Partisan Politics

“Hi, my name is Kathie LaFortune, and I am running for Latah County Commissioner, District One.”

In this last week on the campaign trail, I walked in my first parade and I started door knocking in the evenings. The Kendrick parade kicks off the city’s lovely Locust Blossom Festival. It’s located in the city park with arts and crafts booths and local service organizations selling everything from apple pie to some of the best BBQ I have had the pleasure of eating. We arrived early in the pouring rain and lined up behind the school bus garage directly in front of the Latah County Republicans. We took some time to attach our signs to the sides of the truck and trailer that were the Latah County Democrats’ float. It was then that I was introduced to the “rules.” Republicans ride in their vehicles. Democrats walk the parade route. Republicans throw out candy, Democrats hand out flags. This got me to thinking about partisan politics, and what I see as a great but sad divide in our current world.

When initially asked to run for the commissioner position, I did not know that it was a partisan race. City Council is not, and I had to research to find out what party our current county officials originally ran under. Though I typically vote for more candidates on the democratic side, I research individual candidates, their positions on issues that are important to me, and then vote for the best match. In candidate training, I was told that about ⅓ of the population votes R, ⅓ votes D, and then there is the “moveable middle” which is where we should focus our campaign efforts.

When setting up my campaign, the first thing I had to do was find someone willing to serve as my treasurer. I asked one of my best friends and running partners. I asked because she has treasury experience, I see her often (every Tues/Thurs at 5:30 am), she is more anal retentive with money than even I am, and...she was willing. She happens to be a registered Republican, who also votes across the aisle. I naively thought it wouldn’t matter. But then she said she would not feel welcome attending a Democratic kick off fundraiser. It made me sad, though having attended a Latah Co Republican meeting earlier in the campaign cycle, I understood.

This last week, I sat in on 2 days of budget hearings at the County Courthouse. Each department presents their initial budget request to the commissioners. Watching our current commissioners discuss and debate issues confirmed the deep respect and humor these men have towards each other. These 3 people are intelligent and thoughtful, and their insights are personal, not partisan. I could not detect a D or R thought bubble behind any of their statements. I came away from these meetings energized, knowing I can do this job when I am elected.

When door knocking, I am supposed to ask folks how likely they are to support me with their vote in November and to ask about party affiliation. I tried this a few times and realized it just did not fit with who I am. I consider my voting record and preferences private, and I respect that in others. I also don’t want people to support me at first hand shake, I want them to learn more about me and then make an educated decision.

All you have to do is turn on your radio, television, or computer to hear of the great divide in our country and indeed in our world. I see it in our state, and even in our communities. But I rarely see it in personal interactions, or in folks working together for a common cause. I am running for county commissioner because I want to serve this incredible place I call home and to assure that it continues to be so for generations to come. An “us and them” type of divide does not serve the citizens of Latah County well, we all need to work together.

“I am Kathie LaFortune, and I am running for Latah County Commissioner, District One.” If I knock on your door, I will not reveal my party affiliation unless asked, nor will I ask you for yours. If I smell your dinner cooking, I promise to keep things very brief.  I’d love to listen to your thoughts and comments on partisan politics.