Members of Ravalli County’s Democratic Central Committee made an unprecedented move Friday in the realm of county politics.
They marched into the county elections office and handed a file folder with 37 completed write-in affidavits for the position of Democratic precinct captain. By the end of the day, they fully expected that all 44 open seats would have an official write-in candidate.
That move followed news that seven people who appeared to have no connection to the Democratic Party had filed earlier for the seldom-contested precinct captain positions.
Ravalli County Democratic Central Committee chair John Meakin called them imposters.
That move, Meakin said has fired up the county’s Democratic base.
“We’ve been busy recruiting write-in candidates since the seven imposters signed up on March 12,” Meakin said. “There were an awful lot of people in the county unhappy about that.”
Meakin said he’s almost lost his voice from all the talking he’s done since the news of the filings hit the street.
“The calls that came in almost immediately after the articles appeared were burning up the wires,” Meakin said.
County Democrats offered to run as write-in candidates to fill all of the 44 two-year precinct captain positions, which is something that no can ever remember happening before.
“We had people lining up to run and had backups just in case someone didn’t work out,” Meakin said. “Never, in our collective memory, have we seen something like this before.”
In a normal election, there wouldn’t be a candidate for most of the precinct captain positions.
A new state law allows a county clerk and recorder to forgo putting the precinct candidate names on the ballot if they are running uncontested.
Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg had planned to do just that before she called both parties to announce her intentions.
The issue came to the forefront when county Democrats took a look at the names and didn’t recognize any of them.
One in particular stood out: Ravalli County’s planning board chairman, Jan Wisniewski, was considered a staunch Republican. Wisniewski had not only filed for precinct position, but was also running as a Democrat for a state legislative seat.
Wisniewski didn’t return a phone call Friday.
Meakin said there’s a part of him that would like to thank Wisneiwski.
“He and the others energized the base like nothing you can believe,” he said. “I had people calling and ask what it was that those people thought they were doing. They’re not one of us.”
No one knew for sure what the “imposters” motivations were.
“We’ll never know what their ulterior motives were,” he said. “My personal opinion, they were certainly attempting to disrupt what we are doing.”
The state Democratic Party also offered both some financial help and advice in putting together the write-in campaign, Meakin said.
Ravalli County elections supervisor Sandy Tatsuhara planned to verify the affidavits presented to her Friday, which was the last day they could be recorded for the upcoming June primary.
Tatsuhara said she normally doesn’t receive many, if any, write-in affidavits during an election.
Local Democrats will be busy before the primary getting the word out to supporters to let them know whose name to write in on the primary ballot, Meakin said.
“This has been a remarkable effort,” he said.
Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or email@example.com.