January 11, 2007
Luke Esser Responds

One candidate for Washington State Republican Party (WSRP) Chair has thus far responded to the public questions I've posed, Luke Esser. Below are his answers; they're definitely worth a read.

On the whole, I think Esser's answers are quite good. Personally, I'd like to see more of an emphasis on specific issues, but then again, such matters are really more for candidates and office holders to sort out, not the Chair. I also note he is questioning the fundraising that did or did not occur in 2006. That's worth digging into I think. Esser has a very public record as a legislator by which members of the State Committee voting in the Chair's race, and other interested parties, can evaluate him. With Diane Tebelius, absent potential answers I might receive in the future from her, it's not as easy to reach a judgment.

Here are the answers (note the first five questions were directed to Esser and Tebelius, the last three only to Esser):

1) What do you see as the preeminent issue for the WSRP Chair in 2007? How do you plan to address it?

The preeminent challenge in 2007 is presenting a positive, unified vision of the Republican Party and of our principled solutions for the problems facing our state. Candidates here in Washington were some of the hardest hit in the entire nation because we failed to provide an optimistic and comprehensive vision of the Republican Party in our state that was separate from the negative perceptions of Republicans in Washington, D.C.

All of the individual tasks that we need to accomplish will only happen if we inspire people to become involved with the Republican Party and to support our party because of the power of our ideas. We have done so before, and we can do so again. Such a vision will inspire grassroots volunteers, donors, potential candidates and the voters.

We relied on the national party too much to do the work of providing that vision. Then, when events in Washington, D.C. damaged our party's reputation, we had no separate vision to offer the voters in our state. To start winning again here in Washington, we've got to work with everyone in the party - from the grassroots to party officials to our candidates and elected officials - to present a unified vision that will inspire citizens throughout our state. I'm thoroughly convinced that the optimism Ronald Reagan embodied is the spirit we must capture again, and that if we don't we will continue to see the kind of election results that occurred in 2006.

2) The GOP got clobbered in suburban legislative districts in 2006, setting aside assorted national issues influencing the election, what state and local dynamics contributed to such results?

That's really the key question. We fared far worse in Washington than in all but a handful of states, so why was the national wave so much more powerful here? The problem spread beyond the "suburban crescent" around Seattle, too - just look at the losses we suffered on the Olympic Peninsula and in Spokane. I believe the wave hit us harder because of a combination of two factors at the state level; 1) the lack of a strong, unified message that I addressed above and 2) not enough resources devoted to organizing the party at the grassroots level.

Republican candidates in our state desperately needed to have a positive statewide vision presented to the voters to counteract the negative perceptions that were coming out of Washington, D.C. Other states did a far better job of protecting their Republican candidates from the effects of the national tide, so we know it can be done. Unfortunately, we didn't. The problem wasn't that individual candidates didn't have strong messages, it was that none of those messages were coordinated. Because we weren't unified and united, our message didn't have a chance to resonate with the voters.

The second problem was an organizational failure. We were going to have a tough year no matter what, but our inadequate organization made the problem a lot worse. Nationally, a number of Republicans in suburban legislative districts held on to win close races because of the superior organization that was assisting them. Such wasn't the case here. Clearly we need to a better job of providing grassroots Republicans with the tools they need to be successful, and this needs to be done everywhere in the state - and not just in a few spots.

3) How as Chair would you make the WSRP organization stronger and more effective?

Right now, our party is suffering from low morale. We'll continue to have a tough time recruiting activists and raising money if we can't inspire people with an optimistic vision. Building that vision and creating enthusiasm is our first job. The next step is to translate that enthusiasm into dollars raised and activists recruited. Last year, the WSRP didn't raise nearly as much money as it should have, and that had a direct impact on the Party's ability organize and turn out the Republican vote. Depending on the situations in individual counties, that means providing resources to county party recruitment efforts, hiring conservative students right out of college to help organize local party activities and making state-of-the-art tools and techniques easily available to activists.

4) What issues should the GOP be focusing on at the state level and why?

Fortunately, the Republican Party is a party of enduring values - limited government, fiscal responsibility, traditional values, individual responsibility, free markets. We don't need to take polls or hold focus groups to find out what we believe in.

