Caleb Heimlich and Susan Hutchison
Caleb Heimlich and Susan Hutchison (Photo: Washington State Republican Party)

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty’s Cen­tral Com­mit­tee will be tasked with pick­ing a new chair this sum­mer fol­low­ing incum­bent Caleb Heim­lich’s announce­ment that he has has accept­ed anoth­er job in pol­i­tics that he believes will allow him to bet­ter pro­vide for his family.

Heim­lich announced his plans in a note sent to oth­er Repub­li­can offi­cials. (The mes­sage was not dis­trib­uted to the par­ty’s larg­er mail­ing list, which often gets emails signed by Heim­lich exco­ri­at­ing Democ­rats and ask­ing for money.)

“It has been a tremen­dous hon­or to serve as the chair­man of this great orga­ni­za­tion for five and half years, but for the sake of my fam­i­ly it is time to pass the torch to some­one new,” Heim­lich’s mes­sage said.

A news release post­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty said Heim­lich’s suc­ces­sor will be cho­sen in a lit­tle over two months.

“Chair­man Caleb Heimlich’s depar­ture paves the way for fresh lead­er­ship with­in the par­ty, the elec­tion for which will take place dur­ing the State Com­mit­tee meet­ing on August 12th, fol­low­ing his depar­ture. Heim­lich, along with the WSRP staff, remains com­mit­ted to ensur­ing a smooth tran­si­tion and con­ti­nu­ity of the party’s work in sup­port­ing great can­di­dates for local elec­tions this year and next.”

“I’ve done my time at the par­ty,” Heim­lich told The Cen­ter Square’s Brett Davis in an inter­view. He added: “I’m leav­ing the par­ty in good finan­cial shape – $500,000 in the bank – and no scan­dals,” he said. “The orga­ni­za­tion is healthy.”

But not elec­toral­ly healthy.

Heim­lich began work­ing for the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty over a decade ago. As Davis men­tioned in his write­up for The Cen­ter Square, Heim­lich has been polit­i­cal direc­tor, exec­u­tive direc­tor, chief of staff, and par­ty chair. He took over for Susan Hutchi­son after she left the role fol­low­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial election.

Dur­ing the Chair Heim­lich era, the par­ty expe­ri­enced the fol­low­ing losses:

  • Lost a net of sev­en state House seats and three state Sen­ate seats in the 2018 midterms, when Democ­rats picked off a bunch of Repub­li­can-held seats in Wash­ing­ton’s suburbs
  • Lost the 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict for the first time in 2018 when Demo­c­ra­t­ic hope­ful Kim Schri­er defeat­ed washed up Repub­li­can Dino Rossi
  • Lost the posi­tion of State Trea­sur­er in 2020 when Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti defeat­ed incum­bent Duane Davidson
  • Lost the 3rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict in 2022 when Demo­c­ra­t­ic hope­ful Marie Glue­senkamp Perez defeat­ed ultra MAGA extrem­ist Joe Kent, fol­low­ing Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler’s loss in the August elim­i­na­tion round
  • Lost (net) a fur­ther seat in the state House and a fur­ther seat in the state Sen­ate in the 2022 midterms, which Repub­li­cans thought would be a “red wave” for them in Wash­ing­ton and elsewhere
  • Lost the posi­tion of Sec­re­tary of State in 2021 when incum­bent Kim Wyman resigned to take a job in the Biden admin­is­tra­tion and was replaced by a Demo­c­ra­t­ic appointee — Steve Hobbs.

That is a lot of losing.

Embar­rass­ing­ly, Repub­li­cans were unable to get a can­di­date on the gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot for Sec­re­tary of State the fol­low­ing year despite hav­ing held the office for over six­ty years pri­or to Wyman’s resignation.

The above list does­n’t include the loss­es the Repub­li­cans expe­ri­enced in con­tests for seats that were held by Democ­rats. The par­ty has not won a guber­na­to­r­i­al race since 1980, a U.S. Sen­ate con­test since 1994, or any statewide exec­u­tive posi­tion aside from Trea­sur­er and Sec­re­tary of State since 2008.

Out­side of rur­al or exur­ban areas and the occa­sion­al con­test with unusu­al cir­cum­stances, Repub­li­cans are not elec­toral­ly com­pet­i­tive in Washington.

Is all of this los­ing Heim­lich’s fault? No and yes.

No in the sense that Heim­lich, a state par­ty chair, is not respon­si­ble for the direc­tion of the nation­al par­ty, which heav­i­ly influ­ences how the par­ty is per­ceived here in Wash­ing­ton, and yes in the sense that Heim­lich did not make any kind of effort to get the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty on a dif­fer­ent path.

The state par­ty had many, many oppor­tu­ni­ties to break with the nation­al par­ty, and repu­di­ate the evil deeds of Don­ald Trump and Mike Pence, and try to build its own brand as a dis­tinct polit­i­cal enti­ty loy­al to repub­li­can principles.

It did­n’t.

Instead, it put up its own set of extrem­ists for state office — folks like grifter Loren Culp, who was not qual­i­fied to be gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State.

The job of lead­ers is to lead, but as par­ty chair, Heim­lich was a fol­low­er and enabler with the hugest dou­ble stan­dard of any­one in state pol­i­tics. Heim­lich would reg­u­lar­ly call for civil­i­ty from Demo­c­ra­t­ic office­hold­ers while con­tin­u­al­ly embrac­ing the fas­cism and big­otry com­ing out of Don­ald Trump’s White House.

The clos­est Heim­lich ever got to repu­di­at­ing Trump might have been these com­ments: “My per­son­al opin­ion is I would rather see some­body else in 2024,” Heim­lich said dur­ing a City­Club event a cou­ple of years ago. “I think that for the par­ty, we would be more suc­cess­ful with a dif­fer­ent candidate.”

Pret­ty much every­one our team knows in Repub­li­can pol­i­tics says that Heim­lich is a warm, friend­ly, car­ing per­son with a big heart — and we don’t doubt that he’s a real­ly nice guy. There’s a rea­son he kept his job despite the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty’s awful elec­toral per­for­mance in 2018, 2020, and 2022.

How­ev­er friend­ly and big his heart might be, how­ev­er, he has will­ing­ly been a cog in a vicious, malev­o­lent polit­i­cal machine that has been relent­less­ly assault­ing Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy for years, to the detri­ment of all Washingtonians.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, his suc­ces­sor will prob­a­bly also be com­mit­ted to will­ful­ly enabling an ultra MAGA, extreme agen­da for Wash­ing­ton and the U.S.

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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