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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Democrats pull worker out of Bonner County, charge harassment by Idaho Rep. Heather Scott’s supporters

Idaho State Representative for Distric 1 Heather Scott, center waits for her turn to address the crowd during the candidates forum at Priest River Junior High School sponsored by Bonner County Republican Central Committee on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The Idaho Democratic Party has pulled a party field organizer out of Bonner and Boundary counties after the young man reported he was repeatedly stalked and harassed by supporters of GOP state Rep. Heather Scott.

This follows concerns expressed this week by Scott’s Democratic challenger, Kate McAlister, about an armed Scott supporter who confronted her 90-year-old mother-in-law outside the Sandpoint Safeway store in August as she was putting away her groceries, complaining about the “Kate” sticker the woman had on her car.

McAlister’s mother-in-law chose not to file a police report on the August incidents, but police reports were filed with both the Bonner County Sheriff’s office and the Sandpoint Police in regard to the incidents with the field organizer, said Dean Ferguson, a party spokesman.

When the 21-year-old field organizer called the sheriff after people in a loud pickup showed up around 2 a.m. at a remote rural home where he was staying with a local family and photographed the house and his car license plate, the sheriff’s deputy who responded dismissed his concerns and told him that “being a Democrat is not a protected class.”

“Out of concern for the employee’s safety, the Idaho Democratic Party relocated him out of the county,” state Democratic Party Chairman Bert Marley wrote in a letter of complaint to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane confirmed Friday that the office has received the letter and is reviewing it, but hasn’t yet responded.

Ferguson said the young staffer was twice accosted at the local Safeway store, harangued about politics and followed outside into the parking lot. In one of those incidents, the aggressive man, wearing a “Heather Scott” campaign baseball cap, “ended the conversation by saying, ‘You’d better watch your back, because we’re watching you,’ ” Ferguson said.

In another incident, the young man came out of his office in Sandpoint to find “three or four of ’em, leaning against his car like schoolyard bullies, wearing Heather Scott caps,” Ferguson said. “So he cracks a joke, gets in his car, goes away. It was a bizarre incident. They knew him by name.”

Bonner County Sheriff Dale Wheeler couldn’t be reached for comment, but he told the Bonner Daily Bee on Friday that the matter is being investigated. “I am looking into it,” he told the newspaper. Sandpoint police Chief Corey Coon also couldn’t be reached for comment.

Scott declined to answer questions about the behavior of her supporters. She agreed to answer questions from The Spokesman-Review only in writing, and chose to respond only to general questions about her re-election campaign. Scott said she’s running for a second term in the state House because, “My constituents have encouraged me to continue to spearhead educating the engaged voter, strengthening our state sovereignty, protecting freedoms and promoting common sense solutions to Idaho issues.”

She added that she’s developed an “extensive network of engaged citizens in District 1 and around the state.”

McAlister, who said she decided to challenge Scott because she was concerned about adherents of the American Redoubt movement trying to influence local politics with Scott as their standard-bearer, said, “People just need to calm down. I want good government, I want us to all get along.”

McAlister, president of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, said a Scott supporter “with a gun on his hip” confronted her 90-year-old mother-in-law outside Safeway in August and demanded to know if she was voting for McAlister, as the woman’s bumper sticker indicated. When she answered yes, “He said, ‘How does she feel about Black Lives Matter and gun control?’ ”

McAlister said, “My little mother-in-law didn’t tell me for three days.” Though her mother-in-law declined to file a police report, McAlister said she called Safeway to complain, and discussed it with a friend who’s a detective.

McAlister said she’s focusing her campaign on education, jobs, infrastructure, highway improvements, broadband internet and public lands access – “things that are pertinent to North Idaho. Heather tends to focus on federal issues. And I cannot be effective at the federal level. I’m going to be elected to be effective at the state level.”

Kane, at the attorney general’s office, said it was the first time he’d heard of reports of in-person election-related harassment in Idaho. “Every now and again we get a report of somebody stealing signs or something like that,” he said.

Marley’s letter said, “The threatening conduct of the group in Bonner and Boundary counties presents serious questions of illegal interference with the right to vote.”