Former KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchison has been elected as the new chair of the Washington State Republican Party.
At a meeting in Spokane Saturday afternoon, Hutchison defeated the sitting interim GOP chair, Luanne Van Werven in a runoff vote after two other contenders were eliminated. (The final vote on the GOP state committee was Hutchison 59, Van Werven 46.)
Hutchison ran for King County Executive in 2009 by downplaying her Republican ties. But she was in full partisan fervor Saturday, pledging to breathe new life into a state Republican Party that has suffered stinging election defeats.
In an impassioned speech to the GOP activists, Hutchison painted a dire picture of the Republican Party’s condition in Washington, calling the party a “ragtag army” that has “no leading indicators with the arrow going up.”
Hutchison said the party is “nearly broke,” has a “useless” web site and a get-out-the-vote operation that is “spotty in most counties and ineffective in our most populous counties.”
“Can it get worse? Of course it can. The Democrats are not playing dead,” said Hutchison. She described the Democratic Party as “swelling in our urban centers” and “masters of election fraud” beholden to “union fat cats.”
Hutchison had touted her abilities as a fundraiser and media-savvy spokesperson for the GOP.
Van Werven had campaigned on her “grassroots chops” as a longtime party activist in Whatcom County. She said the GOP needs to improve its data and get-out-the-vote efforts.
“The simple truth is Obama’s machine hammered us on the tech front in 2012,” she said, noting the Republican National Committee has a plan to do better in the next election.
Van Werven had caused an internal party controversy when she suggested the party needed to be more conservative and seemed to criticize the GOP’s 2012 gubernatorial nominee, Rob McKenna, during a speech to a Republican group in Ellensburg.
At that event, Van Werven said the GOP had unsuccessfully “gone the moderate Republican route” and it didn’t work out. She said McKenna “just couldn’t pull in the votes like he should” among conservative Eastern Washington voters.
In her speech Saturday, Van Werven made no similar comments but said the GOP needs “to find candidates who are proud of our platform and who will promote our brand with sincerity and eagerness.”
Two other nominees for GOP chair, Jim Walsh and Christian Berrigan, were eliminated on the first ballot Saturday.
The GOP’s leadership post was vacated when Kirby Wilbur abruptly resigned last month to take a job in Washington D.C.