Eberlein: Opt-out swayed vote

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Staff Writer

COEUR d'ALENE — The Kootenai County Commission chairman said Wednesday he believes his decision to support the opt-out option on building permits razed his chances of being re-elected.

Incumbent Marc Eberlein was edged by fellow Republican Bill Brooks, who earned 7,837 votes to Eberlein’s 7,357 votes, for the commission's District 1 seat during Tuesday's primary.

Citing the need to be cognizant about not mixing his time as a commissioner with that as a candidate, Eberlein responded to post-election inquiries from The Press on Wednesday via his campaign email.

"I’m disappointed in the results of my race, but respect the will of the Kootenai County voters," Eberlein wrote. "I took a stand by introducing a change to building codes before the election and that cost me. Nonetheless, I‘m proud of my record on the (board) and want only the best for Kootenai County."

Eberlein did not cite any other thoughts on what may have played a part in determining the outcome.

In the five-way Republican race for the District 3 seat, Leslie Duncan upended incumbent Bob Bingham with 5,626 votes to Bingham’s 2,918. Other challengers included: Bob Thornton, 2,649; Luke Sommer, 1,842; and Russell McLain, 1,372.

In the 2016 primary, Bingham won a four-way race, edging Duncan by 69 votes. Duncan will face Democrat Ruben Miranda and Libertarian Larry Pegg in November's general election.

Bingham authored the county's opt-out building permit option that was supported by Eberlein and recently went into effect. During her campaign, Duncan said that if elected, she wants to see how that option goes for 10 months or so. Brooks has said repealing the opt-out option would be a priority.

The District 3 seat is currently a two-year term but changes to a four-year seat in January.

Without a Democrat who filed for the District 1 race in the primary, it is presumed Brooks will take that seat in January.

However, even with the vote of the majority who cast ballots on Tuesday, some campaign leftovers still need to be chewed on.

Brent Regan, chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, on Friday filed allegations of campaign financial reporting violations against Brooks to the Secretary of State. The complaints reached The Press on the eve of Tuesday’s election.

The allegations state that Brooks hasn't filed a complete and accurate seven-day pre-primary report, but Brooks told the county Elections Office that he was having difficulty with the accounting forms and, rather than delay his filing altogether, he sent what he had. He said an accountant will submit the rest of the information as soon as possible.

The allegations also state that Bill Brooks is not an elector and therefore not qualified to be on the ballot.

Brooks's birth name is Robert William Brooks III and he used the name Robert Brooks as the treasurer of his campaign, with Bill Brooks on the ballot.

"If the name on the ballot doesn't match a birth certificate or passport or driver's license then how do you certify that the person being sworn in is the person that was elected?" the allegation states.

But Brooks said he goes by the name Bill and that was the name used on previous ID forms, including his high school identification and Alaska driver's license. He said he also cleared the use with the Elections Office. He called the allegations a "character assassination" that didn’t work.

"The campaign showed all residents of Kootenai County that it is possible to stand up and win against the most radical groups and individuals who would rather throw mud than speak the truth," Brooks said on Wednesday. "Now the real work begins."

Regan said he was fulfilling his duties with the allegations.

"As a citizen, and especially as the Kootenai County Republican Party chairman, I have a responsibility to report violations of the law to the appropriate authorities," he said. "In Mr. Brooks' case, the most cursory review of the facts clearly shows Mr. Brooks is unquestionably guilty of multiple violation of various sunshine law provisions."

Regan said he hasn't been contacted about the status of the allegations.

It remained unclear on Wednesday which agency will examine the allegations. Tim Hurst, chief deputy for the Secretary of State, said Idaho code states the county clerk stands in the place of the Secretary of State in this case. However, Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon said he's been advised by the county's legal team that such a matter does not fall within the statutory duties of his department.

"The clerk has no say in this matter," he said.

Tardy completed financial reports are not uncommon. In Kootenai County alone with this election, the Central Committee and Kootenai County Republican Concerned Citizens Political Action Committee also didn't meet the filing deadline. Those groups have since submitted all of the reports to the Secretary of State.

Brooks called for unification and said it's now time to get down to business to serve the taxpayers.

"We've had enough fussing," he said. "We need to start looking at problems as residents of Kootenai County and not as liberals or conservatives or Republicans or Democrats."

Brooks said that after he takes office, he plans to travel around the county for regular 7 a.m. informal coffee sessions to hear what’s on the minds of citizens.

"You don't have to agree; you don't have to advocate at that point," he said. "I've done it as a consumer advocate. I can do it as a commissioner."

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