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Can a non-Republican win a Kootenai County office? Dan Gookin pushes message of independence. Jim Brannon stresses efficiency.

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 2, 2018

Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Dan Gookin is challenging Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon’s re-election bid in the November 2018 election. (Candidate websites)
Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Dan Gookin is challenging Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon’s re-election bid in the November 2018 election. (Candidate websites)
By Emma Epperly For The Spokesman-Review

One of the most contentious races in Kootenai County is for one the smaller profile public offices.

Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Dan Gookin is running as an independent hoping to unseat the sitting Republican clerk, Jim Brannon.

Brannon has been clerk since 2013 when the clerk at the time, Clifford T. Hayes, died in office. Brannon was appointed and won an election to keep the seat in 2014.

“I would want people to vote for me because I’m an honest man,” Brannon said. “I will always look after the citizens and taxpayers first. I don’t have any party agendas, but to serve the people of Kootenai County.”

All nine of Kootenai County’s current elected officials are Republicans, but Brannon said that does not mean different ideas are not brought to the table.

“You would think that we would all get along as a unit and march together but everyone has unique ideas,” Brannon said. “It’s not a simple, ‘Let’s all go this way. We all bring ideas to the table and we agree a lot and sometimes we don’t.’”

Brannon said the job of county clerk is complex with a staff of about 90 people and five different departments. He has reduced the budget 14.5 percent during his tenure and hopes to continue to do so without hurting service.

Transparency, efficiency, accuracy, Brannon’s campaign slogan, is “what drives this office every day.”

“The clerk can’t make policy. The clerk has to only do what is dictated by law,” said Brannon. “If we do it efficiently and do it right the first time, we save the taxpayers money.”

Gookin has questioned the efficiency of Brannon’s office and made other accusations about Brannon’s leadership in a series of videos he’s posted to his Facebook page and candidate website.

“Last week the county commissioners approved meeting minutes supplied by my opponent’s office,” Gookin said in a video he posted Oct. 9. “These meeting minutes were from July. Think about that the next time you see the word ‘efficiency’ used in a political campaign.”

If elected again Brannon said he will continue improving the clerk’s office, mainly by utilizing technology.

“In today’s world, we need to leverage our technology,” Brannon said. “We need to find a way to make things easier for our citizens.”

Brannon hopes to create additional efficiencies using technology. The office offers marriage license applications online and the ability to view house deeds. He hopes to expand online services in the future, which he hopes will reduce the need for additional personnel and requirements for citizens to come into the clerk’s office.

Brannon grew up in East St. Louis. He came to North Idaho in 1991 for his job at the First National Bank of North Idaho. He ran for Coeur d’Alene City Council in 2009 and lost by a narrow margin. Outside of work, Brannon says he enjoys church activities, watching sporting and live music and theater.

Gookin said he chose to run as an independent because he feels the county is dysfunctional as a partisan entity. He added that paritsan politics on the local level unnecessarily divides the community.

“I don’t believe the partisan division in this country is healthy,” Gookin said. “The office really should be nonpartisan.”

“I don’t fit the Republican mold 100 percent and I don’t fit the Democrat mold 100 percent,” Gookin said. “Anyone would be lying if they said they did.”

Gookin grew up in California before moving to Washington in 1991. He moved to Kootenai County 25 years ago and has lived in Coeur d’Alene since 2002. Gookin has written more than 165 books on technology and computers. He is also the creator of the “For Dummies” series which began with “DOS for Dummies.”

He has served on the Coeur d’Alene City Council since 2011. If elected, he plans to serve out his term on the council while serving as clerk. This is Gookin’s second term on the council.

Gookin has suggested the elections office is understaffed during elections. He also has questioned the treatment of clerk employees.

“We have to treat all employees with respect. We all work for the county,” Gookin said. ‘They report to the clerk but the clerk is not the master, and they are not his servants.”

Brannon says Gookin’s Facebook video are simply election rhetoric. Brannon notes that there’s wealth of information available from the clerk’s office on the county website.

“We don’t have a transparency problem, we have a perception problem that has been amplified by an election,” Brannon said.

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