News New GOP Chair: Luke Esser
posted by January 27 at 14:24 PMon
I wasn’t allowed in the Phoenix ballroom here at the Southcenter Doubletree, but I could hear the result through the door:
“Luke Esser 71 votes. Diane Tebelius 43 votes. We have a new chair.”
I kind of had a sense it was going to go that way during the break when I was lucky enough to catch Tebelius sneaking out a side door and bitching to a colleague that she didn’t think the speeches had gone well and everyone was just complaining that ‘we did this wrong and that wrong.’ Her friend said something encouraging, and Tebelius shot back: “Did you tell him that?”
I approached her as she was heading back in, and she said “I’ll talk to you later.”
I did get a chance to talk to Esser during that break. He seemed confident. He said in his speech he had stressed that the GOP needed to do a better job getting its message out of Olympia to distinguish the local GOP from the national GOP. He wants the party communications director to be down in Olympia coordinating with the caucus.
Esser told me there’s no ideological difference between him and Tebelius. “We’re both conservative Republicans,” he said. He pointed out the irony that despite last November’s national tide, all of Washington’s GOP national delegation held their seats while it was the state level folks who got pounded. “We need to establish an ID for Republicans in Washington so folks know what we’re doing in Olympia.”
I think, actually, the GOP has established an ID in Olympia, and well…
After the vote was announced, Tebelius actually wasn’t interested in talking to me. She left pretty abruptly. There was still business, but Esser ran the rest of the meeting.
I tried to chase after Tebelius, but she waved me off.
All that’s left in the hallway outside the banquet room is a guy on a cell phone saying: “Nope, Diane has disappeared. I guess she’s pretty devastated.”
New GOP chair Esser just stepped out to talk to the media (that’d be just 2 of us, David Postman from the Seattle Times and me), and we got to interview him for about 5 minutes.
Postman asked if Esser was surprised by the big margin (most had expected it to be closer). Esser said he was surprised, but the late vote broke his way… “and it always doesn’t go that way,” he joked, referring to his recent loss to born-again Democrat Rodney Tom for his Eastside state senate seat.
Esser repeated what he told me earlier, that the GOP hadn’t gotten its message out in November (not strong enough fundraising, he complained).
I asked what that message is and Esser said: “The GOP is for limited government and responsible spending.”
Do you honestly think people don’t know that’s the GOP message, I asked. And Esser said the GOP at the national level has not been fiscally responsible and so the local message got lost. (Ummm… didn’t he just finish telling me the national level GOPers held their seats?)
“We’ve [now] got a great opportunity,” he said, “to contrast ourselves with Gregoire’s $30 billion budget—which is going to lead to deficits and higher taxes.”
I have to say part of the reason Gregoire’s budget may lead to deficits is thanks to years of Democrats cowering to GOP-driven tax cuts. If you ask me, Gregoire is giving the people what they want—spending on education and children’s health care. Meanwhile, given how Washington state has been voting lately, voting down a gas tax repeal and slamming the estate tax repeal (a tax that kicks $100 million into education funding), I’m not sure the GOP anti-tax message is as potent as Esser thinks. We’ll see.
A final thought: Tebelius was not very good with the media last year. Esser, I think, will be. This may force Pelz to be the old Dwight Pelz—rambunctious and loud with the press. I found that Pelz was oddly press release-y and speaking point-y this past year; his Cantwell quote about dissatisfied Dem activists nonwithstanding. In fact, that infamous quote, when Pelz said last Spring that the party rank and file wasn’t excited about Cantwell, may have led to the canned reticence Pelz displayed for the rest of the year.
Speaking of press releases, here’s the GOP press release:
WASHINGTON REPUBLICANS ELECT NEW PARTY CHAIR ESSER CALLS ON REPUBLICANS TO REENERGIZE PARTY IN THE WAKE OF 2006 DEFEAT Tukwila, WA—January 27… Washington Republicans elected Luke Esser Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party at their biannual organization meeting today. Esser, a former state senator from Bellevue and a longtime party activist, defeated incumbent Chair Diane Tebelius by a massive 71-43 margin. . “The first step towards recovering from our defeat in 2006 is recognizing that we have a problem, and today we did that,” said Esser. “Though we face difficult times I’m confident we will rebound. The Republican Party is overflowing with ideas for making Washington more prosperous and secure.” “The Democrats are using their majorities to restrict the initiative process and spend a massive 30 billion dollars on state government. They’re governing way to the left of Washington voters.”
Meanwhile, this just in from the Democrats:
Unprecedented Democratic gains lead to State Party Chair’s overwhelming reelection
OLYMPIA – Washington State Democratic Party leaders met in Olympia today and re-elected Dwight Pelz as its Chair. Pelz, who faced no opposition for reelection, oversaw unprecedented gains for the Democrats in the State Legislature in 2006, as well as the resounding reelection of U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell.
Upon winning reelection, Chairman Pelz issued the following statement:
“I am honored to have been reelected today as Chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party,” said Pelz, a former State Senator and King County Council member. “2006 was a terrific year for Democrats, having picked up six seats in both the State House and the State Senate, as well as sending Maria Cantwell back to the other Washington for a second term. I look forward to continuing our work in pushing a Democratic agenda for Washington State’s working families.”