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Told she'd never walk, Ahrens is running again
August 4, 2017
By Mike Weland

Idaho District 1 Republican Senate candidate Danielle Ahrens.
Danielle Ahrens has never shied from a challenge, taking on one of Idaho's most popular sitting Senators twice when, after having volunteered to serve in Boise and seen first-hand, she determined that our North Idaho voices were not being heard.

And not only did she run, in 2014 she did so after being told she'd never walk again.

The child of a career soldier, Danielle was born in 1959 on Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona, and she moved often as her family traveled from base to base.

When she was 12, the family moved to Davis, California, where she graduated high school in 1977 and went on to earn business and psychology degrees in Sacramento, then attend the POST Academy to earn credentials in criminal justice and corrections.

She worked as a corrections officer for the Yolo County Sheriff's Office for about seven years, upholding, she said, a family tradition of public service.

She had a friend who moved to North Idaho in 2006, and for over a year, she visited at least once every 90 days, seeing first-hand the seasons, and in the course of it, she fell in love, possibly hearing the call of her great-great grandfather, one of the early settlers in the Snake River country back in 1837.

Whatever it was that drew her, once she moved here, she said, she fell in love with both the people here and the traditions long held dear.

“I'm one of the rare ones who moved here and want it to stay just as it is,” she said.

She worked her ranch in the Samuels area, raising hogs, and she got into the politics slowly over the years, a step at a time, getting involved with the Bonner County Farm Bureau, the Bonner County Republican Central Committee and several community organizations, including the Community Action League and Life Choices Pregnancy Center, Sandpoint, where she still serves on the board.

She joined the Board of Directors and became Government Affairs Chairman of the Bonner County Farm Bureau, and was elected Colburn Precinct Committeeman in the Bonner County Republican Central Committee. She was Bonner County Republican Central Committee Chair from 2014 to 2016, and she now serves as Legislative District 1 Representative on the Bonner/Boundary Republican Central Committee.

Involved politically since about 2010, she said her approach to answering questions and serving her constituents has long been to get involved at the source, in our case, Boise, and to put in time “in the trenches” to see the reality of what is going on.

She volunteered over 1,000 hours in various Boise government offices and on the staffs of candidates and in groups working to achieve goals, including the fight against Obamacare.

In time, she said, she began seeing a disconnect between what she was hearing at home and what she was hearing and seeing in the halls of “the Great State of Ada.”

“Our voices weren't being heard in Boise, in government or the legislature,” she said. “Those who should have been advocating for us here in North Idaho were instead listening to lobbyists.”

She listened and learned, trying to promote North Idaho causes from the outside until 2012, when she faced off against Republican Senator Shawn Keough, who had been serving since winning her District 1 seat from Tim Tucker in 1996.

Danielle's platform has been consistently the same ever since; be there for the constituents of District 1, serve your two terms, train your replacement and go back home and live with the laws you helped create, work with integrity, honor and respect for the people you are privileged to serve.

Now, as then, she has defined the goals she intends to work toward when elected, summed up succinctly in three words; Schools, Business, Resources.

“Funding for education is not getting to our schools,” she said, “though 68-percent of our state budget is for education. The money is there, but it's being siphoned off before it gets to the schools, forcing districts across the state to put out their hands and beg for levies, which splits our communities.”

There is no good excuse for that, she said, nor any good reason why it can be so difficult to start and grow a business in Idaho.

“It's incredibly difficult statewide to launch a business due to excessive and often unnecessary rules, regulations, taxes and fees,” she said. “We should encourage entrepreneurs and those with the ideas and courage to open small businesses. We should encourage those willing to try, instead of making the process such a maze people throw up their hands and give up.”

Mining, logging, farming, waterways, hunting, fishing -- North Idaho is rich in resources, Danielle said, stating what we who live here all know. But she also speaks of the traditions of generations, of camping and huckleberry picking, of pulling together with neighbors to get through storms, snows, wildfire, landslides and many more perils we face year in and year out that go right along with the good things we share.

“Maintaining traditions and values is essential,” Danielle said. “Our resources must be well tended, but kept accessible and not locked up.”

Something else that hasn't changed from her first campaign to now is Danielle's sense of humor or the sparkle that shines through even when discussing the hardest topics. But you have to sit with her for a spell before you get a hint of the steel in her, the perseverance and determination that lie just beneath the surface.

When she ran in the primary on the Republican ticket for the District 1 Senate seat in 2012, she garnered a respectable 1,976 votes to Keough's 4,671.

“Most who serve really want to do good for their fellow man,” she said, “but often fall into the personality contest of politics. “When looking at someone who is running for office, actions speak louder than what they say. Are they looking for a position, or seeking to continue the work of years? And once they're elected, you have to keep them accountable. Make sure they have the time to devote to serving in the spot they are seeking. Make sure they're accessible.”

She ran again in 2014, and made an even better showing, garnering 2,997 votes to Keough's 3,484, but what few saw was that she was still struggling after a January 2013 vehicle collision broke her neck and came just a whisker from leaving her a quadriplegic.

Danielle was a passenger in a car that was rear-ended by a teen driver on a cell phone.

“I knew instantly that this wasn't good,” she said. “I heard the sound of my own neck snapping and felt an immediate tingling clear down to my feet.”

In the hospital, her doctor told her initially that she was not likely to ever walk again.

“That was not an option for me,” she said, “and I set out to prove him wrong. I came out stronger, more determined, with a stronger desire to achieve and accomplish those things that are important to me.”

Not a single step was easy. She's had five surgeries, two cervical and two spinal, including a triple vertebral fusion last April. She endured grueling and painful hours in physical therapy.

“I'm super determined and I never give up,” she said, a slight smile belying just how painful the memories. “God has a purpose for me. I'm sure of that.”

Danielle still lives on the ranch, midway between Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint, though she had to give up raising hogs after the collision as it's troublesome heaving the feed. She's divorced, the proud mother of two grown daughters.

When her oldest daughter, Amanda, a Bonner County Juvenile Detention supervisor, brought her fiancé home to meet the family, he was grilled on the family's tradition of service above self and public service.

Bonners Ferry Police Officer Willie Cowell, she said with a laugh, has lived up to those family standards very well!

Her daughter Alexus, just 20, recently graduated from Boise State University with degrees in political science and communications.

To learn more about Danielle and her candidacy, visit or visit her on Facebook. You can call her at (208) 610-8894 and/or email her at or at

And if you do, don't be surprised if it's you who has to ask how you can contribute to her campaign rather than her launching immediately into the subject; asking for donations, she said, is a necessary part of most any political campaign, but the part she finds least appealing.

“Oh well. If you believe in something so much,” she said, “you find a way.”
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