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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Washington State Republican Party claims it’s “thriving,” but that’s not what the data shows

This morning, the Washington State Republican Party sent out an email blast taking issue with a recent column by The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat, in which Westneat opined that circumstances just keep getting worse for the Evergreen State’s Grand Old Party, or GOP, as the Republicans often call themselves.

This column left the WSRP central office pretty steamed.

“The Seattle Times has no problem running articles about how Republicans in Washington State don’t stand a chance in 2020,” the email, signed by Chair Caleb Heimlich, begins. It goes on to whine: “Now they’re denying us an equal voice in the conversation. The latest hit piece from Danny Westneat is an egregious miscarriage of journalism and a blatant lie about our Party.”

Newsflash to the Washington State Republican Party: Danny Westneat is an opinion columnist. He writes columns, not articles. That means what appears in the paper under his byline reflects his subjective take on what’s happening in our politics, not unlike what the NPI team publishes here on the Cascadia Advocate.

There’s no “egregious miscarriage of journalism” here.

Really, Republicans ought to be celebrating what The Seattle Times Company has done for them this century, not attack the newspaper because it doesn’t employ a stable filled exclusively with right wing voices like a right wing rag would.

The Washington State Republican Party has actually gotten lots of love from the Blethen family over the years for its high profile candidates, from Mike McGavick and Dave Reichert to Dino Rossi and Rob McKenna, all of whom the Blethens chose to endorse. The favoritism has even extended to legislative races; the Times backed Republicans Rodney Tom and Jinyoung Englund within the past two years.

(And yes, Republicans, Rodney Tom is one of yours, no matter what he calls himself. Tim Sheldon too. Actions speak louder than words.)

The column in question actually ran three weeks ago, and Westneat has written more columns since. I’m surprised it’s taken Republicans this long to put out an email grumbling about it, since it clearly bothered them, but maybe they were too busy getting ready to host failed Governor Scott Walker at their Annual Dinner.

Their reaction to Westneat’s column is more proof of how out of touch they are. They want everyone to believe that their party is “thriving”, but the available data, from public opinion research to election results, doesn’t support that narrative.

Let’s take a look at some of this data.

Last year’s election results. In the 2018 midterms, Republicans got hammered. Democrats took seven state House seats and three state Senate seats from them.  Democrats also captured the 8th Congressional District for the first time ever, sending pediatrician Kim Schrier to Congress and defeating Dino Rossi. Meanwhile, former State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison lost badly to Maria Cantwell after loudly declaring to a room full of reporters that there would be no blue wave. Well, there was — and it swamped the Washington State Republican Party.

Previous election results. Republicans haven’t won a gubernatorial race in Washington State since 1980 and haven’t won a U.S. Senate race here since 1994. That’s a long drought. Republicans currently hold two just two statewide positions, Secretary of State and Treasurer. Democrats already have a formidable challenger for Treasurer in State Representative Michael Pellicciotti, a rising star who will benefit tremendously from the (D) next to his name on the ballot.

Donald Trump’s approval rating. Donald Trump is the head of the Republican Party and thus its chief spokesperson. More than three in five Washingtonians surveyed on behalf of NPI disapprove of Trump’s job performance. About the same number said they would vote for Trump’s Democratic opponent if the election were being held now, despite not knowing the name of that opponent.

Partisan preferences. Respected local pollster Stuart Elway recently found a twenty-point gap between Washingtonians identifying with the Democratic Party and Washingtonians identifying with the Republican Party. It’s the biggest gap Elway has ever measured. Elway’s finding is actually what prompted Westneat’s column. “It could get worse, too,” Elway remarked. “With Trump at the top of the ticket, I don’t know how they are even going to field a team in the next election.”

Dave Reichert’s refusal to run for Governor. Caleb Heimlich recently floated the idea of former U.S. Representative Dave Reichert running for Governor. Reichert was clearly at the top of Heimlich’s list of challengers to Governor Jay Inslee. But it took Reichert only a few days to take a pass on running, saying he was enjoying his lobbying gig and spending time with his family.

Barbara Bailey’s retirement. One of the Republican state legislators considered most vulnerable in 2020 has opted to resign and retire rather than seek reelection or even serve out her term. Bailey (R-10th District) will be heading for the exits in a week. Her departure comes just a few weeks after Democratic Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson declared her intent to run for the seat.

Washington State is ranked the best state in the country. Republicans say that under Democratic governance, Washington State is suffering. But it was recently named the best state in the country by U.S. News & World Report. And that’s after more than three decades of Democratic governance.

Now, if Republicans want to argue that Democratic governors had nothing to do with Washington becoming such a success story, they can… but if the state is succeeding in spite of having Democratic governors like Jay Inslee at the helm, then that inherently means Democratic governance isn’t hurting it.

The truth is that it is Washington State that is thriving, while the local Republican Party is falling apart. It’s really not even the Republican Party anymore, as it does not stand for republicanism or anything that resembles American values. It should just be called the Donald Trump Party because that’s what it has turned into.

Trump’s takeover of the party in all fifty states is basically complete — anyone who isn’t on board with Trump has been told in no uncertain terms to get lost.

Three men are challenging Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020 — William Weld, Joe Walsh, and Mark Sanford — but state parties like the WSRP aren’t giving them the time of day. In fact, several Republican state parties have decided to cancel their nominating events so as to shut out the three challengers.

In fairness to the WSRP, they are not trying to cancel or back out of Washington’s 2020 presidential primary. Still, Caleb Heimlich is on the Trump train just like other Republican state party chairs — he routinely sends emails praising Trump.

Heimlich knows the number one rule in politics is don’t alienate your base, and he’s following that rule. Unfortunately for Heimlich, what pleases the base disgusts pretty much the rest of Washington State’s electorate.

Republicans appear pretty nicely set up for a brutal 2020.

Democrats will be working tirelessly to capture yet another congressional seat, this time in WA-03, and add to their legislative majorities in Olympia while reclaiming the office of State Treasurer. Add while the party doesn’t yet have a credible challenger to Secretary of State Kim Wyman, it probably will before long.

Meanwhile, as noted above, Republicans couldn’t persuade Dave Reichert to run for governor. Their bench is thin. The kind of Republicans who Washington voters might gravitate towards in a state level race have no reason to want to share a ticket with Donald Trump. So that leaves the Republican Party with an unabashedly pro-Trump ticket. It’s hard to envision such a ticket doing well next year.

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One Comment

  1. So I loved the analysis of this story. It’s really just capturing what is the political reality of the state. One thing I will not entirely agree with is running a challenger against Kim Wyman. This office should be non-partisan. She, Wyman, really tries hard to stay out of the public sphere and really doesn’t take sides politically. I would still prefer her as her performance doesn’t warrant her dismissal. Is there room for improvement? Probably…but let’s give her that feed back and make her better instead of getting rid of her. Democrats should not run an opponent to her unless she does something to warrant a challenge. But, we as a state could make the SoS office Non-partisan and impose rules on the office to ensure true impartiality such as not being allowed to make partisan statements in an official capacity and to minimize involvement in partisan political activities outside of her office’s context. Basically make her more a judge-style politician. Impartiality is paramount for the SoS. And I feel she does a reasonably good job keeping it chill.

    # by Gabriel Givens :: September 24th, 2019 at 5:33 PM

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