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Former state GOP head: Republicans ‘have to disavow Trump’ to win in Washington

A person drops off a ballot for Washington state's primary election, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, at a collection box at the King County Administration Building in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

According to the early results of the Primary election, Governor Inslee will face off against Loren Culp in the general election come November. While Culp, a sheriff in the town of Republic, Wash., has a strong base, there are some in the party who fear Republicans aren’t doing enough to keep Washington from becoming a one-party state.

Jay Inslee, Loren Culp leading in Washington governor race

One of those critics is Chris Vance, who was a longtime King County councilmember and former head of the state’s Republican Party. He told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show that in order for a Republican to win the governor’s seat, they’d have to separate themselves from President Trump.

“The very first thing is you’d have to disavow Donald Trump, not just be cagey about whether or not you support him or try not to mention him,” Vance said. “… The only way Republicans are going to be competitive in Washington state or anywhere on the West Coast, or in lots of America, is to clearly break away from the Trump national message.”

Vance also believes candidates have to find a way to return to values that are proven to win elections.

“Then you’d have to go back to representing the values that used to win elections in Washington state. When moderate Republicans like Slade Gorton, and Dan Evans, and Jennifer Dunn, … got elected in Washington state. And others like Dino Rossi and Rob McKenna nearly got elected, and they were competitive. So you’d have to clearly signal that Washington Republicanism is not Trumpism.”

That said, Vance thinks there’s no chance any candidate does that this year or any time soon.

“The person that ended up getting the nomination, Loren Culp, is probably the closest to being a Trump Republican,” he said. “This is a guy who has said he will not enforce state laws as police chief. It’s a kind of populist, know-nothing anger out there that now defines the Republican Party, which is popular in some parts of America, but not in Washington state.”

If there was just one issue to pick that would decide the election, Vance thinks it will come down to a general sense of competence.

“People can argue about ideology and their views on health care and everything else, but when they see businesses closing, people dying, and unrest in the streets, then stuff becomes real,” he said. “And there’s just a general sense that things aren’t going well in this country, and the people in charge aren’t managing it very well.”

That starts, he added, with Donald Trump.

“It’s why he was behind before the pandemic hit and the George Floyd protests hit,” Vance said. “But the race was competitive, and that’s why his numbers have just cratered. Nothing’s going to get you beat faster than just appearing completely incompetent and out of your depth.”

The people who got the nominations, Vance pointed out, are not moderate Republicans. The Republican voter base, he said, has moved way to the right, and loves Trump.

“[They] look for the Trumpy-ist candidate they can find, and that’s who got the nominations for these elections,” he said.

“Loren Culp won because he somehow convinced grassroots conservatives that he was a Washington state version of Donald Trump,” Vance added. “And that’s what the base of the Republican Party is looking for. But they are a very small minority in Washington state, which is why they’re losing.”

There’s also a divide in the Democratic Party as well, show host Ursula Reutin pointed out, drawing attention to the Seattle City Council.

“One thing is absolutely true and has always been true, and that is Seattle is an island unto itself. It is way to the left of the rest of the state. What happens in Seattle does not reflect what happens in the rest of the state,” Vance said.

In fact, he said, a lot of the councilmembers aren’t Democrats and don’t claim to be.

“The Democrats who control Olympia are not nearly as far to the left as the Seattle City Council. “There are more moderate — you look at people like Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell now get criticized from the far left because they don’t support single-payer health care, and they support trade agreements. So it would be a mistake — and the Republicans always try and do this and it never works — to say that the entire Democratic Party is like the Seattle City Council. They’re not.”

In terms of what Republicans want to see happen this November, Vance says it depends on your beliefs. But, personally he thinks Trump has to lose.

“Do you support Donald Trump? If you believe in what Donald Trump believes in, if you believe in this sort of pseudo-authoritarian, almost neo-fascist government he’s put together, then yes, the best thing for your viewpoint would be for Donald Trump to win, because if Trump is reelected, it’s going to really lock in this sort of right-wing populist control over our country,” Vance said.

“But if you are, like me, someone who spent their life being a Republican and now are not happy with what’s happened to the Republican Party, what needs to happen is the party [and] Trump needs to lose,” he continued. “And just about every Republican needs to lose. I am firmly in the camp of it needs to be burnt to the ground and rebuilt.”

Vance said he’s voting against almost every Republican this year.

“The battle for the soul of the Republican Party has been fought and lost. It is a Trump party now,” he said. “But there is an ongoing war within the Democratic Party between the Democratic Socialists on the left — Bernie Sanders, AOC, Pramila Jayapal in Seattle — versus the more moderate Democrats. You see that playing out across the state. There’s some legislative races this year where you’ve got two Democrats in the finals, one is way to the left, and one is more moderate.”

“I think that the future, maybe, of a moderate governance in Washington state rests more with can the moderates hold on to the Democratic Party?”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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