GOP leaders stress unity, turnout at state convention

KENNETH P. VOGEL; The News Tribune

Bellevue, WA - Democrats have traditionally been better at the "ground game," but Republicans will have to beat them door-to-door and person-to-person to win elections in Washington state this fall, a top national Republican official told the GOP state convention Saturday in Bellevue.

"The grass roots, the ground game, makes the difference," said Maria Cino, deputy director of the Republican National Committee. Washington state will be key to re-electing President Bush and to maintaining majorities in both chamber of the U.S. Congress, Cino said, explaining that's why her group planned to funnel plenty of national money here.

But Cino told the 1,100 convention delegates that it was up to them to knock on doors and make phone calls to convince their neighbors to vote Republican.

Nearly every speaker at Bellevue's Meydenbauer Center throughout the three-day convention stressed unity of purpose and message.

But a dissatisfaction with party leadership bubbled to the surface at several points, with some delegates complaining that the push for unity bordered on manipulation.

Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri (R-Steilacoom), a convention delegate, said that state Party Chairman Chris Vance "has been a little heavy-handed in some things. After four years (as chairman), it's time for someone else to do it."

The party's refusal to allow long-shot U.S. Senate candidate Reed Davis to speak to the convention was criticized by many from Pierce County's delegation.

But delegates on Friday affirmed the party's position, voting to reject a floor challenge from Davis' supporters to let him speak.

Delegates bucked party leadership by changing a rule that would have allowed the election of slates of delegates recommended by the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign to this summer's national convention in New York City. Still, most of the delegates elected were on the list of those recommended by the campaign.

"It's a discipline thing," said anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, who was elected as an alternate to the national convention, even though he wasn't on the list.

"Now, they're wondering 'Oh God, are we going to see Tim with a lampshade on his head (at the convention)?'" Eyman said.

Delegates fell in line with leadership on Saturday when they voted to adopt a party platform recommended by leaders, without a traditional debate over amendments.

The platform, which is a non-binding and largely symbolic, states that the party opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, and favors tort reform, school vouchers and making President Bush's tax cuts permanent.

Party leaders sterilized the platform by discouraging the inclusion of controversial ideas, said Bruce Hawkins, a delegate from Gig Harbor.

But U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Bellevue), a former state party chairwoman, said that members of the party's platform committee, who come from all over the state, incorporated the values of the party's rank and file when they drafted the platform.

"There are a lot of folks who come here for the platform," said Dunn, who is chairwoman of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign in Washington state. She is not running for re-election and was likely participating in her last convention in a high-level official capacity.

She was the object of praise from several speakers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kenneth P. Vogel, 360-754-6093



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