Update 3:30 p.m. Added comment from King County Republican Party chair Lori Sotelo.
The surprise resignation of state GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur has sent a flurry of text messages and emails flying in Republican circles, as party activists chat up possible successors.
One name that has emerged is Susan Hutchison, the former KIRO-TV anchor who unsuccessfully ran for King County Executive in 2009 largely downplaying her ties to the Republican Party.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Hutchison confirmed she is thinking about running for the GOP job.
“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.”
As for her efforts to portray herself as “nonpartisan” in the 2009 King County Executive race, Hutchison said “that was what was required in that job — it was a nonpartisan position.”
“I ran a very good nonpartisan campaign,” she said. “And if the other side would have run a good nonpartisan campaign it would have been a fair contest.”
The King County executive position was made nonpartisan by a voter-approved initiative in 2008. But Democrats made sure voters knew about Hutchison’s GOP connections when she ran for the office the following year. Dow Constantine emerged from the primary field and won the general election race in part by savaging Hutchison’s conservative ties.
Hutchison praised Wilbur’s work as GOP chairman, saying he is “well loved,” but said there is plenty of work to do to get the GOP competitive again in state races. “It is not a good thing that our city our county and our state have become one-party dominated,” she said.
For now, the state party is being led by vice chair Luanne Van Werven, who said she is not ruling out seeking the job on a permanent basis. “I haven’t made my decision yet. I want to be very deliberate,” she said.
Lori Sotelo, who chairs the King County Republican Party, also said Tuesday she is thinking about a bid, but wants to “let the dust settle” and weigh what would be best for the party.
The GOP state committee is scheduled to meet in late August in Spokane, but Van Werven said that may be too soon under GOP rules to hold an election for Wilbur’s replacement. The party’s has up to 90 days to pick a new chair. The chair is elected by 117 Republican officials from each of Washington’s 39 counties.
Another likely factor in the GOP race will be the cohort of energetic supporters of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who have organized as the Republican Liberty Caucus. That group has frequently clashed with establishment GOP leaders, who viewed them with suspicion.
Matt Dubin, a Seattle attorney and leader in the Republican Liberty Caucus of King County, said in a blog post the election of a new chair “presents a rare opportunity for us to unite and invigorate our party.”
Dubin blasted state party leaders for fighting the “libertarian wing of the party with particular vehemence and venom” — infighting that he said drained the party of time and money to fight Democrats. “It is time for this nonsense to stop,” he said.
Dubin said the Liberty Caucus will be actively involved in the coming election but did not yet name any candidates.