We do need to do a better job of addressing the issues that are most pressing in the minds of the voters, and take better advantage of current events that point out the shortcomings of the Democrats and their positions on the issues. Christine Gregoire's $30 billion dollar budget presents a perfect example.

As this legislative session progresses we should be aggressively and consistently denouncing the Democrat's wasteful spending and clearly presenting Washington voters with an alternative vision of our own. Ultimately, that's the only way we'll be able to hold the Democrats accountable next election.

5) How do you propose to help make GOP candidates relevant in the suburbs again?

It all starts with the vision. Just as it'll be easier to recruit donors and activists, it'll be easier to recruit candidates and gain the support of the independents populating the suburbs if we present a vision that's relevant to suburban voters.

We've also got put more effort into electing and nurturing a farm team of local officeholders. The most successful candidates are often folks who've been involved in local government before running for state office. That experience teaches them about their community's concerns and trains them to speak to the issues their neighbors care about.

Practically, that means the WSRP should work with county parties to offer support to promising local candidates. The key here is support, no micro-managing. Since we are the party that truly believes in local control, me must always remember that the WSRP exists to help the county and legislative district organizations, and not the other way around.

6) Apart from national level issues, why do you think you lost your campaign for re-election, and how will that inform your potential leadership as WSRP Chair?

First of all, I take responsibility for how my campaign was run and if there were any mistakes made along the way in my campaign, I accept all the fault. Some have suggested that I was too conservative for my district, though I'm not convinced that's the case and I certainly wouldn't have changed my core beliefs in any event.

My 2006 race had some very unique factors that make it difficult to draw statewide lessons. My opponent was not only an incumbent State Representative, he was in his fourth year as a Republican State Representative when he switched parties to run against me. No other candidate in the state faced that kind of scenario.

I have already spoken of the lack of a positive, unified message for Republicans in our state, and that certainly hurt all of our candidates.

Within my own district I know that all of the state legislative candidates suffered from an inconsistent get-out-the-vote program (which was well-funded and well-organized in some parts, and non-existent in others). We were also given misleading information by the state party (for example, we were told repeatedly in the two weeks leading up to the general election that Republicans were turning in their ballots at the same or better rates than Democrats, which turned out to be totally false). I can't say for sure that any of these factors led to my defeat, but they certainly made it much harder for me to have a chance to be successful.

My district is a true swing district (as are many suburban districts) and I believe we can eventually recapture it, but it'll take a lot of hard work, organization and effort.

7) What lessons do you take from your time in the Legislature on where the state GOP needs to go both organizationally and on an issue basis?

My time in the Legislature showed me just how little communication there is between the WSRP, the county organizations and both Houses of the Legislature. We need to develop structures that provide regular communication, so that we all can work together to promote Republican ideas and point out the shortcomings in what the Democrats are pushing in Olympia.

I don't believe that we suffer from a lack of good ideas. Our failure has been in communicating those ideas and in remaining committed to those ideas. I believe the Chairman of the WSRP has a tremendous statewide bully pulpit that can be used to help coordinate and deliver a unified Republican message that will help us at election time and also lead to a better government in our state.

8) After representing a changing suburban district for several years, what insight can you provide into Washington state's body politic and its view of Republican candidates?

I believe the view that many voters, and many Republicans, have of Republican candidates for the legislature has suffered from the lack of a consistent message and vision. Our vision needs to be communicated effectively by the WSRP, by grassroots activists, our county and legislative organizations and by our candidates and elected officials.

Last year, in particular, voters became unclear about what Republicans stood for. Obviously, the more competitive the district (as is frequently the case in the suburbs) the more damaging this shortcoming becomes. For most of the 26 years I've been active in politics, Republicans were viewed as the party of limited government, fiscal responsibility, traditional values, individual responsibility and free markets. Over the last few years, that reputation has suffered at the national level and we failed to present a unique vision of Washington Republicans in our own state. If that doesn't change, our disappointing elections results won't change either.

Posted by Eric Earling at January 11, 2007 08:09 PM | Email This
Comments
1. Luke seems to have some of it right, at least. I am proud to represent myself as conservative. I have been reluctant to identify myself with the Wa state Republican party, as it seems to lack the ability to project a clear vision or to stand in oposition to the Dems. My name for the party in this state has been the Wussublican party. Lets hope for better things.

