This year, the city of Coeur d’Alene was deeply divided over which mayoral candidate could better fix the city’s divisions.
Downtown business owner Steve Widmyer and dark-horse candidate Joe Kunka argued that voting for long-time urban renewal critic and recall cheerleader Mary Souza would only pick at the scabs left after the McEuen Field fight. But Souza countered that healing Coeur d’Alene depended on voting for her, a candidate who champions public votes.
On each side, PACs lined up. The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans championed Souza, and non-partisan Balance North Idaho threw their lot in with Widmyer.
As the first vote totals trickled in, Souza was losing by 14 percentage points to Widmyer. The city council choices pushed by Souza supporters — Chris Fillios, Noel Adam and Sharon Hebert — were also losing.
In the latter days of the campaign, the groups supporting Souza began focusing less on criticizing Widmyer or Kunka, and more on firing salvos at the Coeur d’Alene Press. And a political cartoon published on Souza’s site portrays a scraggly-haired ghoul labeled “THE PRESS,” warning “Mary might be mayor! Run for your lives! BE VERY AFRAID.”
In fact, North Idaho Pachyderm Club broke from tradition and announced they would not allow Press editor Mike Patrick to speak in front of the club about the results of the elections because the paper “has been so lopsided in favor of the Widmyer slate, it is really reprehensible and disgusting.”
Widmyer, for his part, tried mostly to stay out of the fray. For a few moments, an independent Souza-bashing website called “Unfit For Mayor” popped up, but Widmyer says that, even though he didn’t have anything to do with the site, he made the suggestion that it be taken down. And it was.
“I think we tried to always take the high road in the campaign and we achieved that,” Widmyer says.