The Republican Party of Washington State is having trouble. Now that Governor Jay Inslee has resigned, they plan to elect a successor. However, they haven’t been able to select a governor from their party since 1980.
But state GOP chair Caleb Heimlich is optimistic about the party’s prospects in 2024. If there is a vacancy in the governor’s office, Heimlich believes his party has a good chance of winning. The Republicans came very near to winning the last two available seats for governor, which is Heimlich’s argument.
Inslee’s first run for governor was in 2012, and at the time, former State Attorney General Rob McKenna came very close to defeating him. In addition, the campaign for governor in 2004 was the closest in the state’s history, including a fierce open seat struggle between Republican Dino Rossi and Democratic Chris Gregoire.
It won’t be easy to win in this blue state in 2024, Heimlich concedes. Candidates who know the task’s difficulty are more challenging to recruit. Two well-known Democrats are taking a look at the water. No prominent Republican figures have officially announced their candidacies, but Heimlich claims several are seriously contemplating it.
Republican state senator John Braun of Centralia, Republican state representative Jim Walsh of Aberdeen, and former third district congresswoman Jaime Herrera Butler are among the names Heimlich has heard mentioned.
In addition, Heimlich said that he had spoken with some influential “private citizens” from the “business” and other sectors but declined to provide any specific names.
Finding the “right” candidate is just the beginning. To win, Heimlich said, a candidate needed to “bring the party together” between conservatives and moderates and “appeal to Puget Sound independents.”
“That’s just the reality of the math,” he said. To paraphrase, “There are not enough conservative voters in Washington state to carry an election and win.” Governor Jay Inslee defeated MAGA Republican Loren Culp in 2020 by over half a million votes.
Washington’s moderate Republicans are led by Deanna Martinez, who claims victory is within reach provided the party takes heed of the lessons of the 2020 and 2022 elections and nominates more centrist candidates.
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“We were disappointed with this last election,” Martinez said. “The red wave didn’t happen. But if you break it down, mainstream candidates won.” Martinez defines “mainstream” candidates as “fiscally conservative but socially moderate.”
No prominent Republican figures have declared their candidacy for governor in 2024. Veteran and current Richland School Board member Semi Bird is one of the Republicans that has announced their candidacy.
According to reports, Bird calls himself a “constitutional Christian conservative.” If elected, Bird would make history as Washington’s first Black governor. Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, has just declared his “exploratory campaign,” while Hilary Franz, the state’s lands commissioner, has tweeted that she will make a “big announcement ” coming soon.