Former radio talk show host Kirby Wilbur is the new chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.
Members of the party’s state committee and the party’s county chairmen elected Wilbur at a meeting in Tukwila on Saturday, effectively unseating former Chairman Luke Esser.
Wilbur collected 69 votes, while Esser, who had led the party since January 2007, received 36, said Peter Graves, the party’s political director. Bill Rennie of Puyallup received seven votes.
“The state party spoke today and said they want a new direction for the state party. They said they appreciated Luke Esser’s service,” Graves said in an interview. But “in order to take back majorities in the Legislature and take back a majority of congressional seats, the state party needed a new leader to come in and bring the Republican Party to that level,” he added.
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Wilbur, 57, a longtime host on KVI radio, most recently served as director of Americans for Prosperity Washington, a state chapter of a national conservative group founded by former George W. Bush aide Karl Rove.
The News Tribune, The Olympian’s sister newspaper in Tacoma, has reported that there is a pending state Public Disclosure Commission investigation into complaints that Americans for Prosperity Washington may have violated state disclosure law. Wilbur told the newspaper this month that the group’s disclosure filings from the November general election may have been late and inadequate.
Wilbur has appeared on Fox News, CSPAN, Fox Business Channel and network news, and received awards from family, law enforcement, charitable and political organizations, including The Fund for American Studies, Young America’s Foundation and Families Northwest, according to a news release from the state Republican party.
Calling Esser his friend, Wilbur said he appreciated Esser’s years of service to the party.
Esser, a former state legislator, could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Wilbur said he will work to improve the party’s message and mechanics.
“The last election clearly showed us that Washington voters share our outlook on taxes, economic growth and fiscal responsibility,” he said in the release. “I look forward to working closely with both our great elected officials and our talented grass-roots activists to make ours a majority party and put this state on the road to recovery.”
Wilbur noted that he met his wife, Trina, at a Youth for Reagan event. The couple live in Duvall.
Washington State Democrats are slated to choose their party leader next Saturday in Olympia.