Posted by: D T Canton on January 11, 2007 08:07 PM
2. I'm glad Luke responded. I hope Diane takes you up on the opportunity and does the same, as well.

As for the individual responses, I think there's a lot more that has to be done in terms of training activists--and more then just bringing in the RNC or some other group for a weekend of campaign training.

Furthermore, I think candidate recruitment and support is paramount if we are ever going to take back Seattle, suburbs, and other places where we lost badly in '06.

Posted by: Patrick on January 11, 2007 08:46 PM
3. I'll be willing to bet that you could put each response of Esser and Tebelius on an individual slip of paper, mix them up and draw from a hat. Without any identification, Republicans wouldn't be able to tell which candidate said what. It is all generic GOP boilerplate. They keep it in buckets at the RNC and use it for confetti.

Esser talks about "inspiring people" but says noting remotely inspiring.

He talks about "recapturing Reagan's optimistic spirit" but has already abandoned Reagan's principles.

Why did he oppose property rights in I=933?? He has already responded to direct questioning: "That's what my district voters wanted" [but not according to polling]

Why did he favor classifying hydroelectric power as "non-renewable energy" and force selling it to California and raising our energy bill here in the Northwest? You guessed it! "That's what my district voters wanted"

Where will he lead the GOP? Better go poll the voters in his old district.

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME.

He can't possibly improve on Tebelius, who duplicated the operational methodology of Vance who... you get the picture. We've been the undead for three decades. Phalanxes of sharply-dressed bodies without souls. Reagan ran against government. Get it? He was optimistic about the effects of slashing its role, not some generic amorphous blue sky

We need change.

I call for a statewide day of prayer. We need divine redemption. We need a political messiah. Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope!

Posted by: Doug Parris on January 12, 2007 01:35 AM
4. Sorry, Charlie, but I didn't hear any of that from Tebilius the last go-around. In fact, I didn't hear anything from her.

But I still think a dual chairmanship would be ideal.

If the Rs haven't elected or selected, how can the new chair get up to speed and plot stratergery in this new session. Or will they leave it to the 'undead' dead?

Posted by: swatter on January 12, 2007 07:11 AM
5. I to disagree with you Doug, but Luke certainly CAN improve on Tebelius. He sounds like he would be a great asset to the party. Right now the party is completely rudderless with her at the helm. Heading into 2008 will be a disaster unless someone like Luke can take the reins.

Posted by: Don Johnson on January 12, 2007 08:20 AM
6. "Fortunately, the Republican Party is a party of enduring values - limited government, fiscal responsibility, traditional values, individual responsibility, free markets. We don't need to take polls or hold focus groups to find out what we believe in"

were it that this were true. If it were i don't believe they would have been waxed nearly as bad. The perception of Republicans at the national level - NOT practicing limited government nor fiscal responsibility - translated here.

Posted by: ultraman on January 12, 2007 08:46 AM
7. That's all fine and dandy, but the fact of the matter is this: The GOP has zero influence in this state.

I don't mean in the legislature. I mean with the public in general. Dino built great momentum in 2004 for the GOP only to have them disappear from the media scene...Gregoire's lack of leadership and decision making should have been hammered on in the media for the last two years, but it wasn't. A golden opportunity to highlight her deficiencis and keep the vote-fixing of Deanron in the news was lost.

So how does the GOP fix it?

Get media savvy. The GOP has allowed itself to be defined by its opponents. The word "Republican" conjures up images of tree-burning evil white men who are coming to lock up gays and give all your money to corporations.

Gotta fix that. The dems have done a masterful job of hiding their failures by marginalizing Repubs completely.

Posted by: Steve (was Steve_Dog) on January 12, 2007 09:00 AM
8. Here's something you may know about. A lady by
the name of carolyn has been calling the state
committee members on behalf of Luke Esser. She
is telling them and I quote:If you don't elect
Luke, Dino Rossi will not run for Governor in 2008.
Now other sources are telling me that Dino has not
made a decision as to who he may support in the
State Chair race.In fact I'm told he isn't sure if he will support anyone this time around.


