Same Name, Different Face: Two Larry's, One Democratic Party

“When Larry called, that was the tipping point.”


It's not every day that an Idaho Democrat wins a statewide office in a landslide. Of course, it helps if he's the only nominee.

"The vote was by acclamation," said Larry Kenck, the new Idaho Democratic Party chairman. "I had great support."

Minutes after the Feb. 23 vote of the Democratic Party State Central Committee, Kenck sat down with predecessor Larry Grant to talk to Boise Weekly about his plans for the party and how he was reluctant to take on the task at hand until a phone call from "the other Larry."

"A group from the central committee came to me and told me Larry [Grant] was resigning," said Kenck. "I was pretty sad about that part."

But shortly after his December 2012 decision to step aside, Grant said Kenck--a Post Falls native and former Teamsters Union official--quickly came to the top of a very short list of possible successors.

Kenck quickly added, "Nobody suggested that Grant step down."

"Larry [Grant] exited on his own and he did so gallantly," said Kenck. "I had been in touch with a lot of Democratic movers and shakers about the possibility of me stepping in, but when Larry called me, that was the tipping point."

Grant told BW that he was more than ready to retire after accomplishing many of his objectives for the party.

"One of the past problems in the Idaho Democratic Party was that they usually tried to find the richest white guy they could to run for office," said Grant. "When I came on board as chair in early 2011, we had lost three seats in the Legislature and lost a congressional seat. We were not a very happy bunch and, frankly, not well organized. I knew what we needed to do to get back in the game."

Grant said by the time he tossed the keys to Kenck, his executive staff was "solid," the party was financially in the black, and Idaho Democrats had recruited more candidates for the 2012 election than they had for any other contest in more than a decade.

Kenck said Democrats--while still a slim minority at the Statehouse--stopped losing political turf in 2012.

"We received more votes and closed margins in some important counties," said Kenck. "We're gaining our relevancy back. And now we're understood not as a party of change but as a party of progression."

Grant added that he has reason for optimism in the 2014 elections, because minority parties tend to make gains during mid-term elections.

"And I'll tell you what we're going to be driving home: education, the economy and ethics, that's our focus now," said Grant. "We're not talking about guns. We're not talking about abortion. It's all about the three 'E's.'"