Bringing political animals together

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  • The standing room-only crowd was attentive as Innovation Collective founder Nick Smoot kicked off Donkephant 2018 Wednesday night. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

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    Locals gathered in the Innovation Den’s basement lair to relax and mingle with local political candidates at Donkephant 2018. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

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    Donkephant 2018 was a chance to give people the respectful, informed atmosphere they really want in politics, said event organizer Nick Smoot Wednesday. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

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    Republicans and Democrats packed the Innovation Den Wednesday night to listen to candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, judicial seats, and state legislature make their last pitches before the May 15 primary elections. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

  • The standing room-only crowd was attentive as Innovation Collective founder Nick Smoot kicked off Donkephant 2018 Wednesday night. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

  • 1

    Locals gathered in the Innovation Den’s basement lair to relax and mingle with local political candidates at Donkephant 2018. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

  • 2

    Donkephant 2018 was a chance to give people the respectful, informed atmosphere they really want in politics, said event organizer Nick Smoot Wednesday. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

  • 3

    Republicans and Democrats packed the Innovation Den Wednesday night to listen to candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, judicial seats, and state legislature make their last pitches before the May 15 primary elections. (JUDD WILSON/Press)

COEUR d’ALENE — Democrats and Republicans united for an evening of politics and beer Wednesday night at Donkephant 2018.

The event was the brainchild of Sen. Mary Souza and her husband Rick, said Innovation Collective head and event host Nick Smoot. At Donkephant 2018, local political candidates had seven minutes each to speak to the standing room-only crowd about why they were running for local office. No disparaging remarks about other candidates were allowed, and the candidates stuck to that rule throughout the evening’s speeches.

Candidates from some electoral races did not speak, but candidates from Legislative District 4, plus candidates for judicial offices and the offices of governor and lieutenant governor made their pitches.

The crowd was also limited during the event until the speeches had concluded. No cheering, jeering, or questions and answers were allowed until Smoot dismissed the eventgoers to free beers in the Innovation Den’s basement lair. Representatives from the League of Women Voters were present to register new voters.

Attendees were positive about the experience.

Hayden resident and Republican-leaning voter Alan Golub said he was pleased to see the candidates uniformly present themselves as public servants. “There were not a lot of egos,” he said. Everyone talked about the same issues, such as providing a better future for their kids, education, and STEM programs. “People get very tired of attacks,” said Golub, while noting the lack of ad hominem assaults was refreshing.

Coeur d’Alene resident and Democrat voter Phil Ward said he was impressed with the Republican candidates. He praised them for speaking frankly before the mixed audience, unlike what happens before partisan town halls. “It’s really important that both parties heard each other talk. We start with listening,” he said.

Barb Smalley was also glad to see people from both parties coming together. Sharon Curtis said the politicians agreed on so much, “it makes it hard to decide on who to vote for.” Debbie Magnuson complimented the event format, which kept the candidates from speaking too long, she said.

Brian Golly said he usually doesn’t get too involved in politics, but often takes part in what’s happening at the Innovation Den, and enjoyed the event.

Heidi Higgins attended with her daughter Sibley, who is a fourth-grade student at LAM Christian Academy in Coeur d’Alene. Sibley said she rated the candidates on their content and their style. Heidi said the event “was a great opportunity to be here and listen to the candidates.”

Coeur d’Alene resident Caiti Bobbitt was impressed to see the large turnout of people engaged in the local community. The politicians at the state and local levels “make laws that impact us directly,” she said. Though they get overlooked in favor of politicians in larger offices, public servants at the local and state level “are a huge part of what affects us,” she said.

Smoot said the event “represents what people want.” All the candidates were respectful, he commented. “It was wonderful having a chance to honor the humans doing their best to serve all the other humans,” he said.

Sen. Mary Souza, Michael Pereira, Cory English, Roger Garlock, Rep. Paul Amador, Rebecca Schroeder, Shem Hanks, Jim Addis, Judge John Mitchell, Douglas Pierce, Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor Kristin Collum and Jim Fabe, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Sen. Bob Nonini, and Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff spoke at the event. Republican candidate for governor Tommy Ahlquist addressed the crowd via a video clip from the campaign trail.

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