I moved here from southern California when I was 23 years old. Prior to that time I had no involvement in politics, other than being a big believer in President Reagan. What got me going was, my wife Michele was listing to a guy named Rush Limbaugh on the radio one day not to long after we moved here. In short, Rush really got me interested in politics.
My first experience in politics was in 1994 when Michele and I were living in Mt Vernon. That was when I had the good fortune of meeting Jason Vorva and Mark Hulst. At the time Jason was the Young Republicans (YR) leader in Skagit County and he taught me how to get things done successfully. Jason is a stand-up guy and I wish he were still in Washington. He would be a great asset to the state GOP. At the time I met Mark Hulst, he had just been elected Skagit County GOP Chairman.
Mark was a phenomenal county chair. At the time, the party in Skagit was very divided. Mark united the various factions into a successful party. Mark was the one who gave me my first political job. We were at a YR event not too long after he became chairman. I approached Mark because I wanted to do something to help the party. Mark offered me the position of Area Chair. Keep in mind that I was very inexperienced in the ways of party politics. Mark was much more diplomatic than I would have been with some of the people he had to deal with. I realize now that in order to be successful he had to use diplomacy. It was a great experience working with Mark. At the time I had no idea that he would run for state GOP chair.
Eventually, we moved to Renton and then Kent. For a quite some time I watched in amazement as the KCGOP floundered.
In October of 2003 I decided to call Mark Hulst to see how things were going and what he was up to. One of the first things he said to me was, “Have you heard what I am doing?” I said no. “Well, I am running for State GOP chairman,” he said. I knew that the “mainstreamer” Chris Vance was the State Chairman. So I asked Mark if Vance was running again and Mark said yes, he was, but Mark had a vision and a great plan to turn the state GOP around. I liked his chances of winning. Little did I know what the establishment crowd would do during that election. I would soon find out.
The state GOP reorganization meeting was held in January 2004 in Tukwila. Michele and I went to support Mark. It was then I had the good fortune of meeting Doug Parris and Michelle McIntyre. Doug had actually put together a state chair forum that was held the night before the election.
[Now before any of you pass judgment on this story because of Doug and the Reagan Wing, please hear me out. I have known Doug for a long time and believe he is largely misunderstood. No one wants the State GOP to succeed more than he does. How many of you have actually gotten to know Doug personally? My guess is not very many of you have. If you knew him the way I do then you would know he isn’t the person that some in party leadership make him out to be. All Doug wants is for the GOP county and state parties to play by the established rules. I agree with him on this. The caucuses and conventions of the past 10 –15 years have been plagued by blatant violations of the rules.]
The day after the forum, the state committee reelected Chris Vance State Chairman. It was very surprising to me because I knew Mark had run a very solid campaign.
Well, I would find out shortly what really happened. Earlier in the day of the election Rob McKenna was scheduled to speak to the state committee. Rob did not show up. Several reliable sources told me at the time that while Rob had endorsed Vance, he wasn’t a big fan. So they asked Dino Rossi to come instead. At that point in time Dino had just won the Governor’s race, had it stolen by Democrat ballot fraud, and was in court fighting to stop them. Prior to speaking, Dino was convinced by Mainstream founders Dan Evans, Ralph Munro, and Slade Gorton among others, that he needed to endorse Vance’s reelection. Now you may be wondering why would they do this? Well, with Mark Hulst running things the power structure would have changed in. They simply couldn’t allow that to happen. So when Dino spoke to the state committee that day, he told them “you don’t change horses midstream” and to support Vance. Before I go any further I need to stop and talk about Dino Rossi for a moment.
Back in early December of 2003 Michele and I were invited to attend the Seattle Republican Women’s Club Christmas party. It was held at the home of Pedro Celis – yes, that Pedro Celis. Anyway Dino Rossi was the special guest at that Christmas party. I was able to talk with Dino that night. Mark Hulst’s name came up during the course of our conversation and Dino had a lot of nice things to say about Mark. So I asked Dino if he knew what Mark was doing right then? He said no he did not, but before I could say anything else, Dino says, Are you are talking about him running for state chair?” Dino then proceeded to tell me that Mark wasn’t going to run. I was stunned to hear that. The next morning I talked to Mark, and when I told him what Dino had said he wasn’t at all surprised by it. It seems Chris Vance had told Dino that Mark had decided not to run. Of course none of that was true, but it didn’t stop Mr. Vance saying it.
So on the basis of Dino’s speech a majority of state committee members voted to reelect Chris Vance. Had this not happened I am convinced Mark Hulst would have won and the political landscape in Washington state would have changed for the better. Not too long after the meeting was over Mark received numerous emails and phone calls imploring him to run again in two years. Now some of you may disagree but I believe Dino Rossi acted very foolishly that day. He should have just stayed out of the whole process and let the chips fall where they may. All Dino ended up doing was making a divided party worse.
Susan Hutchison and the US senate race of 2006.
About half way into 2004, I started hearing about the US senate race of 2006. Several names were being bandied about as possible candidates to take on Maria Cantwell. I undertook a fair amount of research on the possible candidates. None of them really excited me. Then I heard that Susan Hutchison was seriously considering running. At the time I didn’t know her at all. Like most of you, I knew who she was because of KIRO TV. But the more I thought about her running against Cantwell the more I thought she could win.
During this time I had a political blog called “The Right of Seattle.” I would post columns on a weekly basis. I knew that I needed to talk to Susan and hopefully get to know her some. I know that God arranged the circumstances that I was able to meet her. So yeah, I go to know Susan Hutchison and meeting with her was unlike anything I had ever experienced. She is the kind of person that once I met her I felt like I had known her my entire life. The more I got to know Susan the more impressed I became and the more convinced I was she could beat Cantwell.
