wilhelm was unopposed in her re-election bid.
In Coeur d’Alene, McEvers beat Sharon Hebert, who received 39 percent of the vote, and Amber Copeland, who took 8 percent.
In the two open seats on the Coeur d’Alene council, Evans beat Chris Fillios and Miller beat Noel Adam and Gary Herfurth.
Joseph Kunka, a salesman with Specialty Recreation & Marine, took less than 2 percent of the vote for mayor.