COEUR d’ALENE — Final election results from the Kootenai County Elections Office at 1:38 a.m. Wednesday showed that Tony Wisniewski prevailed over Kathy Sims 2,593-2,083 for the District 3, Seat B Republican nomination and John Green outlasted Doug Okuniewicz 3,217-2,898 for the District 2, Seat B Republican nomination.
Wisniewski was no political novice prior to Tuesday’s primary elections. He had served as a Republican precinct committeeman for 10 years prior to jumping into the race to succeed Rep. Don Cheatham in District 3, Seat B. Cheatham had given up that seat to seek the Republican nomination to succeed Sen. Bob Nonini as District 3’s state senator. Nonini in turn had given up that seat to run for lieutenant governor. Cheatham gained an uncontested nomination, while Nonini lost in a crowded field of Republican candidates.
Wisniewski’s foray into state legislative politics earned him a 510-vote victory over political veteran Kathy Sims, who had represented District 4 for several terms in the Idaho House of Representatives until falling to then-newcomer Paul Amador in 2016. Sims filed to return to Boise via District 3, Seat B. She had to contend both with Wisniewski and the Idaho Secretary of State’s office in the primary campaign.
On April 30, Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst declared Sims ineligible to be on the ballot due to residency requirements, and her name was crossed off some ballots used by early voters. However, on May 4, Sims successfully obtained a judicial reversal of Hurst’s decision via First District Court Judge Rich Christensen. Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon told The Press May 4 that 54 people had voted early in the District 3 Republican race at the county’s Elections Office from the time of Hurst’s decision until Christensen’s ruling. As it turned out, Sims lost the absentee ballots to Wisniewski 500-415.
Wisniewski expressed gratitude to Sims for challenging her disqualification and staying in the race. He said her continued presence on the ballot made it a fair race. Along with his lead among early voters, Wisniewski easily outpaced Sims 2,093-1,668 among election day voters to walk away with the win. He was glad that he hadn’t won on a technicality, Wisniewski said.
The victor attributed his success to knocking on a lot of doors, and talking about issues face-to-face with voters. He said Second Amendment issues, educational choice, and the Constitution kept coming up in his discussions. Wisniewski said he reasoned that since property owners contribute to the state education budget, parents and grandparents ought to have the right to decide how those funds are spent on their students’ educations, regardless of educational environment.
“People like the idea of being allowed to make a choice, and to give the government school system a bit of competition,” he said.
His endorsement by Dick Heller helped convince voters of his pro-gun rights bonafides, he added. The 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision was the first in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was an individual right that existed independent of service in a militia.
Wisniewski said he noticed more cynicism and frustration among voters than in previous election cycles. Many complained to the local candidate about the actions of Republicans in the federal government. On the other hand, people did seem more willing to engage in political conversations than in previous years, he said. In the past many people stood in the doorway just waiting for the precinct committeeman to leave, Wisniewski said.
In a statement, Sims attributed her loss in part to her temporary disqualification from the ballot.
“The wrongful interference by Tim Hurst in the Secretary of State’s office, which resulted in my name being temporarily removed from the ballot at a critical time in my race, certainly affected the outcome,” Sims said.
Despite that, she congratulated Wisniewski and wished him success. “The primary is over and the candidates have been chosen. I encourage everyone in our party to come together and support our Republican candidates in the November election.”
GREEN DEFEATS DOUG O
District 2, Seat B victor John Green had run for office several times before, most recently for Kootenai County sheriff in 2016. But when Rep. Eric Redman decided to forgo re-election to the District 2, Seat B position, Green filed to replace him. Coeur d’Alene Racing and Greene Idaho Foundation president Doug Okuniewicz also threw his hat into the ring.
Green expressed pleasure with the clean, civil race between himself and first-time candidate Okuniewicz. The two candidates had agreed early on to keep it positive, and both did so, said Green. It made it not as painful as some other races he’d been a part of, Green said. However, the hard work of campaigning was complicated by the five weeks Green had to stay off his feet due to a medical procedure. Green credited his supporters for pinch hitting during the time he recuperated. “I had a lot of good folks working for me,” he said.
Along with their interest in politics, Green said he and Okuniewicz are both bike riders. Green said he’d be clear to get back on two wheels this Friday.
Green attributed his victory to his consistent message of smaller government, lower taxes, and individual liberties. That message has resonated with people over the years during his various political campaigns, and they turned out to vote for him on Tuesday, he said.
“I am very fortunate to have people agree with me on these issues,” Green said.
He also said that the difference between him and Okuniewicz in fundraising sources turned some people on to his campaign. His funds came mostly from individuals in amounts of $50 or less, Green said.
Green said the lack of conservative media coverage locally makes it difficult for liberty candidates to get their message out. He thanked his supporters for defending him on social media and for knocking on doors when he couldn’t.
“Running for political office in our county is definitely a team effort,” he said. “No candidate does it on their own.”
Final but unofficial results for the state legislative primary elections across Kootenai County:
State Senator - Steve Vick - 5,699 votes
State Representative, Seat A - Vito Barbieri - 4,246 votes
State Representative, Seat A - Fritz Wiedenhoff - 2,143 votes
State Representative, Seat B - John Green - 3,217 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Doug Okuniewicz - 2,898 votes
State Senator - Don Cheatham - 4,276 votes
State Representative, Seat A - Ron Mendive - 4,226 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Kathy Sims - 2,083 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Tony Wisniewski - 2,593 votes
State Senator - Michael Pereira - 1,383 votes
State Senator - Mary Souza - 3,133 votes
State Representative, Seat A - Jim Addis - 3,807 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Roger Garlock - 1,407 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Paul Amador - 3,077 votes
State Senator - Dale Broadsword - 1,312 votes
State Representative, Seat A - Maria Andrews - 1,375 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Alanna Brooks - 935 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Richard Kohles - 520 votes
State Senator - Patrick Lippert - 1,013 votes
State Representative, Seat A - no candidates
State Representative, Seat B - Dan Hanks - 1,043 votes
State Senator - Cory Jane English - 1,947 votes
State Representative, Seat A - Rebecca Schroeder - 2,050 votes
State Representative, Seat B - Shem Hanks - 1,877 votes