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Washington State Republicans elect Susan Hutchison to be their new chair through 2014

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.


  1. Posted August 25th, 2013 at 6:15 PM | Permalink

    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. Posted August 26th, 2013 at 5:37 AM | Permalink

    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. Martha Koester
    Posted August 26th, 2013 at 9:45 PM | Permalink

    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.

  4. Pamela Daniels
    Posted September 22nd, 2013 at 1:28 AM | Permalink

    Wouldn’t a job at Fox have been a more lucrative gig?