A suc­ces­sor to Kir­by Wilbur has been cho­sen:

For­mer KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchi­son has been elect­ed as the new chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Party.

At a meet­ing in Spokane Sat­ur­day after­noon, Hutchi­son defeat­ed the sit­ting inter­im GOP chair, Luanne Van Wer­ven in a runoff vote after two oth­er con­tenders were elim­i­nat­ed. (The final vote on the GOP state com­mit­tee was Hutchi­son 59, Van Wer­ven 46.)

Of the par­ty’s one hun­dred and sev­en­teen state com­mit­tee mem­bers, one hun­dred and sev­en report­ed­ly showed up in Spokane to par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tion for chair. A total of four can­di­dates were nom­i­nat­ed for the job, includ­ing Chris­t­ian Berri­g­an from Clark Coun­ty and James Walsh from Grays Habor Coun­ty, but the elec­tion ulti­mate­ly end­ed up being a race between Van Wer­ven and Hutchison.

Hutchi­son nar­row­ly trailed Van Wer­ven on the first bal­lot, but eas­i­ly over­came the deficit to win by a ten plus vote mar­gin once Berri­g­an and Walsh were eliminated.

Van Wer­ven will appar­ent­ly remain vice chair, at least for the time being, accord­ing to con­ser­v­a­tive blog­ger Bryan Myrick, who writes the NW Dai­ly Marker.

Van Wer­ven cam­paigned with the sup­port of nation­al com­mit­tee­woman Fre­di Simp­son, along with Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Vin­cent Buys and Drew MacEwen, but in the end, Hutchi­son emerged with a stronger base of sup­port, per­haps owing to her name recog­ni­tion and media savvy. (Par­ty lead­ers often have to go on TV, so being com­fort­able in front of a cam­era and being well-spo­ken is a plus).

The Seat­tle Times’ Jim Brun­ner reports that Hutchi­son com­pared the par­ty’s grass­roots base to George Wash­ing­ton’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War Army at Val­ley Forge and then piled on with a sting­ing cri­tique of Kir­by Wibur’s admin­is­tra­tion.

Hutchi­son said the state par­ty is “near­ly broke,” has a “use­less” web­site and a get-out-the-vote oper­a­tion that is “spot­ty in most coun­ties and inef­fec­tive in our most pop­u­lous counties.”

“Can it get worse? Of course it can. The Democ­rats are not play­ing dead,” said Hutchi­son. She described the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty as “swelling in our urban cen­ters” and threat­en­ing to ren­der Repub­li­cans irrelevant.

It would be more accu­rate to say that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is win­ning because it is doing well in Wash­ing­ton’s sub­urbs. Cities like NPI’s home­town of Red­mond are increas­ing­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic, and con­sis­tent­ly vote for Democ­rats up and down the tick­et. I think that’s because Democ­rats are com­mit­ted to gov­ern­ing well and improv­ing peo­ple’s lives, as opposed to tear­ing down vital pub­lic ser­vices and telling every­one, “We’ve got ours… you’re on your own!”

(By the way, full dis­clo­sure: I am involved in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, and sit on the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee as a state com­mit­tee­man. But chances are, if you’re a reg­u­lar read­er of The Advo­cate, you already knew that!)

With the notable excep­tion of sev­er­al state Sen­ate races in 2010, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has been pret­ty much clean­ing the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s clock in the sub­urbs for sev­er­al elec­tion cycles run­ning. Repub­li­cans won only a sin­gle statewide race last year under Wilbur, and failed to take either house in the Leg­is­la­ture, although Rod­ney Tom and Tim Shel­don’s defec­tion to the Repub­li­can Par­ty enabled the extrem­ists in the Repub­li­can cau­cus to take over the state Senate.

Hutchison’s speech was also laden with red meat. As Brun­ner notes:

Hutchi­son unsuc­cess­ful­ly ran for King Coun­ty exec­u­tive in 2009 by down­play­ing her Repub­li­can ties and claim­ing to be non­par­ti­san. But she was in full par­ti­san fer­vor Sat­ur­day, call­ing Democ­rats behold­en to “union fat cats” and “mas­ters of elec­tion fraud as proven in 2004 when they stole the elec­tion of Dino Rossi.”

