The Politics Blog

South Sound Republicans still sizing up candidates for state party chair

OlympianAugust 17, 2013 

Thurston County GOP chairman Zeke Lyen making a point before the party's presidential caucuses in February 2012.


In the big election to pick a new state Republican Party leader, South Sound GOP chairmen say they want more details before voting next Saturday in Spokane.

Bob Lawrence, the Pierce County chairman, and Zeke Lyen, the Thurston chairman, both say they haven’t had a chance to talk to all five candidates known to be in the race, and they are holding off picking one until that happens.

The publicly announced hopefuls include acting state chair Luanne Van Werven, former television news anchor Susan Hutchison, Grays Harbor County chairman Jim Walsh, operations director Christian Berrigan of the Clark County GOP, and Benton County precinct committee officer Lloyd Becker.

Lyen and Lawrence hope to talk to the candidates on Sunday when the hopefuls tour South Sound to meet with county chairmen, state committeemen and state committee women. There are 117 officers in the 39 counties eligible to vote.

“I think what everybody is looking forward to is hearing, ‘what’s your plan, where do you see the party going and how do you execute that plan?' ” Lawrence said this week. “Whoever we look at is going to have some sort of good history. How they articulate what they are going to do is the bottom line.”

Lyen said he had met Walsh for coffee and only talked to Berrigan. So far, he’s impressed with Walsh and said the leader had success getting a Republican majority on the Grays Harbor County commission in a traditionally Democratic county.

“They went from all Democrats to two Republicans and one Democrat in one election. To me that’s a little bit impressive,’’ Lyen said, adding it was “the first time since I think Herbert Hoover was president they have a Republican commission there.’’

But Lyen also wants candidates to answer two questions his precinct committee officers have asked: one deals with “getting minorities more involved in the Republican Party” and the other is about “the use of technology in the party.’’

“I certainly want those questions answered and brought forward to my constituents,’’ Lyen said.

Van Werven, a former Whatcom County chair, has suggested the party should field more conservative, and we noted this week that Oregon Republicans took such a step to the right in selecting their state chairman.  

Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times has painted the picture of a Washington GOP divided by ideology 

Jerry Cornfield of the Everett Herald has framed the state chairman election as pouring the party’s foundation for fielding a strong candidate for governor in 2016

Neither Lyen nor Lawrence is buying the idea the party needs to seek ideological purity. But Lyen acknowledged that strongly libertarian Republicans – many who worked for Ron Paul’s campaign for president in 2012 – have taken over the Thurston County GOP.

“I think if they have good conservative principles we’ll be behind them. We don’t have to be hard and fast. The party does need to look toward winning. But I think we should distinguish ourselves from the Democrats,” Lyen said. “People need to have a choice.’’

Four others with votes from South Sound are PierceCounty committeeman Nicholas Sherwood of Puyallup; Pierce committeewoman Andrea Innes, also of Puyallup; Thurston committeeman Brent Hanson of Olympia; and Thurston committeewoman Karen Callies of Rochester.

Stay tuned.

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