Evidenced by his refusal to concede an election he lost by a half-million-vote margin, 2020 Republican gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp is a sore loser.
Culp was back on the ballot this August as a Trump-backed candidate for Congress against Representative Dan Newhouse, one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6th insurrection.
He finished out of the money, taking third place in Washington’s Top Two qualifying election. Culp is still going after Newhouse weeks later.
“The choice for Congress in Wash4 is between two Democrats,” said the former “chief” of Republic, Washington’s one-man police department in a recent tweet.
“Should we vote for one who is honest about his party affiliation or one who lies and says he is a Republican?”
Central Washington produces tart grapes for award-winning wines, but this is a classic case of sour grapes… or perhaps one more effort to wring contributions out of Culp’s donor base.
The 4th District in Central Washington is Republican turf. It last elected a Democrat to Congress in 1992: Jay Inslee lasted one term. (The future governor would return to Congress in 1998 as the 1st District’s representative.)
If you are a voter in Washington’s 7th Legislative District, you didn’t see a Democrat on your ballot for either House contest. Republicans hold every single legislative seat in the congressional district.
Nonetheless, in the Top Two, Newhouse finished barely ahead of Democrat Doug White (each of them got less than thirty percent). White carried the congressman’s home turf of Yakima County. Ultra MAGA Trump Republicans, including Culp at 21.61%, divided up more than 43% of the vote.
Surprisingly, an attractive self-starting Democrat has emerged in this Republican bastion.
“He (White) is a local business owner with an international business and technology background in Hong Kong,” Solveig Torvik, a retired Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial writer who lives near Twisp, wrote in the Methow Valley News.
Torvik noted that White had raised $450,000 and was seeking support to make a race of it in the general election. She lamented, however, that the Democratic Party is “listless” in Central Washington, and that Central Washington is rarely a stopping place for “seldom seen Senator Patty Murray.” The party did recently hold a Central Committee meeting in Wenatchee and Governor Jay Inslee did appear in Leavenworth at the ninetieth birthday party of philanthropist Harriet Bullitt.
The rural, independent-minded Democrat used to be a part of the state’s political ecology. Alas, it is now as endangered as the spotted owl.
Okanogan County voted for the winner of every twentieth century presidential election until going for Bob Dole in 1996. Since then, it has even voted against local rancher Peter Goldmark when he was State Land Commissioner.
Central Washington is site of a major Democratic presidential achievement, Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Project, Go to the visitor center and you’ll see pictures of a jaunty Franklin D. Roosevelt touring the dam construction site.
Sadly, gone are Democratic-held legislative seats in places like Moses Lake, Walla Walla, and Selah (where Inslee had his start in elective office).
The Democrats who once held these seats had to be pretty popular and recognized people to get elected.
Curiously, Representative Newhouse initially won and held his seat in Congress with votes from Democrats. Under our top two qualifying system, Newhouse faced off in 2014 and 2016 against Tea Party activist Clint Didier. Establishment Republicans filled the airwaves with TV spots defining Didier as an absolute kook. The far right was turned back. (Didier, an Eltopia farmer and beneficiary of the Columbia Basin Project, is now a Franklin County Commissioner.)
Newhouse has, however, been a toe the line and lately hard- line Republican.
He has strayed once into independence – the impeachment vote. By showing not only loyalty but fealty, he is likely to be the only, or one of two, impeachment Republicans to ride out the storm and sit in the next Congress.
The tight focus on MAGA Republicans makes us forget the special interests to which a Republican member of Congress customarily pays fealty. Take the gun lobby. Newhouse has received an A‑plus rating from the Firearm Industry Trade Association, and an A rating and endorsement from the National Rifle Association.
“You have stood strong against President Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi ‘s unrelenting assault on law abiding gun owners,” said the NRA.
“President Biden and Speaker Pelosi’s endless drive to take away our most fundamental rights must be stopped and I will never let my guard down in the fight to protect our freedom and liberty,” Newhouse responded.
Newhouse is chairman of something called the Western Caucus, a drill-baby-drill lobby of Republican House members committed to extracting trees, minerals, and oil and gas from public lands.
“The Western Caucus is proud to support our nation’s aggregate and extraction industries,” Newhouse proclaimed in a recent tweet.
The multi-billion-dollar Central Washington agriculture industry has been built (literally) on the backs of workers toiling away in the district’s orchards, vineyards, and fields — many of them Spanish-speaking immigrants from Central America.
In a memorable homily marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Yakima’s Catholic Bishop Joseph Tyson defined their vital role in building the state.
It hasn’t stopped Dan Newhouse from mouthing the party line on immigration. “My legislation, the Upholding the Law and Our Border Act, will ensure our agents have the resources they need to keep our country safe,” he said last week.
Elsewhere, Newhouse favors ending Endangered Species Act protection for wolves, opposes reintroduction of grizzly bears to the North Cascades, and has growled that Biden-Harris administration’s climate rules “are major government overreach” and threaten farmers’ ability to operate.
He opposes the administration’s student loan forgiveness – “further exacerbating inflation” – and rails against “Democratic one-party rule.”
Sorry, Loren Culp, that doesn’t sound like a Democrat.
The good news is we don’t have a Didier or Culp on the November ballot this year, but a Democrat attuned to a district with an agriculture-focused economy… an economy that wouldn’t exist were it not for major investments by federal taxpayers in bygone decades and an economy that still needs a robust public sector to meet challenges from completing the cleanup of radioactive wastes at Hanford to restoring the Columbia River’s dam-ravaged salmon runs.
Part of Central Washington – Chelan and Kittitas Counties – is represented by Democratic Representative Kim Schrier. Schrier has shown a knack for tackling district problems, as shown in her delightful TV spot on helping hay producers.
There’s no militant extremist on the 4th Congressional District ballot this November, but an attractive Democratic alternative. Doug White is an underdog, a worthy underdog. The reestablishment of a two-party system in Central and Eastern Washington is a goal that will benefit the state.