Semi Bird speaking to reporters
Republican Semi Bird speaks to reporters about a move to disqualify him from getting the endorsement at the 2024 state Republican convention in Spokane. Delegates who support him succeeded in blocking the move Friday, April 19, 2024. (Photo: Jerry Cornfield/Washington State Standard, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Ultra MAGA guber­na­to­r­i­al hope­ful Semi Bird received the endorse­ment of the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty yes­ter­day, giv­ing his long­shot can­di­da­cy a minor boost with only a few weeks to go until the can­di­date fil­ing peri­od opens and infu­ri­at­ing sup­port­ers of Dave Reichert, the lead­ing Repub­li­can can­di­date accord­ing to NPI’s research.

The endorse­ment was made at the 2024 Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion in Spokane, which ram­bunc­tious Chair Jim Walsh had hoped would be a uni­fy­ing event for the Ever­green State chap­ter of Don­ald Trump’s polit­i­cal cult. 

Instead, how­ev­er, the con­ven­tion show­cased the par­ty’s divisions. 

For instance, when Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler showed up to speak, many del­e­gates rude­ly turned their backs to her. And Reichert chose not to show up at all after it became appar­ent that Bird was on track to be endorsed, despite a find­ing from a par­ty com­mit­tee that he had not been ful­ly forth­com­ing about his crim­i­nal past. (Del­e­gates sub­se­quent­ly vot­ed to ignore that report and make Bird eli­gi­ble for endorsement.) 

Sev­er­al reporters cov­ered the con­ven­tion, some in tan­dem with pho­tog­ra­phers from their news­room. Here’s how each of their out­lets framed this week­end’s events:

Kien­an Briscoe also wrote an orig­i­nal report for the right wing-lean­ing Lyn­nwood Times (Con­ven­tion chaos after WSRP attempts to pull guber­na­to­r­i­al endorse­ment vote).

You can see above that the word “chaos” or “chaot­ic” appeared in near­ly every head­line. That’s because the jour­nal­ists and observers present wit­nessed a lot of pro­fane yelling, argu­ment, and dis­cord. It was “a clown show,” to quote Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­er Andy Stevens, one of the more thought­ful Repub­li­cans we know. 

Walsh tried to push back as hard as he could against that framing.

“Let’s help our friends in the media under­stand that this is not chaos. This is not chaot­ic. This is a live and real polit­i­cal con­ven­tion,” Walsh said yes­ter­day in remarks report­ed by Brun­ner for the Sun­day edi­tion of The Seat­tle Times.

Walsh might not like the word chaos due to its neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions, but that’s how peo­ple were in the room in Spokane described the pro­ceed­ings. It was a live and real polit­i­cal con­ven­tion, sure, but it was also chaotic. 

And, in Dave Reichert’s view, unfair and corrupt.

Here’s what he had to say on Fri­day after decid­ing not to show up in Spokane:

“In the past 24 hours, it has become clear that some in the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty are in such dis­ar­ray that they’re con­sid­er­ing mak­ing no endorse­ment for gov­er­nor. This, after they con­tin­u­al­ly changed rules, broke rules, and twist­ed the process to accom­plish their desired out­come. I’m not here to fix the par­ty but to fix our bro­ken state. Giv­en these decep­tive and dis­hon­est events, I’m with­draw­ing my name for con­sid­er­a­tion for the guber­na­to­r­i­al endorse­ment through this con­ven­tion process. I am still seek­ing the endorse­ment of Repub­li­cans statewide and recon­firm my inten­tion to fight for the state as a Repub­li­can all the way to Novem­ber. My focus con­tin­ues to be on fix­ing what’s bro­ken and doing what’s right. That begins by defeat­ing Bob Ferguson.”

Reichert actu­al­ly did come to the Lilac City, accord­ing to The Spokesman-Review, and was pre­pared to speak, but then decid­ed he did­n’t want to show up at the con­ven­tion or be asso­ci­at­ed with a “deceit­ful” process. He made him­self avail­able to reporters to dis­cuss his deci­sion. Here’s what he said to The Spokesman­’s Ellen Den­nis:

In a phone inter­view Fri­day night, Reichert told The Spokesman-Review that he showed up to the con­fer­ence Thurs­day “ful­ly intend­ing” to go. The can­di­date was sched­uled to give a speech Friday.

Then par­ty offi­cials attempt­ed to change the rules, Reichert added, and “find a way” to dis­qual­i­fy him after they tried to dis­qual­i­fy Bird.

“They decid­ed to change the rules again and take the guber­na­to­r­i­al race off the agen­da,” he said. “There was no point to show up because they can­celed the vote and can­celed my speak­ing role.”

Reichert called the process “decep­tive” and “deceit­ful.”

“The party’s been tak­en hostage by a group of peo­ple,” he said. “You can see that hap­pen­ing across the state.”

The par­ty’s been tak­en hostage.

Those aren’t the words of a Demo­c­ra­t­ic strate­gist, a jour­nal­ist, or an inde­pen­dent observ­er. They are the words of the Repub­li­can fron­trun­ner for gov­er­nor, who spent his final two years in Con­gress vot­ing with Don­ald Trump in almost every instance. 

