Field of Potential Candidates Begins to Emerge in Race for Next WSRP Chair

On Tuesday, even before 24 hours had elapsed since Washington State Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur’s announcement that he was stepping down immediately to begin a full-time position with the Young America’s Foundation in Washington, D.C., party activists and insiders were buzzing to discover the names of likely candidates who might run to replace him.

If names were snowflakes, it would not be an overstatement to say that chatter over online forums and email quickly became a flurry. According to a well-informed source, 17 people have expressed interest in running for WSRP chair so far.

We fully expect that number to go down quickly, not up, particularly if the tantalizing prospect of luring one of the two recent Republican candidates for governor back to shepherd the party through a tricky time were to become reality. All is quiet in those camps on the issue, for now.

Still, though no one has officially declared an intent to run, a couple of figures have taken half-steps forward to signal definite interest – interim WSRP Chair Luanne Van Werven of Whatcom County and former news anchor and King County Executive candidate Susan Hutchison.

Van Werven responded Tuesday evening to questions about rumors of her interest in retaining the role she has stepped into after Wilbur’s quick departure. Her answer, in the language of politics, was as clear an upside-maybe as you’re going to get.

“I believe the continuity and stability of the WSRP is of critical importance. If standing for permanent chair is in the best interest of the state party then I am prepared to do that,” Van Werven wrote to us.

Earlier Tuesday, Hutchison gave her own clear statement to Jim Brunner of The Seattle Times on whether she was interested in leading the state GOP. Hutchison left the door wide open for speculation. From The Seattle Times:

“I think it’s an exciting job, and I think there is a lot to be done, and it requires someone who is dynamic, understands the territory and the state and can raise money and bring people together,” Hutchison said. Asked whether those were qualities she possesses, Hutchison replied: “I think they are.”

When hats are ultimately tossed into the ring and the WSRP state committee’s 117 members vote sometime within the next 90 days to elect a new permanent chair, one of the key questions candidates will have to answer is, “How much money can you raise?”

This year, Republicans hope to provide a tailwind in support of state Rep. Jan Angel who is working hard to unseat recently appointed Democratic incumbent state Sen. Nathan Schlicher in the 26th Legislative District.

Next year, Republicans will attempt to extend a recent trend of picking up seats in both houses of the state Legislature and possibly to flip a congressional seat in what promises to be a tricky midterm election.


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  1. Jami,

    Your turn of phrase will show up in the media, thank you. All Republican domestic diatribe does. But I fully agree with your point that Dino Rossi does not know how to cheat at elections so was not elected Governor. That does not mean he can’t raise money for the party even better than we did in the 2012 cycle. What are the pro’s and con’s of the others I mentioned and that the media has mentioned? (Without flames please.)


    • Money is used to implement strategy. All the money in the world is useless if you don’t have a proven, winning strategy. We need someone with vision, walking backwards and hoping that this will be the time that Rossi saves us is foolish. Give me someone who understands this state and what it takes to win, someone who is ruthless about showing the hypocrisy of Democrats in this state, and that’s who I’ll support.

      So basically…it’s not looking good. We’re one more statewide loss away from the rest of the country giving up on us. This isn’t flame throwing — it’s the truth that many party faithfuls need to hear.

  2. “We fully expect that number to go down quickly, not up, particularly if the tantalizing prospect of luring one of the two recent Republican candidates for governor back to shepherd the party through a tricky time were to become reality.”

    This is not tantalizing. This is horrifying. The last thing the Republican Party in this state needs is another failed candidate running the party. Dino Rossi has lost three statewide campaigns — proof that he doesn’t know/have what it takes to win in this state.

  3. Remember that this is a full time job, paying at $90k plus. So we would expect that a chairman would be in Bellevue most or the time and everywhere else in the state the rest of the time. That cuts the list of candidates to a 50 mile radius (or so) from Bellevue to adequately do the job.

    Luanne lives in Whatcom so would have to move. But that means you can also consider 50-milers beyond Susan Hutchinson. For example, John Carlson or Dino Rossi.

    Both can raise money (Dino more than John – but John, like Susan, is a professional communicator). Both are insiders AND outsiders and have immense state-wide name familiarity. Both are leaders, both are communicators, both have vision, and both have been vetted (exhaustively) by the “ever friendly” Seattle Times (and its ilk) and both are Washingtonians to the core.

    I don’t think that candidates from the wings of the party serve us well. Sure, Hadian and Didier can fire up the insider base. Big time, in fact! But will that open the dialog with the urban centers in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett or Spokane? Those folks are are economically and constitutionally center-right ;but will absolutely not help us if the party appears to be focused on social issues. But a 50 mile radius may also open up some other possibilities. The new State Representative from Ellensburg, for example. Matt Manweller – young (compared to me) with a young photogenic family, Political Science professor (CWU), able to stand his ground with a whole room full of 19 year olds who are aggressively more full of themselves than of knowledge. Writes well, speaks well, principled, leads from a vision and was a long time Kittitas County Party Chair. He could not be both a sitting Representative and WSRP Chairman, we tried that before and the conflict in time, money and policy is waaaay too convoluted. On the other hand, a $42k job in Olympia does not hold a candle to a $90k job closer to home (at least according to my 3rd grade math teacher.)

    A problem, I suspect, is that for Dino and John, $90k may be a salary cut. It was for Kirby. A big one. Susan as well, but I think she married a Marine so his retirement pay will certainly be able to allow her to live in the lap of luxury. (Sarcasm at the largess of military retired pay fully intended.) One could also think that a party job for a tenured professor could result in disintenure (??) or whatever the term is, and nothing would suit the other professors at Central more than the forced departure of a popular conservative.

    Bottom line: We have Party Chairman candidate choices that would fill Kirby’s shoes capability. So let’s go get ’em,

    ATTEMPT AT HUMOR ALERT! PS Susan also has a judgment issue: she graduated from FL (60 degrees low, 90 degrees high) with a degree in Journalism and worked for the next 25 years at KITV (Honolulu – 72 degrees low, 82 degrees high) before coming to KIRO (minus something for a low and 80 high – occasionally) and the Pacific Northwest. I do think WA is paradise, but I was born here and hence am genetically related to a Douglas Fir (hard headed, does not use an umbrella in the rain, and one quarter Swedish)- your genetics are palm based. Sheesh.

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