Kane County Republicans wasted no time in naming at least a temporary local party leader following the surprise resignation this week of Tom Hartwell. And the leader they selected may either symbolize a new olive branch or an increase in tensions between warring factions in the party.
Ken Shepro will lead the Kane County GOP following what observers described as a peaceful selection earlier this week. Shepro is the longtime chairman of the St. Charles Township Republicans. The GOP faithful outside of that geography will best recognize Shepro as the former Kane County Board attorney during chairman Karen McConnaughay's tenure.
Shepro also waged an unsuccessful campaign to unseat county board Chairman Chris Lauzen in 2016. That battle got so heated Shepro filed a formal ethics complaint violation against Lauzen that went nowhere.
Now Shepro and Lauzen stand as, arguably, the two most prominent figures with influence in the direction of the party. There are reasons to believe there will be at least some effort at an armistice.
Heading into the replacement vote, some Republicans saw a potential split with Shepro getting support from half the party and Terry Hunt receiving support from the Lauzen faction. Hunt also serves as county auditor.
With Hartwell's abrupt resignation to pursue a judgeship, Hunt said he felt unprepared to accept the nomination.
"There wasn't much time to think about everything the job required," Hunt said. "And I really didn't want to do it if I couldn't do it right."
Hunt would have accepted the invitation to lead if Shepro had not also received a nomination.
"Ken was nominated first; I was nominated second," Hunt said. "We have important contested races coming up on the ballot. The important thing is that we strengthen the party and continue to bridge the gaps between the factions. I didn't think it would be a good time to show divisiveness in the party."
With that in mind, Hunt declined the nomination. Everyone voted for Shepro.
Shepro comes into the position with no desire to be a placeholder. He intends to run for the full term come the April party convention. He said a lot could happen between now and then. Everyone's eyes will be on how the primary races shake out. Party factions will be on full display with almost every county board and countywide race contested.
"We're going to have to see who the committeemen are and who is most interested in the positions," Shepro said. "Certainly there will be ample time for people to plot and scheme before the convention."
Hunt said he will fully support Shepro from now until the convention. He would not rule out a run at the local party chairmanship if Shepro's early reign is tumultuous.