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Saturday, January 27, 2007

New GOP Chair: Luke Esser

posted by on January 27 at 14:24 PM

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.”
Sustained applause.

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.”

RSS icon Comments


Pig Fucker's #1!

Pig Fucker's #1!

Looks like Luke won't have to get a real job, after all.

Posted by Original Andrew | January 27, 2007 2:40 PM


old news, the Republican party in this state is gross out time - locked in the 1800's

and all the rumors claim Esser is a closet fag who protected himself by being an over the top homo baiter while in the legislature

and where is Ellen? and the plank on witchcraft?

go Dems

Posted by sammy | January 27, 2007 2:41 PM

Hey Josh did you ask him what he would do about the viaduct - if the Dems don't get it together on this issue Esser will look good after 2008.

Haven't seen any Repubo comment on the issue, are any reporters asking them?

Posted by Peter S | January 27, 2007 3:28 PM

Message out? I think they succeeded in getting their message out, and the results are due to their betrayal of our American values of Truth, Justice, and the American Middle Class way of life.

That plus the whole Iraq bag of lies.

Good question to ask, Josh, maybe they can whine about how they need more govt subsidies for cars ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 27, 2007 3:31 PM

Esser is smart to keep his mouth shut on the is a major Demo cat fight, getting worse each day, that makes us all look silly in progressive Pudget Sound territory ...

Gregoire looks timid, Nichols seems obsessed and the Seattle City Council seems to need leadership classes and recovery 12 step from foggy brain problems ...

Repubs don't want to spend money on infrastructure but are not fools when it comes to real time discussions on roads

Esser would back the rebuild, the people voted, the money is there, the need is and sound..... just do it before the big earthquake and many, many billions in liability claims ...

Esser will pound Chris on expanding the state budget - of course the economy is better so we have more money .... but they will try to recapture the anti tax mood of a decade ago..... it worked.

Posted by sammy | January 27, 2007 4:24 PM

#5 Yes the Repubos want not to comment on the viaduct just like the Demos nationally don't want to comment on the Iraq war solution but the "liberal" press asks them over and over again.

Josh should put the heat on the Repubos for their solution - if Esser and Rossi et al. wish to not have an opinion let them say so.

Posted by Peter S | January 28, 2007 7:33 AM

Hey Josh,

If you had been wearing an "Warning: I am Josh Feit" T-shirt - or maybe one with a photo of Camus on it - there are plenty of people who would have come up and chatted, just for the thrill... kind of like reading those personal ads in the back of your rag. I'm still looking for the "Women Seeking Boring Guys" subsection.

But seriously - with people (and lots of fresh faces) coming to the event from all over the state even people (like me) who have e-mailed or spoken to you a number of times by phone would have no idea that you were you.

I thought you were one of the many volunteers working on the chair campaigns, otherwise I would have come up and chatted. You certainly have your agenda, but there are times you have truly been insightful or hilarious (and sometimes pointlessly nasty - but hey - it's "The Stranger").

With Esser in as Chair you will seeing a more active State Party for the Republicans... led by someone who actually has a sense of humor.

I may not be Hugh Foskett, but I'll introduce myself next time... Oh what a thrill THAT will be for you.

Posted by TV Fan | January 28, 2007 10:26 AM

TV Fan,

Ha! I did interview a PCO from Cowlitz County named Keith Huff and a GOPer from Wahkiakum County named Kathleen Hogan. I also tried to interview a crew of young GOP guys who were goofing around in the lobby after the meeting. They were friendly, but they said they didn't want to be in the paper.

Anyway, next GOP thing I'm at, I'll wear my Goldwater '64 shirt.

Posted by Josh Feit | January 28, 2007 10:52 AM

Esser, the closet case, had an opportunity to fade into oblivion without any further inquiries into his "preferences" (I hate that word). So, ladies and gentlemen (mostly gentlemen), it is time to put our collective wits and experiences together to get to the bottom of the issue, so to speak.

Someone knows. Or, someone can find out. Go!

Posted by Opening Doors | January 28, 2007 11:36 AM

Dumping Tebelius and electing Esser makes sense for the Republicans. Their 2006 defeat was so complete they might as well change chairs. Luke's election brings the Republican Party back to its Bellevue roots (even if Bellevue's more than half D by now). Let's see if the New Eastside Gang can save Jane Hague's seat on the King County Council from a Democratic challenger such as Ross Hunter.

Posted by J.R. | January 28, 2007 12:16 PM

ref 5, above -

repubs would back the rebuild as long as there are tax rebates for big business written in

and something anti union and anti gay and anti woman and anti anti anti .... a bunch of real flakes in this state and else where

Posted by steve | January 28, 2007 1:15 PM

Don't you mean "Luke the Lesser"

Posted by wl | January 28, 2007 2:57 PM

esser is gay.

he had a cute young guy living at his house a few years ago. the guy (shows up as canceled voter registration, at that address) moved back in with his parents just after he left luke's which screams break-up to me. i don't know many single straight men in their 40s who choose to have a cute, young former yale crew member live with them, do you? plus the guy in question's dad works for the state and served on a board with the state senator who tried to out luke a few years ago.

google and the WA state voter database are our friends on this one.

and once again, scratch a fag beater and underneath lies a fag.

Posted by light in his loafers | January 28, 2007 10:04 PM

Three cheers for the Pig Fucker!

Posted by Jake of | January 29, 2007 11:53 AM

Dwight Pelz - Great State Chair... or Greatest State Chair?


Posted by Aexia | January 30, 2007 5:46 AM

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