What non­sense. Were it not for Wash­ing­ton’s unions, our state would be in much worse shape than it is. Income inequal­i­ty would be high­er, there would be few­er jobs that pay a liv­ing wage, and work­ing con­di­tions would be poorer.

Unlike Repub­li­cans, Democ­rats don’t believe in demo­niz­ing work­ing men and women or the good peo­ple who rep­re­sent them at the bar­gain­ing table.

And as for the 2004 elec­tion, Chris Gre­goire won, fair and square. Repub­li­cans had their day in court; they were giv­en ample oppor­tu­ni­ty to back up their base­less alle­ga­tions of elec­tion fraud. But they had no evi­dence at all… just sour grapes… and their law­suit end­ed up being dis­missed with prej­u­dice by Judge Bridges after one of the most watched tri­als in Wash­ing­ton State history.

It’s fun­ny how Hutchi­son uses the word “proven” when Repub­li­cans weren’t able to prove any­thing in court. In fact, the result of the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s elec­tion chal­lenge was that Rossi lost votes, because the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty pre­sent­ed evi­dence that sev­er­al felons had vot­ed for Rossi, where­as the Repub­li­can Par­ty pre­sent­ed no evi­dence that any fraud had occurred.

Dino Rossi was nev­er elect­ed gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State. He was ahead in the count the first two times that bal­lots were tab­u­lat­ed. But the final count put Chris Gre­goire ahead, and that was the count that mat­tered. Gre­goire was the legit­i­mate win­ner of the 2004 guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion, and the 2008 guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion, when she defeat­ed Rossi for the sec­ond time by an even wider margin.

Brun­ner’s rec­ol­lec­tion of Susan Hutchison’s 2009 cam­paign for King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive is spot on. Four years ago, Hutchi­son was going around King Coun­ty claim­ing to be non­par­ti­san; now she’s attack­ing Democ­rats as “mas­ters of elec­tion fraud”. Let’s take a trip down mem­o­ry lane, shall we? Here’s an excerpt from Susan Hutchison’s intro­duc­to­ry remarks dur­ing the June 25th, 2009 can­di­date forum for King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive can­di­dates, held in North Bend:

I believe through the work I have done serv­ing the peo­ple of this region for almost thir­ty years that the best way to get things done is not in a par­ti­san way, but togeth­er, bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er, and work­ing togeth­er to solve our com­plex problems.

Since I am not a politi­cian, I don’t, uh, oper­ate from the point of view of, uh, par­ti­san politics.

Empha­sis is mine. We’ve got audio of that bit, too.

I guess it was con­ve­nient for Susan to tell every­one did­n’t “oper­ate from the point of view of par­ti­san pol­i­tics” in 2009, when she was try­ing to get elect­ed in King Coun­ty. She can’t say that now… for the next year and a half, at least, she’ll be in charge of the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, a job that entails ral­ly­ing the par­ty faith­ful and mak­ing rhetor­i­cal jabs at the opposition.

Speak­ing of King Coun­ty, Hutchi­son appar­ent­ly isn’t enam­ored with how the state’s largest juris­dic­tion is being run these days.

Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine and Deputy Exec­u­tive Fred Jar­rett are, by most accounts, doing an out­stand­ing job; Repub­li­cans did­n’t even both­er to field a cred­i­ble chal­lenger to Con­stan­tine this year, and he gar­nered more than three-fourths of the vote in the win­now­ing election.

But in a Q&A addressed to WSRP com­mit­tee mem­bers, dis­trib­uted in advance of the chair elec­tion, Hutchi­son called King Coun­ty “the Cook Coun­ty of the West” and sug­gest­ed that she’d rather live some­place else:

You are from King Coun­ty. To many of us that’s not an asset.

Believe me, I’d rather not hail from the Cook Coun­ty of the West!  In fact, it was the sor­ry con­di­tion of King Coun­ty that com­pelled me to run for King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive in 2009 in hopes of bring­ing need­ed change. But there are a cou­ple good things I bring by liv­ing in the most pop­u­lous coun­ty in the state.

One is a fund-rais­ing advan­tage. Most of our state’s major donors live in or around King Coun­ty and they sup­port­ed me in my 2009 cam­paign. We need to raise a lot of mon­ey soon in order to imple­ment our plans for the future. I can do that quick­ly through my rela­tion­ships with hun­dreds of major donors.

