The Washington State Republican Party will vote at its scheduled August meeting in Spokane to elect a new chair, according to a release sent out from party headquarters Thursday.
The 117 members of the WSRP state committee will select a permanent replacement to succeed Kirby Wilbur who resigned Monday, but state law that prescribes the gender of political party leadership could be a source questions about whether the candidates will be men and women or only men in the race to win the state GOP’s top spot.
The Revised Code of Washington states that in regular elections chairs and vice chairs of political parties must be of opposite gender. From RCW 29A.80.020:
The state committee of each major political party consists of one committeeman and one committeewoman from each county elected by the county central committee at its organization meeting. It must have a chair and vice chair of opposite sexes.
The law goes on to specify when elections must be conducted (in the month of January in odd-numbered years) and how state committee members must be notified, but does not specifically whether the gender requirements also apply in the case of filling a vacancy.
In 2006, former WSRP Chair Chris Vance resigned and Diane Tebelius was elected to replace him, but then-Vice Chair Fredi Simpson remained in her position until she was elected national committeewoman. That transition process may (or may not) have established a precedent for how the process works in the event of a vacancy.
Present-day vice chair Luanne Van Werven is currently serving as interim chair and a similar scenario presents itself, especially since sources tell us Van Werven is now making calls in advance of an announcement that she will run for chair.
So, be they man or woman, who will run? Although no candidates have officially declared in the race, many names are floating. With less than three weeks until state committee members will be asked to vote, it seems right to expect a clear picture of the candidate field to emerge by the end of next week.
In discussions I have had with party members in recent days, a number of names have been mentioned as potential candidates, though only two – Van Werven and Susan Hutchison – have given public statements of their interest in jumping into the race.
The editor of The Everett Herald tweeted Wednesday that a source confirmed Dino Rossi is being “pressured” to run, but Rossi himself has not come forward. One day earlier, The Herald editorialized in support of Rob McKenna picking up the reins of the state GOP, an idea most insiders believe is highly unlikely to become a reality for reasons discussed in The Herald’s endorsement.
Other names heard through the Republican grapevine include: former legislative candidate and current Spokane County GOP Chair Ben Oakley, Franklin County Commissioner and Franklin County Republican Chair Brad Peck, former state Sen. Bill Hinkle, two-time congressional candidate and Snohomish County Councilmember John Koster, state Rep. Cary Condotta, and King County GOP Chair Lori Sotelo.