State GOP Convention in Chaos


He didn’t stay for dinner, but Attorney General Bob Ferguson was feasting on Republican turmoil as the Democrats’ gubernatorial frontrunner spoke Saturday night to the spring gala of the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI). “It’s insane,” said Ferguson. “They want to run the state. They can’t run their own convention.”

A chess master, Ferguson was seizing on an historic Republican brawl to get a leg up in what he predicts will be a “very close” race for Governor this fall. The target was ex-U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, the GOP’s frontrunner for a post occupied by five successive Democratic governors.

The NPI has been in the field with its polling, which has credibility since it correctly predicted Sen. Patty Murray’s landslide reelection two years ago. The NPI poll in November 2023 surprisingly showed Reichert leading, but Ferguson edged ahead two months later. Trailing far behind is MAGA man Semi Bird, a Republican favored by the state’s Trump loyalists.

Reichert carries an endorsement from Mainstream Republicans of Washington, a wing of the party that used to win statewide elections. But the weekend Republican State Convention sent Bird soaring with an endorsement. The convention booed and rejected ex-U.S. Jaime Herrera Beutler, running for state commissioner of public lands and one of ten Republican House members who voted to impeach President Trump after the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Reichert pulled out of running for the chaotic convention endorsement. Ferguson pounced on the opportunity to define his opponent. “He quits,” Fergy said of Reichert, mocking the former King County Sheriff. Rarely does a Reichert speech go by without a reference to his law enforcement background.

Ferguson wasn’t finished. The NPI’s polls show a socially liberal Washington — we’ve voted for abortion rights and sex education in public schools — as well as deep antipathy to Trump. “The Donald” has not been seen in the state since the summer of 2016.

“He (Reichert) is anti-choice; he makes no bones about it,” said Ferguson. “He believes marriage is between a man and a woman.” He then tied Reichert to Trump: The old sheriff left Congress in 2018, voicing strong private antipathy for the 45th president. But Ferguson would have none of it. “He voted 93 percent for the Trump agenda, more than any member of the Washington delegation,” declared Ferguson about Reichert. And more than Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida firebrand who came to Vancouver to campaign against Rep. Herrera Beutler following her impeachment vote.

The state’s Republicans fielded an historically weak ticket in 2020. They lost every statewide office but one, and Secretary of State Kim Wyman was soon to depart to take a federal appointment — and was replaced by Democrat Steve Hobbs.

The GOP’s “red wave” failed to materialize in 2022. Eight highly recruited legislative candidates all went down to defeat. A pair of Republican pollsters, Trafalgar and Moore Information, had GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley rapidly gaining on Murray. “We want that seat,” Sean Hannity told the Fox News audience.

They didn’t get it. An NPI poll showed a brief dip in Murray’s popularity, followed by return to a double-digit victory. A moderate Democrat, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp-Perez, scored the nation’s biggest upset capturing Herrera Beutler’s old House seat in Southwest Washington. The national tout sheet put chances of Republican Joe Kent’s winning at 97 percent.

The Republican far-right has gone seven decades without a statewide win (aside from secretary of state)ssince Henry Jackson ousted U.S. Sen. Harry Kain in 1952. Semi Bird is likely to be shot down in the August primary. The 2024 convention has left the party bloody and battered.

Reichert is the likely nominee against Ferguson. The question is whether the avuncular former lawman can come back. Ferguson has raised more than twice the $2.6 million Reichert warchest, and is in midst of making his second tour of all the state’s 39 counties.

As Attorney General, Ferguson helped lead a legal posse of AG’s which repeatedly challenged the Trump Administration in court, starting with this state’s successful challenge to the Muslim travel ban. Nationally, two of the attorneys general, Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania and Maura Healey in Massachusetts, have been elected governor. Ferguson is bent on joining them, and has pounced at his opponents’ weakness.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


    • So am I, and so is Bob Ferguson.

      Semi Bird, OTOH, is just nuts. My dad joke about him is that the reason he’s a “semi” bird is that he only has a right wing.

      A FAR right wing, that is.

  1. It is hard to accept that the Republican Party, once the party of Lincoln, now represents the dark heart of America. Presumably, all nations have dark hearts, but what an ordeal to see it batten so. Thank you for keeping the spirit of James Russell Lowell alive in such a time: “Once to every man and nation…”


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