Sec­ond, King Coun­ty is the “bel­ly of the beast” of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty machine. To win elec­tions, we have to know how to win–by under­stand­ing the opposition’s tac­tics and meth­ods. I do—I learned the hard way.

Hutchi­son is mis­tak­en if she thinks sim­ply under­stand­ing how the “Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty machine” works is the key Repub­li­can vic­to­ries in the future.

Cer­tain­ly, hav­ing a tech­no­log­i­cal edge helps win elec­tions, and hav­ing a strong get-out-the-vote oper­a­tion also helps win elections.

But what mat­ters above all else in pol­i­tics is authen­tic­i­ty and trust. Democ­rats want to make gov­ern­ment work more effec­tive­ly, which is what the major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans also want. That’s the biggest rea­son why peo­ple vote Democratic.

Repub­li­cans have, at times, tried to claim the same, but the truth is, they want to dis­man­tle and destroy Wash­ing­ton’s vital pub­lic ser­vices with a wreck­ing ball. They tru­ly believe that gov­ern­ment — our gov­ern­ment — is the prob­lem, and they’ve been good enough to admit that loud­ly and often in recent years.

None of Hutchison’s recent pre­de­ces­sors — Chris Vance, Diane Tebe­lius, Luke Ess­er, or Kir­by Wilbur — have suc­ceed­ed in get­ting a Repub­li­can elect­ed as a U.S. Sen­a­tor or as gov­er­nor dur­ing their tenure as state par­ty chair.

What makes Hutchi­son think she can turn that around? Why is she con­fi­dent that the Repub­li­can Par­ty is on the cusp of a comeback?

“The rea­son why is, we are right and they are wrong,” she said.

Wow… what a com­pelling argument.

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty is cer­tain­ly right wing, but it isn’t right. Its plat­form calls for pol­i­cy direc­tions that would wors­en our state’s qual­i­ty of life.

We’ve watched as the Repub­li­can Par­ty has imple­ment­ed its extrem­ist agen­da in oth­er states, like North Car­oli­na, Wis­con­sin, and Michi­gan, and the results have not been pret­ty. Repub­li­cans have tried to dis­en­fran­chise young vot­ers and Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers, cur­tail repro­duc­tive rights, roll back work­er’s rights, and slash fund­ing for pub­lic ser­vices. They would love to do the same in Wash­ing­ton, but unfor­tu­nate­ly for them, that’s not the kind of future that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans want.

Hutchi­son has only been elect­ed to serve out the remain­der of Kir­by Wilbur’s unex­pired term, which runs through 2014. There is no statewide race in 2014, so pre­sum­ably, Hutchi­son will be focused on leg­isla­tive con­tests and U.S. House races, like her coun­ter­part, State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Dwight Pelz.

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty has yet to com­ment on the results of the chair elec­tion on their web­site; when they do, I’ll update this post.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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4 replies on “Washington State Republicans elect Susan Hutchison to be their new chair through 2014”

  1. It’s too ear­ly to tell what she can do for her par­ty, but she let a big lead slip away in the Coun­ty Exec­u­tive race so all the GOP is doing in replac­ing a Right Wing broad­cast­er with anoth­er Right Wing broadcaster.

  2. Did­n’t her cam­paign go hay­wire the Times wrote a sto­ry acous­ing her of call­ing in sick to work and then some­one spot­ting her out on a plea­sure trip?

  3. Re the 2004 guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion: it is impos­si­ble to know, even in the­o­ry, who actu­al­ly won. That is because the inher­ent error of the process was larg­er than the dif­fer­ence between the two can­di­dates. It’s like try­ing to accu­rate­ly nea­sure to 1/32nd of an inch with a ruler that has only 1/8in divisions.

    If you were mak­ing a quilt or a bird­house and were stuck with that dilem­ma, you’d just dump the project for a sim­pler one. That won’t work for the state gov­ern­ment, which has to have a gov­er­nor. What we did is in effect use a ruler with 1/16in divi­sions and get the best num­ber that we could.

    Reas­sur­ing­ly, two machine counts and one hand count were with­in 0.01% of each oth­er. Also, the hand count added votes to the totals of each of the three can­di­dates, which is what you’d expect. Scan­ners tend toward a slight under­count for the same rea­son that your print­er occa­sion­al­ly picks up a sec­ond sheet. There are process­es to cross-check and cor­rect this, but no com­plex process is ever perfect.

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