Bird may have the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty’s endorse­ment, but Reichert can take solace in this: unless Bird can use that endorse­ment as a spring­board to get Don­ald Trump to endorse him, it’s prob­a­bly not going to do much for his cam­paign. Bird is beloved by the ultra MAGA diehards who go to par­ty meet­ings, but he has­n’t been able to win over most Repub­li­can vot­ers. That is clear from our polling:

  • In June of 2023, the first time Bird appeared in one of our sur­veys, we found him at 10%. (Reichert was not an option in that poll, he had yet to declare his candidacy.)
  • In Novem­ber of 2023, we found Bird still at 10%, with Reichert at 31%. Bird had near­ly half a year to increase his sup­port with Repub­li­can vot­ers, and failed to do so.
  • In Feb­ru­ary of this year, we found that Bird had slipped by a smidgeon to 9%. Reichert also lost ground after being tied with Bob Fer­gu­son in the Novem­ber four-way guber­na­to­r­i­al ques­tion, but remained way out ahead of Bird.

We will be tak­ing anoth­er look at the guber­na­to­r­i­al con­test soon. Bird will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to demon­strate momen­tum in this upcom­ing sur­vey. Will we see a post-con­ven­tion bounce? Pos­si­bly… but the more prob­a­ble sce­nario is that Bird remains far, far behind Reichert. With­out a Trump endorse­ment, it is unlike­ly Bird can com­pete for one of the two spots in the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion runoff. 

Like Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Sen­a­tor Mark Mul­let, who is also way back in our polling, Bird has some incred­i­bly vocal sup­port­ers. But there is no evi­dence that those sup­port­ers are numer­ous enough to pro­pel Bird through the Top Two election. 

The notion that he could eclipse Reichert stems exclu­sive­ly from arm­chair con­jec­ture at this junc­ture, and our team does not rely on arm­chair con­jec­ture when assess­ing the dynam­ics of a key con­test like the guber­na­to­r­i­al race. We stick with the avail­able and cred­i­ble data, includ­ing the data our own polls yield. 

What exact­ly the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty now does to help Semi Bird and pro­mote his can­di­da­cy remains to be seen. Bird has strug­gled to fundraise late­ly or build an effec­tive cam­paign oper­a­tion, so will like­ly be lean­ing on Jim Walsh and the state par­ty office for what­ev­er sup­port they can offer. 

Christo­pher Ger­gen, who worked with Loren Culp four years ago, recent­ly offered a harsh assess­ment of Bird’s prospects in a guest post for the Lyn­nwood Times, writ­ing:

The core issue hin­der­ing Semi Bird’s cam­paign, despite my per­son­al affin­i­ty for him and agree­ment on many issues, is his inabil­i­ty to expand his sup­port base beyond a small group of state-lev­el back­ers, main­ly par­ty del­e­gates and Precinct Com­mit­tee Offi­cers. His fail­ure to put in the nec­es­sary ground­work has left him with­out the struc­ture need­ed to build momen­tum and secure the fund­ing essen­tial for a cred­i­ble cam­paign. At this stage, the Bird cam­paign is akin to an octo­pus on roller skates: there’s a flur­ry of activ­i­ty, but it’s not trans­lat­ing into for­ward movement.

Ger­gen took the view that Bird had not earned the WSR­P’s endorse­ment and the par­ty did­n’t need to make an endorse­ment. The 72% of del­e­gates who vot­ed to back Bird obvi­ous­ly dis­agreed. They want­ed Bird, and they got Bird. 

But those del­e­gates were not nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Repub­li­can elec­torate in Wash­ing­ton. A con­ven­tion can be more diverse and rep­re­sen­ta­tive than a par­ty’s cen­tral com­mit­tee, but whether it actu­al­ly is depends on how much effort a state par­ty invests in mak­ing its pre­mier bien­ni­al gath­er­ing acces­si­ble, inclu­sive, and wel­com­ing to peo­ple new to par­ty pol­i­tics. In this case, the WSRP cen­tral office saw the con­ven­tion as a fundrais­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty, and to ful­ly max­i­mize that oppor­tu­ni­ty, it charged manda­to­ry fees for par­tic­i­pa­tion. It was pay to play. And those fees were on top of the trav­el and lodg­ing costs that folks from the more pop­u­lous west side had to bear. Does­n’t sound like a process that was wel­com­ing to the low income house­holds in the par­ty’s base. 

If Wash­ing­ton had a real pri­ma­ry, Bird and Reichert would be com­pet­ing for a nom­i­na­tion. How­ev­er, since we hold a Top Two qual­i­fy­ing elec­tion instead of a pri­ma­ry, Repub­li­cans are not guar­an­teed of hav­ing a can­di­date on the Novem­ber bal­lot in any coun­ty, state, or fed­er­al par­ti­san race except for Pres­i­dent and Vice President. 

That is a major rea­son why Walsh staged endorse­ment votes at this convention. 

But the results of the mar­quee endorse­ment vote now oblig­ate the state par­ty cen­tral office to work for Bird instead of Reichert. In shun­ning their own fron­trun­ner for gov­er­nor and instead back­ing a fringe can­di­date with a crim­i­nal past, par­ty diehards are mak­ing it clear that they care a lot more about piety to Trump­ism than electability. 

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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2 replies on “Washington State Republican Party endorses Semi Bird’s gubernatorial candidacy”

  1. I think it behooves right think­ing Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans to sup­port Semi Bird in the pri­ma­ry so that Attor­ney Gen­er­al Fer­gu­son has to face the true rep­re­sen­ta­tive of WA Republicans

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