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Bob Norris wins Kootenai County sheriff’s primary; Fulcher to face Soto in race for Congress

UPDATED: Wed., June 3, 2020

Congressman Russ Fulcher (R-ID) poses for a photo in his office on Thursday, January 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill, in Washington D.C. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Congressman Russ Fulcher (R-ID) poses for a photo in his office on Thursday, January 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill, in Washington D.C. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Candidates on the November election ballot in Idaho were finalized on Tuesday after a-two-week delay spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The switch to an all-mail ballot appears to have resulted in North Idaho voters casting their ballots at a rate well ahead of past primaries.

U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher did well in the primary, easily moving to the November election.

And Bob Norris, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant, won a heated GOP primary for Kootenai County sheriff.

Here are some of the primary results:

Kootenai County Sheriff

Norris won a heated four-way GOP primary for sheriff, taking 44.3% of the vote.

Norris said Wednesday he believed his campaign messages of public safety investments to match a growing population, protecting the Second Amendment rights of citizens and opposing a new state prison re-entry facility in the community resonated with voters.

“These three things are on the mind of the Kootenai County voters,” he said.

Kim Edmondson, a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office captain who leads the agency’s investigations and professional standards division, took 26.8%.

Edmonson on Wednesday said the campaign season had been “challenging” with both pandemic restrictions on campaigning and voting as well as sometimes heated accusations from candidates against their opponents.

Both Edmonson and Norris said they believed they could work together, in spite of the heated campaign.

“I’m there for them,” said Edmonson of the office she’s been with since 1992. “What we do and the service we provide is important to our community.”

Norris also voiced support for some armed citizens who’d been appearing on Sherman Avenue the past couple of nights alongside protesters of the death of Doug Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Norris said he was “absolutely appalled” by the actions of officers in detaining Floyd, noting protocol was not followed.

“I did have dinner on Monday night on Sherman Avenue, and it was the safest place in America,” Norris said, noting both protesters and those armed with rifles on the street interacted peacefully.

Rick Whitehead, who spent 25 years with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, won 18.7%.

John Grimm, who runs a machining and fabrication business in Hayden, took 10.2%.

Norris, who was endorsed by the Kootenai County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, worked in patrol, drug enforcement, gang investigations, jail custody, counterterrorism and emergency preparedness for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. He retired in 2014.

1st Congressional District

Fulcher won the Republican primary contest for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, leading entrepreneur Nicholas Jones with nearly 80% of votes cast.

Veteran and former Congressional staffer Rudy Soto took the Democratic contest with more than 65% of votes, easily defeating University of Idaho law student Staniela Nikolova.

Soto, who was in Boise for a Black Lives Matter vigil Tuesday night, said he was humbled by the results.

“I think that, really as a country, we’re hitting a fork in the road, and deciding what we want to have moving forward,” Soto said.

Fulcher, who is wrapping up his first term in Washington, D.C., said he’s upheld conservative values and backed President Donald Trump consistently since his election, making him the better choice to continue representing the western half of the state including North Idaho.

Fulcher beat out challenger Jones, a Boise native and businessman.

“I am humbled and honored to receive the Republican nomination to represent CD1 for a 2nd term,” Fulcher wrote on Twitter late Tuesday. “It’s an honor to be elected when things are good; it’s even more of an honor in times of trial.”

Jones brought a federal lawsuit against Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney claiming voters were denied the opportunity to request ballots after the state’s website repeatedly crashed on May 19, the deadline to request absentee ballots. The deadline was extended to May 26 after a federal judge ruled in Jones’ favor.

U.S. Senate

Paulette Jordan, a Coeur d’Alene Tribal member and former gubernatorial candidate, will face longtime U.S. Sen. Jim Risch in the November general election. Jordan earned more than 85% of votes cast in her contest against Jim Vandermaas.

Coeur d’Alene’s Ray J. Wirtz, running as a Constitution Party candidate, will appear on the November ballot as well.

Legislative District 2

Incumbent Rep. Vito Barbieri of Dalton Gardens easily defeated Russell J. McLain to retain his seat.

In the other competitive House race in the district, Doug Okuniewicz, who works for the Greene Group company, took 52.8% of the vote. He defeated Tim Kastning, owner of Arboricultural Consulting. Okuniewicz will face Libertarian Jennifer Luoma, of Bayview, in the November general election.

The winner will replace Rep. Tim Remington, who opted not to seek a new term after his appointment to the seat earlier this year.

Legislative District 2 represents northern and eastern Kootenai County, including Hayden.

Legislative District 3

Peter Riggs, former president and CEO of Pita Pit USA and son of a former Idaho lieutenant governor, won 41.8% of the vote in a three-man Republican race for the state Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Don Cheatham. Former Kootenai County Commissioner Marc Eberlein took 35%, and Alex Barron, the self-titled “Bard of the Redoubt,” took 23.3%.

The district encompasses southwest Kootenai County, including Post Falls and Worley.

Legislative District 4

State Rep. Jim Addis defeated Pat “Mitch” Mitchell to retain his seat. The district lies within the city limits of Coeur d’Alene.

Kootenai County Commission

Incumbent Kootenai County Commissioners Bill Brooks and Chris Fillios defended their seats from two challengers, respectively, with Filios topping the GOP field by 73 votes.

“It was closer than I expected,” Fillios said.

The District 2 commissioner, first elected to his seat in 2016, topped Greg Delavan, a marina owner and former director of the Coeur d’Alene Airport, and Elizabeth Jacobsen, a retired Dalton Gardens physician’s assistant.

Delavan, who trailed Fillios by 0.3% of the vote, said he didn’t intend to seek a recount. Under Idaho law, a candidate can request a recount at no charge to their campaign if the margin of victory is less than 0.1%.

“I think we’ve got a very good Elections department,” Delavan said.

Fillios said he believed he wasn’t able to appear in as many public forums and combat claims made by his opponents about the county’s budget and other false statements. He also attributed some of his loss of support to votes to increase property taxes and remove the ability to seek some exemptions from the county’s building codes.

“I have no regrets for either one,” Fillios said.

Brooks defeated Nicholas Henderson, a Post Falls veteran of the U.S. Army and EMS helicopter pilot, and David Stewart, a former commissioner. Brooks earned 42% of the vote.

There were no Democratic candidates for either commissioner position.

The Kootenai County Elections Office counted 32,800 ballots returned, good enough for a turnout of 36.8%. That’s compared to 22,705 ballots cast in May 2018, and 15,858 cast in May 2016. Two out of every three ballots cast in the election were for Republican candidates.

Responding to the pandemic, Gov. Brad Little announced on March 30 that the May 19 primary would be conducted by absentee ballot. Under the guidelines voting was extended by two weeks.

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