COEUR d’ALENE — Precinct committee members for the Kootenai County Democrats elected a young up-and-comer to lead their organization for the next two years, while those in the Kootenai County Republicans unanimously voted to continue their trajectory under experienced leadership.
As is the case every two years, local voters elected precinct committee members for their respective parties in the May elections. Following those elections, the newly elected precinct committee members in each party met for a reorganizational meeting and nominated whomever they wanted to serve in their parties’ various offices for the next two years.
At their reorganizational meeting May 21, the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee elected 26-year-old, District 4 state representative nominee Shem Hanks to lead their party. Paula Neils passed the baton to Hanks after leading the local party for more than eight years. In a statement, Hanks hailed Neils’ long service, and pointed out that she will now aid the party in a new capacity as Legislative District 2 chair. Chris Matthews was elected as the new chair for Legislative District 3, with Suzanne Marshall continuing at the helm for Legislative District 4.
Courtney Beebe was elected to take Hanks’ previous spot as vice-chair for the Kootenai Democrats. Party members retained Cindy Algeo and Gale Stromberg in their roles as secretary and treasurer. State committeeman is Shawn Keenan. Hanks said the local party will elect a new state committeewoman this month. According to Hanks, the state and county Democratic Party’s bylaws do not have youth committee members.
At their reorganizational meeting May 24, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee voted unanimously to keep Brent Regan atop the local party, while elevating Don Bradway to the post of vice-chair. Bradway replaced previous vice-chair Tony Wisniewski, who is now a Republican nominee for state representative in District 3. As did the Democrats, the Republicans retained their current secretary, Alex Barron, and treasurer Doug Balija in those capacities.
Jennifer Locke will lead Legislative District 2, Michael Burgess will serve as Legislative District 3 chair, and Barbara Hedden was elected as chair for Legislative District 4. Chad Ross was elected as the state committeeman, and Melanie Vander Feer as the state committeewoman. Jeff Populus will continue as state youth committee member.
“The chair essentially sets the tone for how the committee will conduct business and what direction the committee will take,” said Bradway. While the committee members have the freedom to take the county party in a different direction, Bradway said, “If the chair is unopposed then it’s basically understood that the committee backs the intentions of the chair and the rest of the executive board.” He and Regan were unopposed, he said.
Hanks said, “The purpose and reason why our county party exists is to help get Democratic candidates elected. Leadership’s responsibility is to help guide the party in achieving this goal; whether that be us as a central committee recruiting quality candidates, doing community outreach, taking the lead on door-knocking efforts or fundraising. The election of county leaders who can take ownership of making sure that goal is being achieved is critical for the sustainability of the county party.”
According to data from the Kootenai County Elections Office, the Republican Party has elected precinct committeemen in 65 of Kootenai County’s 70 precincts, while the Democratic Party has elected precinct committeemen in only 28 precincts. Precinct committee member elections are intraparty contests decided by voters in that party. The failure to have a precinct represented usually indicates lack of support, or lack of willing leaders, for the party in that precinct.