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Republican Bob Norris wins Kootenai County Sheriff election

Independent Mike Bauer posted on social media conceding the race to Norris on Wednesday morning.
Credit: Morgan Trau
Kootenai County Sheriff Race 2020

KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho — Republican Bob Norris has officially won the election for Kootenai County Sheriff after his opponent Mike Bauer conceded the race on social media Wednesday morning. 

Norris won 68% of the vote as of early Wednesday morning. Bauer won 22% of the vote. 

"The election results seem to not be in our favor; although this is not our preferred result, I want to congratulate my opponent Robert “Bob” Norris on his win," Bauer wrote on Facebook. "I hope that I can call on all of my supporters to wish Bob the best and support our new Sheriff, Robert Norris."

Norris released his own statement on Facebook thanking his supporters. 

"I am humbled beyond words to have earned the support of so many to become your Sheriff. Now it is my turn to prove that you made the right decision," Norris wrote. "And to those voters who I did not earn your support, including my most vocal critics, I will work twice as hard to earn your support in the future."

Kootenai County had three candidates vying to replace Sheriff Ben Wolfinger, who is retiring.

Bob Norris, the "law and order" Republican, retired in 2014 but said he could not stay away from law enforcement. He currently works with the Kootenai County Search and Rescue Team. 

Norris worked at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. His last unit of assignment was Chief of Law Enforcement Services, he said. 

He was known as the "law and order" candidate due to his views on reacting to civil unrest.

"Once you throw that first rock, that first bottle, it no longer is a peaceful protest," he said. "If you elected a sheriff that wanted to allow CHOP zones and consecutive days of rioting, then you have elected the wrong sheriff."

Norris says he saw some of the cracks in that community and the organization, and he wants to fix them.

Some "cracks" would be overpopulation, low-income housing building plans and riots. He is also focused on changing the Sheriff's office's culture from a "culture of managers to a culture of leaders."

"We're going to go to every unit of assignment and we're going to talk to all the people that work for the sheriff's office," he said. "We are going to see how we can better serve the Kootenai County resident."

His changing of culture plan has garnered attention, as he was endorsed by Kootenai County Sheriff’s Deputy Association, as well as retired Undersheriff Tad Leach. 

Read more about his policing style here.

Mike Bauer, the "squeaky-clean" independent, hoped his over 30 years of experience and non-partisan attitude would make him the top choice for North Idaho voters, he said. 

"I'm the transparent and squeaky clean candidate because I just had led a very honest and a very unquestioned career with integrity," Bauer said. "I'm an open book, I've done 33 years in law enforcement without a single disciplinary act against me."

He worked his way up in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, and landed as captain of the special enforcement bureau and dealt with organized crime and vice investigations. 

Since moving to Harrison, Idaho in 2011, he has heard from individuals who want to keep politics out of law enforcement, which inspired him to run. 

"The political party in power should not be party of law enforcement because law enforcement is neutral," he said. "I represent everybody, not just the republicans."

Bauer was endorsed by many law enforcement officials like Former Kootenai County Sheriff Pierce Clegg and former candidates for Kootenai County Sheriff John Grimm and Richard Whitehead.