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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Bonner ballots list noncandidate

Lew Langness was only placeholder

By Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

Lew Langness of Bonners Ferry was a little surprised to get queries about his stands on issues and why he’s running for the Idaho state Senate.

“I’m not really a candidate,” Langness said.

Lew’s wife, Linda, the Boundary County Democratic Central Committee chairwoman, got him to agree to serve as a “placeholder” in the primary for several other potential Democratic candidates who were deciding whether to run. No one stepped up, and Langness withdrew from the race in June, leaving Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, unopposed.

However, a clerical error kept Langness’ name on the ballot, prompting a last-minute scramble just as ballots were being printed this week.

Tracie Isaac, a deputy county clerk for Boundary County, when told of the situation on Friday, said, “Oh, dear. Well, I’m not aware of that.” After checking, she said, “We do have him on our ballot as a Democrat for the state Senate, legislative district No. 1.”

Fortunately for Boundary County voters, their ballots hadn’t been printed yet when the mistake was discovered. “So they’ve made that correction,” Deputy Idaho Secretary of State Tim Hurst said Monday.

In Bonner County, however, ballots were printed before the mistake was discovered. When voters who are in that district go to the polls in Bonner County, Langness’ name will be there, but with a line through it.

So what happens if voters decide to select the crossed-out candidate when they vote? “Then they’ve wasted their vote,” Hurst said – it wouldn’t count.

“I stuck my husband in the awful position of putting his name in as a placeholder,” Linda Langness told The Spokesman-Review. “We had a couple of potential candidates, and then all the candidates said, ‘No, I won’t do it.’ ”

Lew Langness ran as a registered write-in candidate in the primary election in May and got the required 50 write-in votes to qualify for the November general election ballot. “But it was almost immediately afterward that the candidates declined to run,” Linda Langness said.

Lew Langness is a retired professor of psychiatry and anthropology. His wife said she was disappointed that the other prospective candidates didn’t step forward. Asked why she got her husband to serve as a placeholder rather than taking on that role herself, she said, “Because I was involved in too many things. And also, I was afraid I might get elected. … I have no desire to be a candidate.”

As it turns out, neither did her husband.

Meanwhile, Keough, a six-term state senator who serves as vice chairwoman of the Legislature’s joint budget committee, said she has been uncertain about her race. “I’ve had key Democratic leaders here tell me, ‘Congratulations, he was just a placeholder and you’ve won,’ ” she said, “and I said, ‘But his name is on the ballot.’ ”

Keough said she noticed her opponent didn’t show up at fairs and candidate forums. But she’s campaigning anyway. “I always look at the campaign cycle, whether I’m opposed or unopposed, as an opportunity to get out and visit with folks and see if I’m doing a good job or not.”

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