Writings and observations

The new ID D ED

Jim Hansen

Jim Hansen

If resume and background brought to the table has much to do with it, Jim Hansen could be just about the ideal choice for an Idaho Democratic Party executive director, which is what he will be as of April 15. Of course, past isn’t always prologue. But take a moment here and consider the background, hold it in mind, and then return after two or three years; what emerges may tell quite a story.

The point is that Hansen has almost the perfect background for this particular job – you could hardly invent what looks at least on paper like a closer match.

He comes from a large and prominent family with deep Idaho roots, and married into another one. The extended family is bipartisan; Hansen’s father is a former Republican U.S. representative (Orval Hansen, 1969-75). Professionally, Hansen has been lawyer with substantial connections into that community. He has been a state representative, showing the skills needed to win office as a Democrat (winning it in the presidential election year of 1988, ousting not just a Republican but the popular Republican House majority leader). He also has run, albeit unsuccessfully, for major office: (the U.S. House, second district, in 2006. So he’s experienced Idaho’s political realities and potentials both.

Maybe more relevant than any of that is his work as an organizer, in two directions. First, his own election to the House was preceded by his work as campaign manager for another Democrats who the cycle before won election to the state Senate; Hansen has significant background as a campaign manager. The other direction is in issues organizing. In the early 90s Hansen quit his job as a lawyer and went to work pulling together a collection of left-of-center organizations, all of them then small and largely voiceless, with the idea that they might gain strength if they worked together. You can argue that the organization, United Vision for Idaho, has been running into the political brick wall of Idaho Republican conservatism ever since, from the standpoint of policy objective achieved. But it’s also true that Hansen built the organization from scratch, that it has grown, prospered and developed substantial visibility and has become something of a Statehouse player. Hansen is the central reason it exists – it wouldn’t have without him – and a demonstration of genuine grassroots organizing ability.

About the only base not touched so far is deep involvement in the state Democratic party structure, which probably is also an asset: He’s not had to deal with the petty wars that periodically fester there. But he’s doubtless quite familiar with the party’s internal workings; he certainly knows all the players. And he brings a personality that comes across as energetic but doesn’t seem to foster conflict. (UVI would have blown up long ago if that weren’t the case.)

This will be worth watching.

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One Comment

  1. Julie Fanselow said:

    Excellent analysis, Randy. You do a great job explaining why the grassroots Idaho Dems are thrilled with this pick.

    April 3, 2008

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