This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Puh-leeze, Washington Republicans. Don’t do it again.
Washington last elected a Republican governor 30 years ago and last elected a Republican U.S. senator 16 years ago. That’s not entirely the GOP’s fault; this state simply leans a little blue – though it wasn’t so long ago that the Republicans could snatch control of the Legislature from time to time.
But there are roughly as many independents in Washington as there are members of either party, and the independents decide statewide races. The GOP has been forfeiting the big statewide offices, election after election, by nominating ideologues who can’t connect with the suburbs and the political center.
This is the party whose past gubernatorial nominees include Ellen Craswell, a lawmaker so far to the right she later ditched the Republican Party itself, and John Carlson, a talk radio jock without a lick of experience in public office.
There was an exception: Dino Rossi. After seven successful years as a state senator, Rossi won the Republican nomination for governor in 2004 and battled Chris Gregoire to a statistical tie. (Gregoire won on the third recount by a legally sufficient but mathematically meaningless 129 votes.) He lost a rematch in 2008, but a lot of other strong Republicans also went down in that year’s Democratic tsunami.
This year, Rossi is out to unseat U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, the only viable Democratic option in the race. We endorse his candidacy, and hers, in the primary. But Rossi must shake off two other serious Republican candidates, Clint Didier and Paul Akers.
Akers, an engaging entrepreneur, hasn’t picked up much momentum, but Didier is another matter. The Eltopia farmer and former NFL player is the favorite of the GOP’s tea party wing, and he’s picked up marquee endorsements from Sarah Palin, Ron Paul and former state Republican Chairman Ken Eikenberry.
Didier is a compelling campaigner who brims with football metaphors and red-meat conservative rhetoric. He might even be capable of bulldozing his way to the U.S. Senate – if he were running in Idaho.
In this state, no way. This might be a good year for Republicans nationally, but it won’t be so good for them in Washington that voters will elect any and all candidates who make it to the November ballot with an R behind their names.
Rossi has shown repeatedly that he can talk to the suburbs; Didier has never run for office before. Rossi has already proven himself as a lawmaker, a responsible fiscal conservative and a budget writer who can work with people of differing philosophies. Didier has chiefly demonstrated an ability to whip up hyper-conservative audiences.
Washington needs a truly competitive Republican Party capable of forcing Democratic incumbents into tough debates on matters of budget excess and other crucial issues. Rossi can make Murray defend her record; Didier would wind up as her ticket to re-election.
Republicans, here’s your chance. Don’t blow it.