This coming Saturday, the King County GOP will hold its organization meeting at the Bellevue Hilton. On the agenda: the scheduled election of new party leadership and ratification of the county party’s bylaws for the 2018-2020 term, the runway for organizing ahead of the 2020 election.

Every county Republican organization in Washington State conducts a similar meeting for the purpose of choosing its representatives on the state committee that will elect a new Washington State Republican Party Chair in January 2019. In King County this year, the process is a little more meaningful because it marks a transition as, after 10 years as King County Chair, Lori Sotelo is stepping down.

During that time Sotelo has been the KCGOP Chair, the Republican Party in King County has enjoyed unprecedented stability and respect. This was due in large part to her leadership because confidence in the apparatus flows from experience with how its chief executive goes about their business. Candidates, donors and party affiliates make decisions about their involvement based on the trustworthiness of their political party. A party can be unified under a good chair or fractured with a poor chair. The position is not an easy one to navigate. King County has over 2,600 precincts, 17 legislative districts and over 80 offices subject to election, not to mention the number of initiatives, propositions, and other less visible political questions that pop up each and every cycle. The participation swells during the Presidential election.

The organization is larger than the Washington State Republican Party and conducts precinct committee officer recruitment, Legislative District leadership recruitment, training for volunteers, candidate recruitment,candidate training and support, events, press, support and all the activities that make political parties function. The King County Convention has the potential to draw together more than 6,000 delegates and alternates. Donor development is critical in King County where the majority of Washington State’s major donors reside. The Chair is responsible to develop donor relationships,trust and the funding of the entire network to accomplish the Republican agenda in King County!

The open seat for King County GOP (KCGOP) Chair presents an opportunity for leaders within the party to step up to make their case for the job. With the tough mid-terms behind us, Republicans can expect to gain ground in the next two years. The new KCGOP Chair will have a sound foundation to start from to make their mark on the future.

So far, three candidates have declared for the position: Cynthia Cole, current chair of the 48thLD and KCGOP Vice Chair, Doug Basler,the 47th LD Vice Chair and past KCGOP Vice Chair, and Kathy Finney, a past PCO in the 45th Legislative District.

Cynthia Cole

Cynthia Cole is a longtime activist in the Republican Party with impressive professional and political resumes. Cole is a team player with a successful history of organizing and recruiting volunteers for candidates in the 48th LD and also targeted races across King County. Candidates,donors and party affiliates can be secure in her leadership experience and ability to navigate the myriad of challenges the Chairman faces. Her political volunteer experience is relevant and vast. She has served as 48th LD PCO, Vice Chair, District Chair, Legislative District Caucus Chair, Current KCGOP Vice Chair, KCGOP Convention Delegate, Union Coalition Chair, Communication Committee Member, Budget Committee Member, 2018 Veda Jellen Grassroots Activist Award Winner, Liberty Dinner, Co- Chair 2018. Served on numerous committees in the party, for elected officials and in her community.

Cole’s platform is to promote the GOP’s common-sense values on the issues that daily impact people and also to appeal to all those who share our values; build our “farm team,” beginning at the city council/schoolboard levels; build on existing PCO Training with role playing; and fund-raising for in Legislative District Organizations to support their political activities.

Her impressive professional resume includes a degree in Mathematics from Cal Poly, Secondary Teaching Credentials, an MBA in Technology and Engineering Management. Cole was a test engineer for Rockwell in the Space Shuttle Program. At Boeing she was a Flight Test and Systems Engineer for Military Programs. She even worked on the B2 Bomber! Cole held the position as Vice President and then President for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) representing Boeing engineers and technical employees. She was a Contract Negotiation Team Member. In 2011, Cynthia Cole formed her own Consulting LLC.

As SPEEA President for two terms, Cole managed the largest private sector professional union in the United States, here in Seattle, as a woman, in a rough-and-tumble environment, with an $8 million annual budget.Cole used her skill set to organize pledges to fund KCGOP and has recruited for key support roles upon election as KCGOP Chair. She knows what it will take to do the job. Cole has stated she will not take a salary and only seek reimbursement of expenses.

Doug Basler

The second candidate, Doug Basler, also has some political experience within KCGOP leadership. Basler’s professional resume includes work as Corporate Management Trainer for Car Toys and is Founder and President of EZTV Spots, an agency that provides video production, media buying and web services. He is a PCO and former vice chair of the 47th LD. Most recently he was a KCGOP Vice Chair before resigning that position to become a candidate for Congress’ 9th District.

Basler’s platform is to change our messaging in order to grow our party and more training for our PCOs, volunteers, and candidates.

But there are concerns with Basler’s background, concerns that candidates, donors, volunteers and the party leadership are raising their eyebrows at. He has two personal bankruptcies, a Chapter 7 in 1999-2000 and a Chapter 13 in 2014-2017, where his creditors received nothing or pennies on the dollar of what they were owed. Basler ended up sideways with the IRS for failure to pay personal federal income taxes in 2008 and 2009. He also has a long history of past due payments and liens. When asked about his IRS woes, Basler tells a story of being targeted by Lois Lerner and the IRS for being a Republican. Truth be told his problems started well before 2010 when the IRS targeted 501(c)3 and (c)4 applications by the Tea Party and other conservative organizations. His IRS issues appear to be consistent with a troubled credit history rather than the IRS oppressing individuals who did not pay their taxes. Just last week he had multiple liens by the City of Kent. When asked if he would take a salary as KCGOP Chair, Basler declined to comment.

And the way that Basler, through his business enterprise EZTV Spots, has engaged and performed within the political space, is another aspect of his history that will almost certainly raise more questions for concerned Republicans.

Basler recently ran for 9th Congressional District Representative and lost in the primary to a socialist. Contributions to Basler’s candidacy almost entirely went to EZTV Spots after his filing fee was paid. Meanwhile, Basler is the current vice chair of the 47th LD GOP—all incumbent Republicans in the 47th LD went down to defeat.

Basler was also a consultant for the primary challenger working against 26th LD Republican incumbent state Rep. Michelle Caldier. The attacks from within the party on Caldier forced her to spend surplus funds and weakened all races in the 26th LD where Republicans under performed or lost their primary races.

Basler also serves on several PACs, including Truth for Washington with Orin Wells, which are financial feeders for EZTV Spots. How the flow of business between political groups and EZTV Spots is a fair question for concerned Republicans to ask.

Kathy Finney

Finally, the third announced candidate is Kathy Finney, a longtime volunteer in the 45th Legislative District. Finney was recently elected (Dec. 1) as a PCO. She has a background and job history in Real Estate and Real Estate related jobs. Volunteers who have worked with her have expressed doubts about her likeability, also a key ingredient when recruiting volunteers.

Finney is running on a platform of training and communication for PCOs. She has stated she will take a salary and expenses from the KCGOP.

All eyes in the state are on KCGOP’s elections. The only hope we have of pushing back against the liberal agenda in Puget Sound is through a vibrant King County Republican Party with firm leadership and strong donor relationships.

(Nansen Malin, Pacific County GOP Chair, resides in Southwest Washington where she writes on local, state and national politics.)