During this time frame, Susan told me that she had done some polling over that summer and that she and Maria Cantwell were in a statistical dead heat. Now based on that information alone you would think that the State GOP would have rolled out the red carpet for her. But Chris Vance and his friends had other ideas. Susan told me that Vance on more than one occasion tried to convince her not to run. In fact sometime after the election Mr. Vance and I were having an online chat and this race happened to come up. Vance told me that it was important that there was a clear field so that whoever their candidate was had a clear shot at Cantwell.
Vance’s candidate was an old Mainstream Gorton ally, Mike McGavick. McGavick was the then-latest in a long line of left-leaning Establishment candidates who are presented as “the only one who can win” and then always lose. McGavick was chosen by Vance and Mainstream Republicans of Washington, enjoyed their favoritism and discrimination, garnered absolutely no grassroots support at all, and has not been seen since he lost that race. It was the same pattern Susan herself later engineered for Pedro Celis.
As for Susan, I realized a few things.
- I finally had the big sister that I always wished I had. Please don’t get me wrong I have two sisters that are both considerably younger than me. I love them dearly but we don’t have a lot in common.
- I realized Susan didn’t need a political office. She was better off without it. When I heard she was running for King County Executive, I told her not to do it, because I knew what would happen if she did. I have seen a number of good people run for office and they have become someone you can’t recognize anymore. I watched as the race for King County Executive went on and it was heartbreaking. I met with Susan sometime after the election was over. I looked her in the eyes and told her, “Susan all you needed to do was be yourself and you would have won.” That is all I can say about that meeting.
During the King County Exec race I got to know David Adams. I knew he ran Mark Hulst’s campaign for state chair in 2004. But I didn’t know him back them. I sought David out because I was interested in what he thought about the kind of campaign Susan was running. It was from David that I really learned about the inner workings of political campaigns. When he and I talked David knew Susan’s campaign was a train wreck. More about Susan and David later on.
The 2010 US Senate and the Didiers.
Let’s start in early 2009. That’s when the US senate race began to take shape. There were seven candidates and Dino Rossi lurking in the shadows. I got to know Clint and Brandie Didier after the election of 2010. They are two of the greatest people I have ever met. Clint and I have met a couple times and had great discussions.
Clint was a grassroots phenomenon in 2010, wherever he spoke he inspired enormous enthusiasm, like Ronald Reagan. Mainstream desperately wanted to take him out. So Slade Gorton convinced Dino Rossi to come out of mothballs and he became the candidate “that could win” and got the Establishment and Media support necessary to win the primary.
To those of you who blame Clint for Dino Rossi’s loss in the general election, you don’t know the whole story about what went on. What most of you “know” is what the Rossi campaign fed the media. I have talked to Clint about what happened. If I had been in Clint’s shoes I would have done the same thing. Clint offered Dino his full support and Dino Rossi spat in his face and treated Clint like dirt throughout most of the election. Dino Rossi had come to believe he was a superstar to whom all other candidates must bow down.
The Clint Didier I know isn’t the hot head the smear campaigns made him out to be. In my humble opinion Dino Rossi shouldn’t have been rewarded for his bad behavior with an endorsement during that race. Since that time Clint has been penalized by the State GOP leadership and vilified by the mainstreamers.
The State GOP contributed only 5,000 dollars to Clint’s campaign when he ran for commissioner of public lands in 2012. He was the only prolife state-wide candidate who got anything. It was chicken feed in comparison to the “Mainstream” candidates for statewide office. That year Rob McKenna, a pro-abortion, gay rights, Mainstreamer who endorsed raising State spending (and was “the only one who could win”) got virtually everything in the State GOP coffers before losing. It was the same pattern Susan later engineered for Pedro Celis.
What happened to Clint during his 2014 run for congress was despicable and uncalled for. That members of his party would put together a PAC and then spend 55,000 dollars on ads designed to destroy Clint was just deplorable. This in my opinion was just more payback for what they think happened in 2010. Clint didn’t deserve what they did to him. What bothered me was Susan’s State GOP watching it all happen and then doing nothing.
As for Brandie, the sky is the limit for this immensely talented young lady. I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know Clint and Brandie. Knowing them both has made me a better person.
Do I have disagreements with the State GOP? Without question I do. Susan Hutchison has the ability to unite people. I know because I know her and what she is capable of. So when Susan is asked during a meeting what her plan is to bring conservatives back into the party and she responds by saying, “If they don’t vote then they get what they deserve,” Well that is very disappointing to me. The Susan I know is so much better than this.
Susan, you will never unite people saying things like this.
Unfortunately the party is very divided right now. When you have a state political organization actively seeking to find opponents to run against sitting elected GOP legislators because they stand for the principles of the Party then you have a serious problem. I stand by what I said previously. The Mainstreamers led by Alex Hayes are seeking opponents to run against Matt Shea, Elizabeth Scott, and Graham Hunt. Those of you who doubt what I am saying need to ask yourself one question. Do you really think any candidate in this situation would speak out after what they did to Clint Didier?
The official reason the other candidates that ran in the first congressional district race last year were not listed on the State GOP website, according to Caleb Heimlich [Director of the WSRP], is because the NRCC decided to back Pedro Celis. (So it wasn’t State Party cheating it was NATIONAL Party cheating.) I don’t agree with the decision at all. But had they come up with this during the early part of the race at least everyone would have known.
Caleb and I had good conversation a couple months ago after the 25th district meeting in Puyallup. Caleb is a good man. He and I don’t agree on everything. But we know each other and I think respect each other.
As for our state leader, Susan Hutchison, I think the world of her. She has so much to offer the party. I have seen a side of Susan that most people haven’t. I still believe in her and she knows I would do all I could to help her make the State GOP successful if she asked me.