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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting 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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