Republicans give voters some clout

June 5, 2007

The Vancouver Columbian

Washington State - State Republicans last weekend gained the high moral ground over Democrats by giving Washington voters a chance to influence the party's choice of a 2008 presidential nominee. On this point, the GOP in Washington has won bragging rights for the next four years, while Democrats make excuses for excluding voters.

Meeting in Yakima last Saturday, the Republican State Central Committee agreed to select 19 out of 37 delegates to the party's 2008 national nominating convention on the basis of the state's presidential primary, which will be open to all registered voters. It'll pick the others in precinct caucuses, which are good party-building venues.

In contrast, Washington Democrats are putting zero weight on the primary and are opening the candidate-selection process only to political activists who carve out two or more hours in February to attend a caucus. That's an undemocratic move for the Democrats, considering that about 21 people voted in the last state presidential primary for every one who attended a caucus.

One can legitimately argue that plenty of Republican activists don't like the primary any more than the Democrats. But the fact remains: Washingtonians who go on public record as voting Republican in the 2008 presidential primary will have a tangible role in that party's choice. (On the Democratic side, voters will be able to vote for their preferred candidate, too, but it won't count in the delegate-selection process that determines the nominee.)

Washington's 2008 presidential primary is set for May 25. But that date would best be advanced to Feb. 12 or Feb. 19 by a statutorily created committee that meets Monday. If the date is not advanced, the primary will be meaningless because both parties' nominees will almost certainly be determined by the states that do have their primaries and caucuses in January and February.

Brett Boger of Vancouver, the GOP state committeeman from Clark County, was among those in Yakima pushing to make the Washington primary count for something. Luke Esser, the state Republican chairman, is warming to his role as chief bragger on the topic. On this issue, this year, he and his party earned those bragging rights.


Primary sets parties apart

Tri-City Herald editorial

This story was published Friday, June 8th, 2007

Washington State - When it comes to Washington's presidential primary, the Republican Party is a little more than half right.

Which is a whole lot better than the Democrats, who've proved themselves to be all wrong on the issue.

At a meeting in Yakima last weekend, state Republicans decided to use the primary election to allocate 51 percent of their delegates to the GOP's presidential nominating convention.

The remaining 49 percent of delegates will be selected at neighborhood caucus meetings.

It's not a perfect arrangement. Using the primary to select all the delegates would be far more democratic.

That's little "d" democratic, of course.

The big "D" Democrats decided earlier this year to once again ignore the primary altogether and use the caucus system to select every delegate.

It doesn't take a political scientist to figure out which process is more inclusive.

During the 2000 presidential primary, for every Washington voter who attended a caucus, 21 turned out for the primary election.

There's only one way to read those numbers -- Democratic Party leaders don't much care how Washington voters want to pick presidential nominees.

No doubt party activists are feeling emboldened after taking the governor's mansion and strong majorities in the state House and Senate.

But beyond their inner circle, it looks more like arrogance than confidence.

As Republicans proved in 2006, there's no such thing as a permanent majority.


Democrats need to let state's voters determine delegates

Yakima Herald-Republic

June 6, 2007

Washington State - State Republicans at least got it half right Saturday when they agreed to use the state's presidential primary election to allocate a portion of their elected delegates to the GOP national nominating convention.

This follows the disregard of public opinion by state Democrats, who earlier -- and again -- decided to pick their delegates entirely by the archaic precinct caucus method.

The Legislature adopted a citizen initiative in 1989 to establish the presidential primary and Democrats have ignored the primary results ever since. Republicans initially picked all their delegates by primary but have gradually taken to allocating some delegates via primary and some by caucus.

In the 2008 presidential primary, state Republicans will use the primary results to allocate 51 percent of their elected delegates. Of the party's 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention, three are automatic and 37 are elected, meaning 19 of the elected ones will be allocated based on the primary and 18 on the basis of the party's precinct caucuses.

That's good, but not great. And certainly better than the cavalier attitude of the Democrats.

The GOP's executive board had informally decided in March to ignore the primary. After the Demos stepped in it again this year, no doubt they saw a golden opportunity to earn political capital with voters with the half-a-loaf concession. Such is politics and more power to them for taking advantage of the Democratic miscue.

We still think the public is best served by a presidential primary election in which all of the elected delegates are allocated by a popular vote. And we were willing to press the Legislature to cancel next year's event if Republicans followed the Democrats' no-count lead and the election wound up being a nonbinding beauty contest.

But the Republicans have offered something that should make this state more attractive at least to GOP presidential campaigns.

There's still time for state Democratic leaders to get on board and include the public in the process that leads to major parties' nominations for the highest office in the land.

We hope they change their minds and take a page from the book of their political rival, rather than continue to thumb their noses at the voting public.

Washington's presidential primary is scheduled for May 2008, but efforts are already under way to have it earlier -- quite the popular thing these days in states across the country. A bipartisan panel assigned the duty of setting a date for the primary meets again Monday, after deadlocking in a previous attempt.

Secretary of State Sam Reed backs either Feb. 12 or 19 -- avoiding a plethora of primaries in California and other states on Feb. 5.

GOP negotiators had originally wanted that date, but Democrats said it would detract from Feb. 9 caucuses, and suggested a date of March 18.

At the risk of sounding snarky, why should Democrats care when it's held if they don't honor the vote anyway? Or do they just continue to be obstructionists trying to scuttle any meaningful state vote?

There's no question a primary is popular with voters. In 2004, the state canceled the primary in tight budget times. But in 2000, the last time a presidential primary was held in the state, some 1.3 million people voted -- about 40 percent of the state's registered voters. The caucuses attracted 60,000 participants -- about 2 percent of the state's voters.

State Republicans have bent a bit in splitting their delegates between the election and caucuses. Democrats should reconsider their hidebound ways and follow suit.

Elections belong to the people, not party bosses.

* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Michael Shepard, Sarah Jenkins and Bill Lee.





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