To begin with I want everyone to know this the hardest topic I have ever written about. But after a lot of soul searching and prayer I decided I no choice but to write this.
It was 1996 when my wife, Michele, and I became involved in Washington State GOP politics. It wasn’t until 2002 when we moved to Kent that I really started to understand what was going on here. Year after year we continued to lose statewide elections as well as local races.
At first I couldn’t understand why this continued to happen, until I came to the realization that there were and continue to be, deep divisions within the Washington State GOP membership. What causes these divisions among Republicans in this state? Well I think there are a few reasons for this.
At the top of the list is we have never had a state party leader with the ability to unify the party. Susan Hutchison has the God given ability to unite people. I know this about Susan because of how I know her. I know as a leader what she is capable of; most of you just haven’t seen it yet. I think part of the problem is that Susan is relatively new to the political world and is getting advice from the wrong people.
Over the years I have seen a number of candidates run for office, some of them very good candidates, only to be undermined by those who wanted a different candidate. Many times the State and some county parties have endorsed candidates (whether explicitly or not) before a primary takes place. The results have almost always been disastrous. I told some friends years ago that if this kind of behavior continued eventually they would run out of candidates who would run for statewide office.. Well I think that time has arrived. Those of you that would say, well there is nothing stopping conservatives from running, the fact is the State GOP has done very little to support such candidates.
Those in power and some in party leadership don’t seem to think conservatives can win a statewide election here in Washington. How they came to this conclusion I will never know. Some of you may share this belief. My question to you is when was the last time a moderate to left leaning Republican has won an election for statewide office? Before any of you try to site Rob McKenna or Kim Wyman, don’t. Let me tell you why.
In 2004 when Rob McKenna was elected Attorney General, the BIAW and the United States Chamber of Commerce spent thousands of dollars on advocacy ads pummeling his opponent. Had this not happened I am not sure that Rob would have won. As to his reelection in 2008, Rob was the incumbent. Kim Wyman is well respected in Thurston County and I believe that carried her to victory.
Beyond these two individuals moderate GOP candidates have won very few statewide elections since 2000. And remember, despite the party supporting him PRE-PRIMARY, and with six million dollars, Rob McKenna did not win the governorship in 2012.
Another problem that exists is so-called Republican organizations [like Slade Gorton – associated groups Mainstream Republicans of Washington and Washington’s Future†] that I believe do nothing more than divide the party even further. This kind of behavior is destructive to the state party as a whole and counterproductive. Let me give you a few examples of the kind of things they do to hurt the party. Believe me there are many examples of this, but these are just a few of the most recent examples .
Graham Hunt was appointed to the state legislature in January of 2014 and went on to win the general election with 62.53 percent of the vote. Let’s fast forward to the present. In late January a hit piece on Graham, questioning his military record, ran in the Seattle Times. Then all of a sudden, like vultures, clearly by design I think, a bunch of state legislators called for Graham’s resignation. This all orchestrated by the State house leadership. Here they were ready to throw Graham under the bus on the basis of one newspaper story. Whatever happened to waiting until all the facts were in before passing judgment? What about hearing the other side of the story? Due to the toll it was taking on his family, Graham decided to resign.
Why Graham? I think most of you are aware of the new law that went into effect that allows transgendered individuals to use public locker rooms on the basis of how they see themselves. Well, Graham was leading the way to getting this law repealed. The State GOP house leadership didn’t like that Graham was doing this. They also didn’t like that he just wouldn’t toe the line and go along with everything they wanted. So they had to find a way to get rid of him. In my view Graham was representing the citizens of the 2nd legislative district, not the house leadership.
Graham Hunt didn’t deserve this; the man is a patriot and before any of you say, well he lied about his military record, the fact is you really don’t know if he did or not. All of the facts were not presented so there’s no way anyone could know. Not only that but since when do we eat our own? No one in this world is perfect. Not even elected officials, those of you that are perfect go ahead and throw stones. What was even worse was that the State GOP leadership should have supported Graham through this whole ordeal. Instead they were nowhere to be found. Why?
In 2012 Sharon Hanek ran for State Treasurer. She ran a great campaign in my opinion, and gathered the necessary signatures to get her name on the ballot. No small feat I might add. The excitement started to build for her campaign, but unfortunately the State GOP did nothing to help her. They contributed zero money to her campaign and when the time came for the State GOP to send out a mailer asking people to support there statewide candidates Sharon’s name was missing from the list. Why?
Now I have written about Clint Didier in the past, so some of this will be covering some old ground. The first time Clint ran for office was in 2010 for Patty Murray’s US senate seat. His candidacy drew lots of enthusiasm from conservatives and had a network of volunteers across the state, yet the State GOP stood in the way of him having a good chance of winning; from not allowing Clint access to the voter vault and contributor list to only allowing him and the other candidates five minutes to speak at the state convention. Clint in my view was a once in a lifetime candidate for the senate. Instead of embracing his candidacy the state GOP tried to destroy it. In 2014 when Clint ran for Doc Hastings’ congressional seat, a PAC, headed by “Republicans” was organized to defeat him. Why?
Well it would seem the whys have it don’t they? These three upstanding people have a number of things in common. But the one thing above anything else they have in common is they are Conservatives. What is so shameful to some of you about having conservative candidates? Year after year I have seen this kind of behavior go on, only to see conservatives leaving the party. It’s to the point now where there are very few individuals that will consider running anymore. Honestly who would blame them? Why would any conservative that sees a party continually engage in this kind of behavior run under this party’s banner?
I am sorry to say that this party is being systematically destroyed. The fact is conservatives make up the majority of the party base. When you don’t have a very big base then you don’t have a party. The state convention is only two months away and from where I stand the party is very divided. As surprising as it may sound I do think there is enough time to fix this problem. Susan you can fix this, but you have to want to and I know you do. Please let me help you, time is running out.
As I stated earlier this isn’t the only example of something like this happening in the state GOP. This kind of stuff has gone on for a long time. The difference now is that it has gotten much worse. It’s to the point now where I believe the State GOP is hanging on by a thread. The turnouts to the precinct caucuses weren’t very good for the most part. It’s clear some conservatives have walked away from the party after how they have been treated during the past several years, and in addition, the State GOP did a poor job of getting the word out about when the caucuses were taking place.
I attempted to meet with Susan Hutchison before writing this. But like all people in top positions of organizations, Susan has a cadre of gatekeepers whose job it is to see to it that those who are privileged to see her will advance the party’s objectives.
Narratives or concerns from the grassroots that differ from the official Party (or company) communiqués are usually not welcome and this time was no different.
I want everyone to understand that I think very highly of Susan and I still believe in her. The Susan I have known is far better than the Chairman I have been seeing. Join me in urging her to make the necessary changes to this party! My appeal to her is this:
Susan, it’s time for you to start over and start trying to unite this party, and I sincerely want to help in anyway I can. If you don’t unify the State GOP, then it will die.
† * WASHINTON’S FUTURE expenditures as of August 17, 2015:
- Total For Democrats: $0
- Total For Republicans: $3,000
- Total Against Republicans: $117,411
Phil Spackman has been a part of The Reagan Wing since 2004.