Donald Trump admirer Susan Hutchison gave notice today that she intends to stand down as Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party effective February 4th, 2018, having spent about five years in the position.
Hutchison, who took over from Kirby Wilbur following the 2012 presidential election, is a former television news anchor who unsuccessfully ran for King County Executive against Dow Constantine in 2009. She made headlines at last year’s Republican National Convention when she and Ted Cruz bickered offstage after Cruz declined to offer a full-throated endorsement of Trump in his convention speech.
“The Washington State Republican Party is in a robust financial position with a bright future,” Hutchison said in a statement, confidently declaring the party would do well despite evidence that a Democratic wave is building and despite the party’s disastrous performance in the 45th District special election last year.
“I expect that 2018 will result in many exciting wins for the GOP in our state,” she added, predicting victory for Dino Rossi in the 8th Congressional District as well as the loss of the Democratic Party’s State House majority. She also said that “there might even be some surprises in the State Senate” — whatever that means.
Hutchison did not mention Washington’s 2018 U.S. Senate contest in her press release, which suggests that finding a credible challenger to Senator Maria Cantwell that the Republican faithful can rally around is simply not a priority for the party.
Republicans have not won a gubernatorial race or U.S. Senate race in Washington since 1994, and many Republicans NPI has heard from are of the opinion that the party is not even bothering to try to win those offices anymore. Even before Hutchison took over, the party had shifted its focus to legislative races.
Hutchison crows in her press release that during her time as chair, Republicans increased the number of legislative seats they hold in the statehouse.
That’s true, but it’s also true that under Hutchison’s tenure, the Republican Party lost its Senate majority… a fact she conveniently omitted.
You’ll recall that at the time Hutchison became chair, Republicans had engineered a takeover of the Washington State Senate with the help of turncoats Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, who were elected as Democrats. Although Sheldon is still around and caucusing with the Republicans, the Republicans no longer have a majority of twenty-five due to Manka Dhingra’s victory in the 45th Legislative District, and Democrats have taken over management of the state Senate for 2018.
Republicans spent millions of dollars trying furiously to tarnish Manka Dhingra’s image, only to get clobbered twice. When it became apparent that those efforts had been for naught and that Republicans would lose, Susan Hutchison wasted no time in making excuses for her party’s performance, noting how Democratic the district had become and lamenting her candidate’s failure to appeal to “swing voters”.
Republicans had to win in the 45th to preserve their Senate majority. They knew it and they spent millions of dollars towards that aim. But they were denied.
If Hutchison thinks 2018 is going to be so great for Republicans — and result in the flipping of the state House — then why isn’t she sticking around so she can leave with those victories as part of her legacy? It doesn’t make any sense.
Hutchison’s statement doesn’t even say why she’s resigning midway through her current term. Perhaps, despite her boasting, she’s seen the poll data and wants out. It’d be understandable if she wants to leave on her own terms as opposed to ending up like Diane Tebelius, who was shown the door after the Republican shellacking of 2006. 2006 was the last midterm cycle in which Republicans controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress.
Here in Washington, prior to the 2006 midterms, Democrats held the governorship and narrow majorities in both houses of the Legislature… the same situation that exists now. Democrats came out of those midterms with supermajorities in both houses, a product of that year’s giant Democratic wave.
No one can say what the results of the 2018 elections will be, but it’s quite possible that 2018 could resemble 2006. Democratic voters are highly motivated and the party is making a huge effort to return to the fifty state strategy and recruit candidates to run everywhere, in every jurisdiction.
Whoever takes over from Hutchison will have to figure out how Republicans can appeal to voters in a political climate that is dominated (for worse and worse) by Donald Trump, whose bandwagon Hutchison infamously climbed aboard last year.
A successor will be elected at the next meeting of the WSRP’s Central Committee, scheduled for January 20th in Moses Lake, the party said. A transition period will follow and the new Chair will take over from Hutchison as of February 4th.