The line is growing for possible successors to Dwight Pelz, the Washington state Democratic Party chairman who extended his party’s hold on statewide offices since 2006. He never lost a major race, but did see slippage the state Senate slip into Republican hands when two Democrats joined a majority coalition with the GOP in January.
Nancy Biery, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell as well as ex-Gov. Gary Locke from Jefferson County, was first to widely announce she is definitely in the running. Jay Clough, a Richland resident who previously served in the Marines, said he is in the running, too.
Former state Rep. Brendan Williams of Olympia has said he is considering it. Pelz has identified two others who he are interested: state party executive director Jaxon Ravens and Michele Meaker Pin, a political consultant who formerly worked as a legislative aide to Rep. Luis Moscoso.
Pelz, who wants to travel, is stepping down on Feb. 1 when the party’s central committee board members are gathering, and the new chair would be chosen by that executive board on that date.
Biery, a former Jefferson County Democratic chair who lives in the Quilcene area, said she is setting a goal of taking four state Senate seats back into Democratic control, providing the party a majority in both legislative chambers.
“It’s going to be difficult for everybody – not only the governor but the people of the state of Washington unless we can get people working together. I don’t see a lot of bipartisanship right now,’’ Biery said, referring to the Democrat-controlled House and a Senate run by a majority coalition dominated by Republicans.
Biery said she brings “the three main ingredients to the table” that rivals lack: “One I have worked on the policy side, I’ve worked for elected officials and understand what they are up against. I’ve run a number of winning campaigns … I also know how to raise money. Fourthly I have been a party chair and I know how hard it is for these little guys in Cowlitz County or Lewis County.’’
Clough serves as the chairman of the state party’s local chairs organization. He ran and lost campaigns for Congress in 2010 and the state House in 2012.
In a news release, Clough said: “I have the experience and determination to lead the Democratic Party and create lasting majorities in Olympia and in Washington D.C. … My goals for the Party are to re-elect Jay Inslee and elect a Democratic President in 2016, retake the State Senate and build strong Democratic Party organizations throughout the State.”
Williams, who has a strong liberal voting record and a history of strong fundraising, said in an email he plans to attend the fall meetings of a number of political groups. He also intends to be on hand for a candidates forum on Jan. 5 for Machinists. “I plan on being there,” Williams said.
The Democrats’ search for a new leader comes not long after state Republicans selected former television news anchor Susan Hutchison to replace Kirby Wilbur. Wilbur said he stepped down to take a much higher paying job on the East Coast.