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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Connections matter

The Spokesman-Review

If you went down the line on issues important to Kootenai County Republicans, you’d find that the GOP candidates for two House seats in the Post Falls area agree on most of them. They’re for economic development, good jobs, school choice; against keeping the temporary one-cent sales tax beyond its 2005 sunset date; fiscally conservative; and by and large socially conservative.

Two of the four have served in the Legislature. One is a former mayor of Post Falls and chairman of the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners. And one has chaired the county Republican Central Committee for several years and has strong ties to state Republican leaders. Any of the four could go to Boise and vote appropriately for his conservative District 5 constituency.

But intangibles, such as local government service and political connections, will make two of them more effective than the others.

The Spokesman-Review endorses the candidacies of those two seeking the GOP nomination: Bob Nonini for the House District 5A seat and Frank Henderson for the House District 5B position.

Bob Nonini is the one with the connections. Not only is he the local GOP chairman but guests to his wedding five years ago featured a who’s-who of state Republican politics: Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, then Lt. Gov. Butch Otter and then attorney general Al Lance. In Statehouse politics, a lawmaker’s connections can make or break his ability to succeed. Significantly, Hilde Kellogg, the respected veteran legislator from Post Falls, is serving as Nonini’s co-chair as he tries to succeed her.

On the down side, Nonini, who has a political wonk’s grasp of the issues, has a temper and had a brush with the law in the early 1980s. If he can keep his passion in check, he could have a notable career in public service. Opponent Ron Vieselmeyer of the Coeur d’Alene area, who served two years in the Legislature, 1989-90, is also qualified for this position.

At 81, Henderson is as fit as he was more than a decade ago when he chaired the county commission. In fact, he’s probably the best “new” candidate running anywhere in North Idaho this spring. His sterling record of service at all levels of local government stretches back 25 years and includes his role in helping create Jobs Plus, the economic development corporation that helped Kootenai County diversify. For the past 11 years, he has served as an economic development consultant in Russia and former Soviet Union satellites.

In his short legislative career, first-termer Charles Eberle seems to have made fewer headlines for legislating than for fights with neighbors and for calling police because he thought someone may have tried to plant drugs or bug his house.

Republicans in the Post Falls area can keep quality in one House seat and upgrade in the other by picking Nonini and Henderson.

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