Washington Democrats for a Presidential Primary
Washington Democrats for a Presidential Primary

For the first time in its his­to­ry, the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has decid­ed to use a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry to allo­cate the del­e­gates it sends to the qua­dren­ni­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, where the par­ty’s can­di­dates for Pres­i­dent and Vice Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States are for­mal­ly nominated.

The par­ty’s gov­ern­ing Cen­tral Com­mit­tee vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly today at a meet­ing in Pas­co to adopt a Del­e­gate Selec­tion Plan that uti­lizes the state-run pri­ma­ry sched­uled to be held on March 10th, 2020, to be fol­lowed by cau­cus­es and con­ven­tions at four lev­els for the pur­pos­es of del­e­gate selec­tion and par­ty­build­ing, includ­ing the adop­tion of plat­form and resolutions.

(As a vet­er­an mem­ber of the WSDCC, rep­re­sent­ing the 45th Dis­trict, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the vote, and proud­ly sup­port­ed the pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry option.)

While Wash­ing­ton has for decades had a law pro­vid­ing for a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry to be held every four years, the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has nev­er used the results of that pri­ma­ry to allo­cate its nation­al delegates.

That will change in 2020.

“Democ­rats in Wash­ing­ton are ready for the big show in 2020,” said Tina Pod­lodows­ki, Chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats. “We look for­ward to more Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date atten­tion and vis­its, increas­ing vot­er and activist engage­ment, and lift­ing up Democ­rats at all lev­els on the 2020 ballot.”

The par­ty’s his­toric vote in favor of a pri­ma­ry was made pos­si­ble thanks to the Leg­is­la­ture’s recent pas­sage of ESB 5273, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Sam Hunt, which NPI enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly worked to pass. ESB 5273 mod­i­fied Wash­ing­ton’s pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry law to make it com­plaint with DNC rules and ensure that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s First Amend­ment rights of free assem­bly were respected.

ESB 5273 — which Gov­er­nor Inslee has signed — is slat­ed to take effect this July.

With the bill hav­ing become ses­sion law, the stage was set for a real debate in Pas­co among the par­ty’s one hun­dred and fifty plus mem­ber cen­tral committee.

After an exten­sive, live­ly dis­cus­sion which remained civ­il through­out, the par­ty held a roll call vote, sim­i­lar to those held in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, on the ques­tion of whether to retain precinct cau­cus­es for del­e­gate allo­ca­tion or switch to a pri­ma­ry while con­tin­u­ing to use cau­cus­es and con­ven­tions at four high­er lev­els for del­e­gate selec­tion and partybuilding.

The results were as follows:

  • For a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry: 121 (one hun­dred and twen­ty-one members)
  • For precinct cau­cus­es: 40 (forty members)
  • Abstain­ing: 8 (eight members)
  • Not vot­ing: 10 (ten members)
  • Vacant posi­tions on the WSDCC: 8 (eight positions)

Of the one hun­dred and six­ty-nine mem­bers present and vot­ing, about sev­en­ty-one per­cent select­ed the pri­ma­ry-cau­cus hybrid plan, which was pre­sent­ed as the major­i­ty report of the Rules Com­mit­tee. Less than twen­ty-four per­cent vot­ed for the cau­cus-only plan call­ing for pres­i­den­tial precinct cau­cus­es, which the par­ty has been using for decades to allo­cate nation­al con­ven­tion delegates.

Pri­or to its meet­ing in Pas­co, the par­ty put the two duel­ing plans up for a vote on a web­site, waelectioncenter.com, where any­one could leave a com­ment and voice an opin­ion on whether the par­ty should uti­lize a state-run pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry in 2020 or use pres­i­den­tial precinct cau­cus­es to allo­cate its nation­al delegates.

More than nine­ty per­cent of the more than 13,000 indi­vid­u­als who par­tic­i­pat­ed asked the par­ty to embrace a state-run pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry for 2020.

Today, the WSDCC demon­strat­ed it is lis­ten­ing, with near­ly three out of every four mem­bers back­ing the his­toric pro­pos­al to com­mit the par­ty to a primary.

The par­ty’s draft Del­e­gate Selec­tion and Affir­ma­tive Action Plan will soon be sent to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee for final approval. If the DNC signs off, the plan will become offi­cial. It calls for nom­i­nat­ing events on the fol­low­ing dates:

  • Pres­i­den­tial Pri­ma­ry: Tues­day, March 10th (bal­lots mailed in February)
  • Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict Cau­cus­es: Sun­day, April 26th, at 1 PM
  • Coun­ty Con­ven­tions: Sun­day, May 3rd at 1 PM
  • Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict Cau­cus­es: May 30th (time to be determined)
  • State Con­ven­tion: June 12th-14th (Fri­day-Sun­day in Tacoma)

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Ore­gon and the Ida­ho Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty are also plan­ning to use pres­i­den­tial pri­maries to allo­cate their 2020 nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates. Ore­gon has long made use of a pri­ma­ry, while Ida­ho has tra­di­tion­al­ly used cau­cus­es and will be mak­ing the switch just like Washington.

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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2 replies on “Washington State Democrats to allocate 2020 national delegates with a presidential primary”

  1. I think cau­cus­es were great when they were held in neigh­bor­hoods at vol­un­teer’s hous­es with cof­fee and cook­ies, but they are now free for all.
    We train for months to learn how to con­duct them, then have to train precinct chairs in a mat­ter of minutes.

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