Susan Hutchison
Susan Hutchison at a candidate forum in North Bend

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.

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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