GOP had lousy year with Vance at helm
Washington State - Republicans in this state are all pumped with adrenaline from the fight for governor.
That's great news for the bellicose Chris Vance, who seeks re-election this week as chairman of the state Republican Party.
On Saturday, 117 of the most active officers of the Grand Old Party - three from each of the 39 counties - will gather in Tukwila to elect a leader for a two-year term. Vance needs a majority to keep the job he has held since 2001.
He is banking that the emotion of the past 10 weeks will make the activists forget about his performance over the last four years.
That's a lot of forgetting.
Consider only the Vance record for 2004. Incumbent President Bush lost by a greater margin in Washington state than he did in 2000. Rep. George Nethercutt got steamrolled by Sen. Patty Murray.
Democrats gained control of the state Legislature. They won the governor's seat, at least for now, recaptured the majority in the state Senate and strengthened their grip on the House of Representatives.
Secretary of State Sam Reed and Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, both Republicans, did manage to win.
So too did Attorney General Rob McKenna and Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson. But in their cases, the muscle of the Building Industry Association of Washington played a greater role than did the operation run by Vance.
It should not be forgotten that Vance was the one who recruited Pierce County civic activist Will Baker to run for state auditor, signing Baker up just hours after his release from police custody following his most recent public outburst.
Mark Hulst of Mount Vernon finds Vance's resume lacking in achievement. That's why the former Skagit County Republican Party chairman is challenging Vance.
Hulst is courting state committee members and county party leaders for their votes, telling them the lesson of 2004 is that the party's failure to promote the grass roots has left it weaker.
Vance, he said, focused too much on winning federal seats. That didn't pay off, and worse, it distracted attention and diverted resources from state and local races.
Hulst pledges to rebuild from the ground up, to develop candidates, craft an agenda on which they can run, and invest in them to win. He said nearly three dozen votes are committed to him, and he has been endorsed by several lawmakers.
But it's tough to be heard amid all the shouting around Vance, who has become an ubiquitous figure in the governor's election.
Moreover, Dino Rossi has asked Vance to run again for chairman. Vance makes sure every elector knows that. He warns them not to change generals in the middle of an electoral war, because it might send the wrong message of lost confidence in Rossi.
Hulst rejected that line of reasoning, saying he would do everything necessary to help Rossi win if the Supreme Court calls for a new election. He will do more, he said, reconnecting the party with local and state lawmakers and preparing for the 2006 elections.
Republicans face the question of whether the party is better off today than four years ago when Vance took charge.
The answer will come Saturday.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield's column on politics runs every Sunday.
He can be heard at 7 a.m. Monday on the Morning Show on KSER 90.7
FM. He can be reached at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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