Sheriff’s job is hottest ticket in town

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At this rate, The Press will be publishing an article soon listing all the people not running for Kootenai County sheriff.

County Clerk Jim Brannon will need to order XL ballots to get all the sheriff candidates’ names on there.

And voters will have to haul cheat sheets into the ballot box just to remind them who’s who.

OK, we’re exaggerating ever so slightly. At this point, there are “only” five candidates seeking the office, but candidates can’t even officially file until next March 2. So why the popularity contest?

Ever since Sheriff Ben Wolfinger announced in early 2018 that he wouldn’t run again, potential successors have been hitting the campaign trail. Yes, that’s almost three full years before the winner would actually take office. And there’s no guarantee more candidates won’t hop on the train.

With the most recent entry declaring he’ll run without any political affiliation, that guarantees the question won’t be answered until November 2020. The other candidates so far are all Republicans who will winnow the field in next spring’s primary. Scott Jones, who would have made six competitors but he dropped out in early July with focus on becoming a doctor, was also a Republican.

So back to the question: What gives? Here are several logical possibilities.

• It’s a good job. The county offers a nice benefits package and the sheriff’s position pays $86,996 annually. That’s not even top dollar in the department, but it’s more than the vast majority of North Idahoans make.

• There’s a fraternity here. North Idaho is packed with retired law enforcers, many of whom have moved here from California. To be relatively young, experienced and possibly bored makes the sheriff’s job enticing.

• People appreciate their cops. Law enforcers certainly have their share of critics, but for the most part, locals love their first responders. That’s probably one of the reasons so many have chosen to retire here. The badge means more here than in many places; it’s a magnet for much esteem.

Whatever the reason so many are seeking to replace Sheriff Wolfinger, for voters who want choices, the 2020 election could be about as good as it gets.

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