SPOKANE — Republicans in Washington State decided to draw from outside its ranks Saturday to replace recently resigned Washington State Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur, electing former television news anchor and King County Executive candidate Susan Hutchison as its new chair.
Four candidates were nominated during the WSRP’s meeting, held in the air-conditioned comfort of the Red Lion Inn conference center: Hutchison, interim-Chair Luanne Van Werven, James Walsh and Christian Berrigan.
Winning the chair election required a simple majority of the 107 voting delegates in attendance and the decision came after two ballots. The first ballot was indecisive with Van Werven taking the largest number of votes, 41, but not achieving a majority. Hutchison was the second leading votegetter with 39. Walsh earned 16 and Berrigan received 11.
On the second ballot, Hutchison received 59 votes to become the new chair.
Immediately following the announcement of results, Hutchison gave a brief address to the committee, thanking Van Werven for her service as interim-Chair, but it was in her address as a candidate that she described her vision for the party moving forward.
In a well-delivered speech that opened with the salutation of Pres. George Washington to war-weary Revolutionary War troops – “My brave fellows” – Hutchison sympathized with the malaise of many rank and file in her party. Then, in the only moment among all candidates speeches that received solid applause, she remanded Republicans to remember their greatest advantage: “We are right and they are wrong.”
Hutchison also delivered a sharp rebuke of prior administration’s handling of administrative finances and being slow to evolve in its use of technology.
Hutchison’s election and Van Werven’s resettling into her prior vice chair role means that statewide Republicans are now led by two women, a blessing in the sense that it sends a clear message that a so-called War on Women is a product of liberal mythmakers, but a problem in that state law requires chair and vice chair leadership of major political parties to be of the opposite gender. The WSRP bylaws, however, do not require a sitting officeholder to relinquish their seat to comply with the law.
Republicans chose to table the discussion on bringing the WSRP into compliance, a move that has solid precedent in prior leadership changes. As we wrote last month:
In 2006, former WSRP Chair Chris Vance resigned and Diane Tebelius was elected to replace him, but then-Vice Chair Fredi Simpson remained in her position until she was elected national committeewoman. That transition process may (or may not) have established a precedent for how the process works in the event of a vacancy.