When this week began, three Republicans were in the race for the 1st Congressional District seat. Yesterday, the field narrowed to two, and a Friday evening announcement from another Republican means that Snohomish County Councilman John Koster is riding solo against a pack of Democratic hopefuls.

Greg Anders was the first Republican to withdraw on Thursday. Today, James Watkins spent the day calling key supporters before he announced his own exit from the race and a full-throated endorsement of Koster, a vote of support Koster enthusiastically embraced by naming him as his King County chairman.

“James and I both love this country, and we believe unapologetically in American exceptionalism,” Watkins’ official release quotes Koster as saying. “We both agree that this election will be about real job creation and restoring common sense to the process in Washington D.C.”

Watkins suggested that an epiphany of sorts was partially responsible for his decision to step aside.

“A few weeks ago, I heard a venomous radio ad from one Republican Presidential Candidate attacking another…,” Watkins wrote in an email to supporters sent prior to his public announcement. “If we’re going to fix America, we can’t afford that kind of garbage.”

The leader of the State Republican Party concurred and embraced Watkins decision to endorse.

“It is a sign of strength within our Party when quality candidates come together in the interests of Party unity and victory,” said Kirby Wilbur, State GOP Chairman. “James Watkins’ selfless act will help John Koster and the Republican Party win this race in November.”

Watkins personally delivered the news to a room full of attendees at the three-day Republican Roanoke Conference in Ocean Shores, Wash., and received warm support on the Koster.

By phone, Watkins told me that his decision was a difficult one, but that the choice boiled down to wanting to give Republicans a clean shot during what he feels is a crucially important election year in our nation’s history.

The exit from the 1st Congressional District race may not be the end of the road for Watkins, however. Inside chatter indicates that party leaders are interested in recruiting the business consultant to run for the open office of state auditor. The retirement of incumbent Democratic State Auditor Brian Sonntag has many Republicans nursing the loss of a critical ally in the movement to promote government accountability and efficiency.


[photo courtesy of Koster for Congress]