Shem Hanks’ sudden resignation last week as chair of the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee cast a weekend-long shadow over who would fill his seat. The local Democratic Party filled that gap after voting to elect Laura Tenneson as interim chair.
“Laura did a really nice job talking with [the committee] about how she would fill in,” vice chair Jan Studer said. “She’ll do a great job for us.”
Hanks resigned Friday morning, citing the job’s growing weight on his personal time. County Democrats are gearing up for a March 10 presidential primary that will voice local Idahoans’ choice for the party’s standard-bearer, as well as a state primary May 19, when the KCDCC will elect a new chair. When asked about her vision for local progressives, Tenneson cautioned that the next few months for her are really about just helping to facilitate the daily needs of the party.
“I don’t have much time before the election for KCDCC chair in May,” Tenneson said. “But in the meantime, I’m planning to make an impact in expanding the reach of the Kootenai County Democrats.”
“It’s not a long time she’ll get to serve,” Studer said. “She’s one of the youngest leaders we’ve had, so we’re excited to see some new ideas.”
Tenneson, who ran unopposed for the position, replaced Hanks on a 16-2 vote. She said the two lone votes of dissent likely came after she informed the committee during the candidacy process that she, from time to time, had voted Republican.
“She did a really nice job of being honest with our folks,” Studer said.
This will be an unusual election year for Democrats. The Idaho Democratic Party opted to break from the traditional caucus format and voted instead to hold primaries in 2020.
Tenneson said she’s confident the election process will run smoothly, an expectation that has never been thrown into question in Idaho, but one that has absorbed the spotlight after technical difficulties and reporting delays during the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses cast concern about the party nationwide.
Couple the glitches with a race that still technically features 11 legitimate presidential candidates — five of whom earned delegates in Iowa — in a competition with no clear front-runner and a picture gets painted of a Democratic Party in disarray.
“I’m hoping that the Democratic Party can unite and choose an electable candidate who can defeat [President Donald] Trump,” she said. “For that to happen, we’re going to need to quickly narrow the field.”