CALDWELL — Earlier this week, Caldwell residents received a political mailer attacking City Council Seat 6 runoff candidate Evangeline Beechler for being a Democrat.
The mailer reads, “If you like Bernie (Sanders) and Obama... You will love Beechler.”
Beechler will face off against former Sen. John McGee in a runoff election on Dec. 3. The mailer was sent leading up to the runoff.
The back of the mailer claims the message was paid for by Concerned Citizens of Canyon County treasurer Mark Durham. However, Ron Harriman, chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Canyon County, said the group had no part in the mailer, and to his knowledge Durham has never been a member of the group.
Harriman said the Concerned Citizens group did not back McGee or Beechler in the Nov. 5 election and are not backing either for the runoff.
Caldwell Councilman Chuck Stadick is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Canyon County and has considered endorsing Beechler personally. He recently told Beechler in an email that he would vote for her if she committed to making conservative decisions on several key issues such as urban renewal spending and impact fees.
Stadick currently holds Seat 6 and sought reelection against Beechler and McGee. He received the fewest votes in the Nov. 5 election, so he will not be on the runoff ballot.
The Concerned Citizens of Canyon County is a registered nonprofit in Idaho and was established in 2018. The group consists of Canyon County residents who discuss issues that concern them within the county. In the past, members have engaged in discussions about the Canyon County jail bond and Nampa’s $165 million sewer bond.
Working through the city of Caldwell, Durham filed the “Concerned Citizens of Canyon County” as a political action committee Nov. 12, according to city documents. Caldwell City Clerk Debbie Geyer said it’s the committee members’ responsibility to make sure the name of their committee does not copy an existing group’s.
“He must have known who we were and perhaps was using our reputation to get McGee elected,” Harriman said in an email to the Idaho Press.
Durham could not be reached for comment after multiple phone calls and emails. An email he used on a Nov. 12 filing document for the committee is associated with Franklin Building Supply.
A Caldwell finance report shows that Ron Van Auker, of the Meridian-based construction company Van Auker Companies, contributed $999 to the political action committee. Caldwell resident Dick Anderson also contributed $300 to the committee. The money helped pay for the mailers.
In response to the mailer, Harriman said the nonprofit consulted with its legal counsel and contacted the Caldwell clerk. Geyer, the clerk, said the committee was notified and changed its name to the Concerned Citizens of Caldwell as of Nov. 19.
Now that Durham changed the committee’s name, Harriman said the problem is basically resolved, although he is prepared to issue a cease-and-desist notice if Durham continues to use the nonprofit’s name. He said he does not intend to file a police report or pursue the matter in civil court unless Durham continues to use the nonprofit’s name in any ads or other communications.
Beechler, who is the chairwoman of the Idaho Democratic Party, said in an email Thursday that the committee “acted fraudulently” and misrepresented themselves as a local organization. She called the mailers “false communist propaganda” and said the focus of the race should be on the city of Caldwell, as the election is nonpartisan.
“It’s unfortunate that the opposition has resorted to spreading lies and misinformation,” Beechler said in the statement, referring to the mailer’s false association with the nonprofit. “We look forward to continuing conversations with our neighbors in every corner of the city.”