John Padula

On the Campaign Trail with John Padula

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I love people, I love this county, and I want to serve this county.”

John Padula, candidate for Kootenai County Commissioner

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO – John Padula was the first to announce his candidacy for the Kootenai County commissioner seat in District 1. He launched his campaign on December 5, 2023, at a well-attended event in Coeur d’Alene where Kootenai County Prosecutor Stanley Mortensen introduced John to the audience as a man with integrity. “It doesn’t cross his mind to do anything other than be ethical, follow the law, and demonstrate integrity,” stated Mortensen.

This is Padula’s first foray into politics as a candidate, although as a pastor at The Altar Church he has advocated for county politics to be more conservative and “has a heart” for Kootenai County. He is open about having no desire to be in politics, however, as a regular proponent of citizens standing up and doing what needs to be done to at the local level to save our nation, he understands some sacrifices are worth making.

As part of our series of interviews with local candidates, the Kootenai Journal sat down with Padula after an event on Sunday, February 18, 2024, to discuss his campaign. When asked what brought him to the decision to run for office, Padula admitted it all started as a venting session with hunting buddies over a year ago. The frustrations over how county business was being handled by the current official led to a quip about running himself if he didn’t see a conservative with integrity get into the commissioner race in district one. After speaking with a lot of individuals over the last year, Padula said he could not find a conservative interested in running and decided to take on the challenge himself.

Padula says he is opposed to any kind of alternative forms of county government, including the proposal to appoint a sheriff, change the number of commissioners, or hire a county administrator. “I believe what we have now works well and I don’t believe we need to venture into any of those other options,” stated Padula. “Definitely against any appointed officials in those positions of authority.” 

When asked how he would implement conservative values in the role of commissioner in regards to funding the justice system, Padula said it is important to hold individuals accountable in their positions. “Making sure the non-elected officials that are under the commissioners are doing their jobs and doing it appropriately,” said Padula. He believes we are at a time in our country when crime isn’t being treated “as crime” and that destroys a community.

Padula wants the county to focus on the importance of election integrity and is a proponent of removing machine tabulation. “I believe we need to do paper ballots, hand counted, no more tabulators. One person, one vote, voter ID. I’ve spoken with Benewah County and other counties that still do hand counting and they don’t have any issues with the type of voter fraud that we see nationally,” asserted Padula. “People want election integrity, they want to know that their vote counts.”

John Padula listens to a campaign volunteer during an event on Sunday, February 18, 2024, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Since the board of commissioners has the final say over county budgets, Padula believes it is possible to help secure elections in Kootenai County by ending contracts with companies who provide and maintain the machines that are used in tabulating the ballots. He says the board would have to see what the process would be like to go back to hand counted ballots, since no counties in Idaho that have implemented machine tabulation have switched back to hand counting.

Padula is running on limited government and doesn’t want to micro-manage other county offices or departments. However, he does believe accountability is critical to the proper functioning of county government and transparency is necessary. “If there are issues, we should be able to figure them out together,” stated Padula. 

In light of current issues causing controversy in a neighboring county, Padula said he favors resolving matters in public and out of executive session. “My heart for this county is to try and bring us to a place where we can work together, even people with different views,” Padula stated. He said he wants to see Kootenai County thrive and be a place where differences can be worked out. “We can sit at a table, even if we have complete polarized views of certain things, we can sit down and have a conversation and work together on how to figure those out, and I believe we should be able to do that with the public watching.”

With illegal foreign nationals being a top issue for most citizens in Kootenai County, we asked Padula his position. “I’ve gone down to the border three times now … we have open borders. It is a mess … In my opinion, this is an invasion, it’s intentional and I believe in Idaho we need to stand against that,” Padula stated. “I know that there’s limited authority in certain arenas, but I believe we need to use all of our authority to not allow illegal immigrants to have the benefits of living as a legal citizen.”

When it comes to growth and the crime that comes with it, Padula says we need to implement heavy impact fees for out-of-state developers. Padula believes “there’s a fine line” to implementing these fees and not taking away property rights. “What we are doing now is not going to last, we are destroying our county,” said Padula.

Padula believes in being fiscally conservative. “Our criminal justice system takes two-thirds of our budget,” stated Padula. “If we use those finances wisely, we should be able to help shut down some of the crime that’s happening.” He wants those coming across the border trafficking drugs to be held accountable. When it comes to fentanyl, Padula agrees with mandatory minimums for trafficking. “As much as I love rehabilitation … we have a drug that is killing more people than any other drug that we’ve ever faced.”

When asked how he approaches conflict and risk mitigation, Padula says he likes to fight fire with water. “There’s a lot of people that get really worked up over certain matters, and I believe as scripture says, a soft answer turns away wrath,” Padula stated. “Just having a conversation, even if we disagree on certain matters, that usually de-escalates a situation pretty fast.”

At no time would Padula support removing public comment from commissioner meetings. “People are doing that all around us. I disagree with that method,” said Padula. “I’m an advocate for public comment. We are representing the public, and I will always want their feedback.” If elected, he says he plans on holding quarterly town halls to hear from people and make sure he’s doing the job he was elected to do.

Padula has a habit of saying “I’m not going to tell you to vote for me,” but we asked him why someone should vote for him anyways.

“Since I came to Christ fifteen years ago, my life has been completely transparent in this community. I am not someone who just came out of nowhere and said ‘hey, here’s who I am, I want your vote.’ I’ve lived this life for fifteen years of serving this community and I will continue to live that life if I am elected as county commissioner and I will still be accountable to the community … I will be a voice for the people,” Padula stated.

Padula expressed his gratitude for the support he has received so far and has an ambitious campaign schedule where he will be listening to and speaking with as many citizens as possible in the upcoming weeks.

There are two commissioner seats up for election in every county in the state on even numbered years. This year, district one and district three seats are up for election in Kootenai County. These seats are currently held by Bill Brooks (district one) and Leslie Duncan (district three). All counties in Idaho will also elect a sheriff and a prosecutor this year.