Incumbent Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Mike Kennedy has finally, officially, won a narrow election to retain his seat.
On Tuesday afternoon, 11 months after the original municipal election, retired
Kootenai County District Court Judge Charles Hosack ruled that a
challenge to Kennedy’s five-vote victory over Jim Brannon failed. Read the judge’s decision here (pdf).
Brannon had alleged illegal votes were cast in the close contest. Kennedy was sworn in for his second term as the case made its way through court. It finally went to trial in mid-September.
“The burden on a party challenging an election result is to prove facts that would have made a difference” in the outcome, Hosack writes in his 20-page ruling. Brannon did not meet that challenge, the judge says.
“The verdict is in and we have prevailed,” Kennedy said in a Tuesday evening voicemail to The Inlander.
Brannon is out of town, his attorney Starr Kelso says in a press release, and has made no decision regarding an appeal.
After sorting through a pool of 22 potential illegal votes presented at trial, Hosack ruled that Kennedy’s lead shrank from 5 to 3.
Irregularities in record-keeping by county election staffers or problems in matching absentee ballots to envelopes, raised by Kelso during the trial as part of a plea for Hosack to order a new election, do not offer proof of illegalities and do not change the outcome, the judge says.
In fact, Hosack writes, “Having listened to six days of testimony, the Court is impressed by the complexity of the election process and at how well the County ran the election.”
The trial lasted six straight days in September — with closing arguments held during a rare Saturday court session — and was followed intensely in Coeur d’Alene. The gallery was unusually well-attended. Two blogs posted daily updates, and one even ran a humorous fashion report.
Brannon supporters at the opencda.com blog reacted with dismay. Mary Souza, one of the pillars of the blog, who attended the entire trial, even suggested Good Ol’ Boy collusion. In today’s comment thread she writes:
“Judge Hosack is highly connected in this community. He’s in the Tubb’s Hill Association with Scott Reed (the attorney who represented Kennedy — Ed). He lives in Sander’s beach. He is known as a Democrat. He’s good buddies with the city and county people. Hosack just retired last year and I’m sure he wants to keep living in this area for some time. He couldn’t have made any other decision and still expected a decent life around here; he would have risked being ridiculed and ostracized.”