Republicans: O'Callahan defeats Barkis to replace Roberts as party chairman

Thurston County Republicans picked a new chairman this week, electing former Tenino Mayor pro tem John O'Callahan to replace Scott Roberts.

Roberts served two years and chose not to seek re-election. O’Callahan, who works in home improvement sales, credited Roberts for improving local party fundraising and for helping to field a slate of competitive candidates in local races this year.

“He was able to take the party from barely being able to pay its expenses year in year out to being able to give money to candidates this year. We gave each candidate $500,” O’Callahan said Friday.

O’Callahan beat out Andrew Barkis, the operator of a property management firm, for the top spot by about six votes, according to Roberts, who chose to step down.

“I wouldn’t term it as a split in my mind they had completely different skill sets,” Roberts said of the choice offered to the roughly 80 GOP precinct officers who showed up to vote. “John O’Callahan comes from more of a grassroots (and fundraising) background, and Andrew Barkis comes from more of a business/management background.”

Roberts said he chose to step aside because it’s a volunteer job that requires “a lot of work,” and he was able to leave the party in “a very fiscally responsible” condition. He said it had been barely able to pay bills before his tenure.

Roberts also recruited candidates, which let the party compete in a few Thurston County government races in which Democrats held a distinct advantage for several years. Tom Nelson made a close run for treasurer, and Glen Morgan also did for assessor, and independent John Snaza was elected sheriff with Republican support.

Callahan said he wants to build on Roberts’ success in raising funds, and to show more support in future elections for the party’s candidates – once voters sort out their favorite Republican in the primary.

“We gave (candidates) $500 this year. What I’d like to do is give us a little more visibility and build upon our fundraising efforts. One of the things I’ve been noted for and am pretty good at is fundraising.”

Callahan said the party will have a new slate of officers, but it is not a shift in ideology, and added that he always has been a conservative Republican. And he wants to keep the party open to people of different viewpoints.

“We have about 107 (precinct committee officers) now, and we have a pretty good base to work with. We seem to have some good energy going based on last night’s meeting,” he said. “We’re going to start talking to all the PCOs one on one, find out what they like to do and don’t like to do. So when we come to the next campaign cycle, we’ll already know who can do what and who is willing to do what and how well they can do it.”

Barkis expressed no misgivings despite losing out to O’Callahan. In an e-mail, he said: “There is a strong new leadership group that was elected, made up of some new to the process and others who have multiple years of experience within the party. The common theme was a call to unite and communicate our message to the community to bolster our awareness and support for our future candidates.”

Also elected by Republicans:

State committeeman: Zeke Lyen, replacing John Darby (tea party activist Ken Morse withdrew his name as the election began and supported Lyen).

State committeewoman: Jamie Arras, replacing Milly Rice (who stepped down) after beating out Daniella Anderson and Shelly Dietzman (former party secretary who stepped aside as voting began to support Arras). Arras comes from a political family; her mother is state Sen. Pam Roach.

First vice chair: Debbie Koepp, replacing O’Calla- han.

Second vice chair: Nathan Johnson, replacing Lenny Greenstein, who didn’t run. Johnson had coordinated the county’s GOP Vic- tory Center, or campaign headquarters, during the election and ran unoppo-sed.

Secretary: Tom Watson, replacing Dietzman.

Treasurer: Becca Stiles, who had been Glen Morgan’s campaign manager for county assessor, replacing interim treasurer Julie Nichols, who filled in after Nelson ran for county treasurer.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/politicsblog