Election Results Show Shift in Local Republican Party

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KOOTENAI COUNTY – While the results are not yet official, it appears 30 of the 73 Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC) precinct committeemen (PC) seats have been won by candidates supported by the North Idaho Republicans, an opposition group formed by Jack Riggs and Sandy Patano.

While the current chairman Brent Regan retained his precinct seat, there’s no guarantee he will enjoy another term as chairman of the central committee. On May 30, the newly selected Republican PCs will conduct an organizational meeting, at which time they will hold nominations and elect new officers for Chairman, Vice Chairmen, Secretary, Treasurer, State Committeeman, State Committeewoman and Youth Committeeperson. According to the KCRCC by-laws, none of the officers are required to be PCs, so any qualified elector in Kootenai County who is affiliated with the Republican party could be nominated as an officer. Presently, only Chairman Brent Regan and the State Committeewoman Melanie Vander Feer hold PC seats, the rest of the officers do not.

Two incumbent PCs in leadership roles had narrow margin losses to their challengers. Post Falls Highway Commissioner Jeff Tyler, who created the Rating and Vetting program and chaired the subcommittee that interviewed all candidates seeking the KCRCC endorsement, lost by 14 votes to Phil Cooper who was elected in May 2023 as a Worley Highway Commissioner. Both Tyler and Cooper are part of the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) in their roles as commissioners.

Beverly Guenette, who chaired the powerful Elections subcommittee lost by 15 votes to Todd Tondee, a real estate agent. Guenette was influential in fundraising, earning status across the state as a powerhouse and vaulting the KCRCC into the top fundraising slot. Recently, her committee came under scrutiny by some PCs due to a perceived lack of transparency and frustration with how money was being spent. Guenette is active in multiple Republican groups and is the current president of the Kootenai County Republican Women Federated.

Three well-known names will join the KCRCC after winning PC seats. Former Idaho Senator Mary Souza ran unopposed, while Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond beat incumbent Doug Bacon, and John Young, Vice Chair of the Idaho Workforce Development Council, won over incumbent Walt Sackman.

Souza has been an outspoken opponent of the KCRCC’s Rating and Vetting program since she lost her bid for Idaho Secretary of State in the 2022 primary. Souza did not gain the KCRCC endorsement, instead they supported the conservative firebrand Dorothy Moon who currently chairs the Idaho GOP. Even though both women failed to win their statewide race for Secretary of State, there remains an open hostility and ongoing rivalry. On May 30, after the committee elects their officers, they will select delegates to the Idaho GOP convention where Moon will face a heated battle for re-election.