Democracy is at its best when consensus candidates prevail. In this ideal world,
officeholders have broad support from their constituents and work to strengthen the
institutions under their purview. Library board commissioners seek to make library
services better and more accessible. Municipal leaders are dedicated to building vibrant
cities and delivering public safety and other services reliably. School board trustees
believe in providing quality public schools in every child’s neighborhood with qualified
teachers and proven administrators.
However, Idaho is seeing a disturbing trend, leading us away from this ideal. Extremist
candidates with radical agendas are gaining power, often damaging the very institutions
they are meant to safeguard. On November 7, voters must be vigilant and reject
extremism as we decide who will lead our school boards and communities.
The West Bonner School District is a cautionary tale, illustrating the stakes and the
ease with which extremism can take hold. In 2021, far-right candidates, Keith Rutledge
and Susan Brown were elected as trustees. They had extremely narrow margins of
victory in a low-turnout election. Overall, only a few hundred votes were cast, just a
fraction of eligible voters.
It is understandable that local elections can be overlooked due to the demands of work,
family, and other responsibilities. Nevertheless, as we have seen in West Bonner, the
consequences of sitting on the sidelines can be profound. Brown and Rutledge, along
with a third trustee, hired an unqualified, inexperienced ideologue who supports school
vouchers to serve as the school superintendent. The embattled superintendent ignored
input from the public, made unpopular decisions, and alienated educators. He also
demanded an expensive package of perks and benefits — including free legal
assistance for his spouse and a car — all while calling for deep cuts to educational
Ultimately, the dysfunction united the community, which successfully recalled the two
trustees. But undoing the damage was a difficult task, involving gathering signatures to
secure a recall election, raising funds, and pouring volunteer hours into running recall
campaigns. Even after voters decisively ousted Rutledge and Brown, court orders,
criminal investigations, and obstruction ensued before the superintendent finally
Idaho voters can prevent disasters like this one on Tuesday. Important races will take
place across the state and many could be decided by a handful of votes. Doing our
research before we enter the voting booth gives us the best chance of supporting
candidates who will faithfully strengthen public education, maintain community safety,
and support thriving Main Streets.
Your vote in local elections is critical to protect what your community has built and make
necessary progress. On November 7, let’s elect Idahoans who prioritize the public good
and the betterment of the state we call home.