Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp
Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp

Polit­i­cal jour­nal­ists at the nation­al lev­el have spent a good por­tion of the last few weeks chron­i­cling how frac­tured the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty sup­pos­ed­ly is. But as Jim Brun­ner’s report­ing reminds us today, the Repub­li­can Par­ty has some pret­ty seri­ous divi­sions of its own, includ­ing here in the Pacif­ic Northwest.

Loren Culp lost Washington’s guber­na­to­r­i­al race by more than 545,000 votes, but he’s not con­ced­ing — and says he’s not going away.

Culp, the Repub­li­can who took 43% of the statewide vote against Gov. Jay Inslee, has tak­en a page from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s play­book by attempt­ing to sow doubts about the elec­tion results and lob­bing unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claims of vot­er fraud.

In recent days, he and his cam­paign man­ag­er, Chris Ger­gen, also have turned their anger on top Wash­ing­ton Repub­li­cans, includ­ing Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman and state House Minor­i­ty Leader J.T. Wilcox.

Culp does not need to con­cede for Jay Inslee to begin a third term, as con­ces­sions don’t have any legal sig­nif­i­cance. But in a coun­try and state with free and fair elec­tions, con­ces­sions are a noble tra­di­tion that have served us well. It is cus­tom­ary, in a con­ces­sion, for the los­ing can­di­date to acknowl­edge defeat and wish the win­ner well. Occa­sion­al­ly, los­ing can­di­dates will offer to help the win­ning can­di­date with their tran­si­tion into office, espe­cial­ly if they cur­rent­ly hold it.

Culp has no inter­est in uphold­ing such tra­di­tions. He expect­ed to win, even though all the polling showed that he would­n’t (includ­ing ours). Hav­ing nev­er led in a sin­gle vote count, or been any­where close to a lead, he has been angri­ly alleg­ing, with­out a shred of evi­dence, that the elec­tion was rigged and improper.

Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman — who did pre­vail in her reelec­tion cam­paign over NPI’s Gael Tar­leton — has con­tin­u­al­ly asked Culp’s camp to pro­duce evi­dence of the “irreg­u­lar­i­ties” they keep say­ing exist, or else shut up, but Culp and his peo­ple have done nei­ther. Like the Trump fam­i­ly and its enablers, they’d rather just mak­ing sweep­ing alle­ga­tions in the court of pub­lic opin­ion, where no proof is required to be tak­en seri­ous­ly, unlike in a court of law.

Angry that Wyman is not sid­ing with them, Culp’s peo­ple have lashed out at her and her staff, accus­ing her of treach­ery to the Repub­li­can Par­ty, which is real­ly now the Trump Par­ty. Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Chair Caleb Heim­lich has not sur­pris­ing­ly tak­en Wyman’s side, call­ing her “a nation­al­ly respect­ed elec­tions admin­is­tra­tor who pri­or­i­tizes the fair­ness and secu­ri­ty of our elections.”

Culp’s cam­paign man­ag­er has also vowed vengeance against State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive J.T. Wilcox, the leader of the House Repub­li­can caucus.

“I will make sure you are unseat­ed, because you want­ed to run your mouth in front of the cau­cus and throw my guy under the bus. It’s a debt you’ve cre­at­ed and it’s a debt you are going to pay,” Ger­gen said in a video post­ed to Facebook.

Wilcox rep­re­sents a safe Repub­li­can dis­trict, is well liked by his col­leagues (he was reelect­ed with­out oppo­si­tion to his cau­cus lead­er­ship posi­tion this week), and is respect­ed across the polit­i­cal spec­trum as some­one who believes in dia­logue and look­ing for oppor­tu­ni­ties to coop­er­ate on issues. He isn’t going anywhere.

It is Ger­gen who is run­ning his mouth. Repeatedly.

But there’s a rea­son for that.

Culp and Ger­gen know they’ll get a sym­pa­thet­ic hear­ing on right wing talk radio and that their unfound­ed claims will be duti­ful­ly picked up by media out­lets com­mit­ted to objec­tiv­i­ty. Fol­low­ing in Trump’s bad exam­ple, they are spread­ing poi­son as fast and as furi­ous­ly as they can, out of the belief that attack­ing democ­ra­cy itself is good pol­i­tics that will ben­e­fit them now and down the road.

Our cur­rent objec­tive report­ing mod­el (tell both sides of the sto­ry and let the read­ers draw their own con­clu­sions) does not serve democ­ra­cy well against foes like Loren Culp, Tim Eyman, or Don­ald Trump. Espe­cial­ly in the polar­ized, hyper­con­nect­ed envi­ron­ment we are in. Bad actors know that objec­tive media can be manip­u­lat­ed to serve their pur­pos­es, legit­imiz­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion. Culp wins — and democ­ra­cy los­es — just by hav­ing his posi­tion tak­en seri­ous­ly and report­ed upon by news organizations.

Loren Culp’s alle­ga­tions and state­ments are ludi­crous. If they are to be dis­cussed at all, then it should be a con­text where they are com­ment­ed upon as being ludi­crous — includ­ing by the per­son doing the writ­ing, as I’m doing with this post.

All of the pub­lic opin­ion research con­duct­ed before the elec­tion sug­gest­ed Jay Inslee would win big, and that’s exact­ly what hap­pened. We had a well run elec­tion in which more than eight out every ten reg­is­tered vot­ers participated.

None of Culp’s sup­port­ers have demon­strat­ed that any “nonci­t­i­zens” vot­ed, or that any­one vot­ed twice. Nev­er­the­less, they are ask­ing peo­ple to donate mon­ey so that the imag­i­nary “irreg­u­lar­i­ties” they say exist can be investigated.

This sounds to me like a Tim Eyman style gam­bit to keep their cam­paign run­ning well into the future, as some kind of con­tin­u­ing polit­i­cal com­mit­tee. I doubt any of the mon­ey donat­ed will actu­al­ly be used for the stat­ed purpose.

But Ger­gen and Culp will per­son­al­ly benefit.

Eyman, who is cur­rent­ly on tri­al for seri­ous pub­lic dis­clo­sure law vio­la­tions, has made prey­ing on the gullible a career. Loren Culp’s occu­pa­tion before run­ning for gov­er­nor was police offi­cer, but now that the town of Repub­lic has elim­i­nat­ed his job due to wors­en­ing finances, it looks like Culp could be fol­low­ing in Eyman’s foot­steps, and becom­ing a full time right wing agi­ta­tor and provocateur.

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.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “Republican civil war: Loren Culp lashes out at Kim Wyman and J.T. Wilcox after big loss”

Comments are closed.