November 20, 2013 at 4:21 PM
Susan Hutchison, the new chair of the state Republican party, gets a salary of about $75,000 a year — substantially less than the $95,000 earned by her predecessor, Kirby Wilbur.
But when Hutchison tried last weekend to convince the GOP executive committee to boost her pay to Wilbur’s level, the conversation turned ugly and Hutchison’s request was rebuffed.
Hutchison bemoaned the decision in an internal party memo obtained by The Seattle Times.
In the memo, sent Monday to the state GOP executive board, Hutchison wrote the “positive spirit” of the GOP meeting had “soured late in the day” when her salary request came up.
The pay for the Republican chairman’s position had been cut by GOP leaders — citing budget issues — at a meeting just prior to Hutchison’s election in August.
But Hutchison argued that vote had violated the party’s bylaws and could be viewed as “discriminatory and vindictive” — and even play into the hands of Democrats who have talked up the GOP’s problems among female voters.
“The pay cut defies the concept of equal pay for equal work, playing into the ‘war on women’ narrative against Republicans,” Hutchison wrote. She added she’d personally raised $22,000 from 18 non-Republican Party donors from her personal list of contacts — “which more than covers” the $20,000 pay raise.
“I left the meeting demoralized, and so did my hardworking staff. I heard that some of you felt beat up and angry, while others were very pleased. This kind of division over something so minor is not what will move us forward,” Hutchison wrote.
Despite the setback, Hutchison called the pay raise issue “minor” compared with the party’s task of electing Republicans to key state offices. “Since I declined nearly $11,000 in medical benefits, the true dispute involves less than $10k to the WSRP! That is not worth all the time and effort — and ill-will it has engendered,” she wrote, saying she’ll accept the lower salary for now.
She added: “Please, for the sake of the Party, put this issue to rest and don’t let it fester going forward. I particularly don’t want persons outside the party to hear about the quibbling as it will undermine our fundraising efforts among major donors. We have a very positive story to tell, and together we will win!”
Republican sources told The Seattle Times some GOP leaders were dismayed by Hutchison raising the “war on women” meme in her memo. They added that there has long been discussion within the party about how much the state party chair should be paid. “There is no war on women,” said one GOP source familiar with the dispute.
In an interview Wednesday, Hutchison said she considered the matter closed. “I’m sure that as time goes on and as people become more confident in our ability to raise money and so forth, we’ll all take a look at it again,” she said.
November 8, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Updated at 1:17 p.m. with comment from protest organizers
After a group of women was arrested at state Republican Party headquarters in Bellevue on Thursday during a protest about national immigration policy, state GOP Chairwoman Susan Hutchison issued a friendly statement saying she shared their concerns.
“Like them, we agree that our immigration system is broken and we must find a solution,” Hutchison said, saying it was “unfortunate” she was in Washington, D.C., and unable to hear the protesters’ concerns.
But former state GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur had a more hostile reaction, taking to Twitter to lob personal insults at the group.
“I missed all the fun at State HQ today as the left wing witches and hags protested and got arrested. They look so old and ugly…” Wilbur tweeted.
Police arrested 33 women at the Bellevue protest, including Peggy Lynch, the wife of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. The women were arrested in an act of civil disobedience after refusing to leave when asked by the building owner.
Keith Schipper, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said the group clearly wanted to get arrested, but did not get personally insulting toward GOP staff. “The ghost of Kirby Wilbur has no influence on the Washington State Republican Party any more. He doesn’t speak for the party,” Schipper said.
Wilbur, the former conservative talk-radio host, quit as state Republican Party chair in July to take a job with Young America’s Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Asked whether he thought his tweet was appropriate, Wilbur emailed “Yup.” He added in a subsequent email that liberals frequently call conservatives racist and said “preventing innocent people from working and conducting their business isn’t cordial in my book.”
Protest organizers were angered by Wilbur’s comment.
“We’re discouraged and appalled that the GOP’s response to a powerful action geared towards raising awareness about a substantive issue resorted to sexist name-calling and degradation,” said Rachael DeCruz, communications director for Washington CAN!, which helped organized the protest.
August 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM
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.
August 19, 2013 at 3:09 PM
Add another possibility to the race for chair of the Washington State Republican Party: state Sen. Pam Roach.
Roach, R-Auburn, stood with other candidates Sunday at a GOP meeting in Pierce County and answered questions as though she is running for the job, event attendees confirmed. (You can see photos of Roach addressing the crowd at the meeting at the Pierce County GOP Facebook page.)
In an interview, Roach wouldn’t say for sure whether she is running. But she had plenty of criticisms of the state party, particularly around fundraising, and plans to deliver her thoughts in a missive this week.
“I think we need to have some things discussed and I am going to help that happen,” Roach said. “I’m there to escalate the level of the debate.”
It’s not clear Roach would have support on the 117-member GOP state committee that will meet in Spokane this Saturday to elect a new chair.
Other candidates have been campaigning for weeks, including former KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchison, current interim party chair Luanne Van Werven, and Jim Walsh, a Grays Harbor County GOP state committeeman endorsed by a group representing the libertarian wing of the party.
Roach, first elected to the state Senate in 1990, frequently has been in the news for clashes with colleagues and staff. In 2010, she was barred from the Senate Republican caucus after a confrontation with a staff attorney. A report on the incident noted previous incidents in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2008 and earlier in 2010. She was allowed to rejoin the caucus in 2012, because her vote was key for budget deals in the divided chamber.
The GOP leadership vacancy was created by the sudden resignation of Kirby Wilbur as party chairman last month. Wilbur, formerly a well-known conservative radio talk show host, took a job with the Young America’s Foundation in Washington, D.C.
July 30, 2013 at 1:31 PM
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.
July 29, 2013 at 5:50 PM
Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur resigned Monday, announcing he is taking a job with a conservative group in Washington, D.C.
Wilbur, a former conservative talk radio host, was elected to lead the state GOP in 2011, and was re-elected earlier this year despite a mostly dismal 2012 for local Republicans.
In a news release, Wilbur said he’d been offered a five-year contract with Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which seeks to train the next generation of conservative youth. Wilbur has served for years on the YAF board of directors.
“It has been an honor to serve as chairman of the WSRP since January 2011. We have had many successes and I have had some failures. The Party has a good crop of up-and-coming leaders, and a strong staff, and it will continue to move forward no matter whose hand is on the helm,” Wilbur said in a news release.
Wilbur touted some victories, including the Republican pick up of a state House and state Senate seat last year, the latter resulting in the legislative coup that brought the Majority Coalition Caucus into power in Olympia this year. Left unmentioned were last year’s GOP setbacks, including Rob McKenna’s loss in the gubernatorial race, and Democratic victories in each of three open congressional seats.
WSRP Vice-Chair Luanne VanWerven will serve as interim chair of the party until a replacement can be elected. Party spokesman Keith Schipper said that may happen at the next GOP state committee meeting, scheduled for Spokane in late August.
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