Now this kind of thing is straight out of the Chris Vance playbook. Is it to much to ask for
candidates to play straight. Is LUKE that worried
he might lose that he has to pull this crap.

Posted by: phil spackman on January 12, 2007 11:31 AM
9. Phil,

How do you know this is actually happening? How do you know that Luke is behind it?

Posted by: Calvin A on January 12, 2007 11:51 AM
10. Calvin A,

Let me just answer it this way: a State
committee person is who told me about this.
This person has spoken with other State
committee members that have recieved the
same phone call. I know this person to be very
reliable. Now as to whether or not Luke is
behind this. I have to believe that he at
least know's about it. Based on what I know
his story about McKenna and Rossi encouraging
him to run is pure fiction. Luke may have
asked them what they thought about him running. But
to date neither of them have publicly said who
they are going to support.If in fact he is not
behind this then he needs to find out who is and
put a stop to it before it gets any worse.
If he doesn't his silence will make him
look like he has something to hide.

Posted by: phil spackman on January 12, 2007 12:07 PM
11. Luke lost his senate race by push-polling like this to his swing voters in his district. This is completely his MO.

Posted by: 48th on January 12, 2007 12:24 PM
12. As a retired soldier I am acutely aware that the commander (chairman) of the unit (WSRP) bears ultimate responsibility for all the unit (WSRP) does and fails to do. That goes with command.

Was there really anything the state party could have done to stop the groundswell of liberalism in Washington? Who does bear the responsibility for the loss of seats in our legislature? Does the Party focus too much on national races and not enough on state legislature races? I don't know. I'm just a backwater Republican in Eastern Washington.

What I do know for certain is this. The 7th Legislative District has had a strong, active Republican Committee that works tirelessly to elect Republicans to the Legislature. Each Republican who ran (Kretz, Morton, Sump) won handily. In fact, Republicans have won EVERY legislative race since the 7th District formed its committee.

Why? Did they rely on the WSRP to support them and work their campaign? No. They did it themselves with a strong District Committee providing solid support.

I don't know how many other legislative districts even have committee's that meet, let alone support their candidates. But, maybe, they ought to focus at the true grassroots level instead of trying to lay blame at the State Level.

Posted by: dedubya on January 12, 2007 12:50 PM
13. Phil doesn't know what he's talking about. Dino wants Luke to run. And Luke works for McKenna, for crying out loud!

Posted by: DJ on January 12, 2007 12:56 PM
14. DJ,

I am not going to argue with you about this
So Esser works for Mckenna fine then why
hasn't Mckenna come out publicy and endorsed
Luke Esser? As for Dino Rossi he hasn't publicly
endorsed anyone either. I guess it doesnt
bother you about what is being said to
state committee members on Luke's behalf.
Its nothing but a cheap scare tactic and
a pretty pathetic one at that.

debuya,


Actually there was something the state could
have done.Instead of shoving McGavick down
everyone's throat they could have a candidate
that would have energized the base and would
have gotten a lot of cross over support.
But they were so in the tank for McGavick
that they blew a golden opportunity. So
yeah they the State gop is at least partly to
blame.

Posted by: phil spackman on January 12, 2007 01:13 PM
15. Where's the inspiration here?

Bold strokes with bold colors - no pastels (especially pink).

Ever-Bigger Government is not going to provide solutions - IT'S THE PROBLEM.

Posted by: Jefferson Paine on January 12, 2007 01:16 PM
16. There's a difference between public endorsements and private support, Phil. But I'll concede that what I've told you is hearsay. Will you?

Posted by: DJ on January 12, 2007 02:52 PM
17. DJ,

No I wont because not all of it is hearsay.
If there going to endorse Luke Esser privately
Then why not do it publicly? What are they
afraid of? The fact he could lose and they
dont want to take sides? I mean they were willing
to sign a letter supporting Chris Vance. So
then why hide there support this time?I'm
sorry it just doesn't make any sense. I am
not saying your lying but based on there
past actions why would they hide there support
for Esser?

Posted by: phil spackman on January 12, 2007 03:25 PM
18. Good question, Phil. I think Rob McKenna and Dino Rossi SHOULD endorse Luke Esser if that's what they want to do. What are they afraid of? Queen Diane? Spare me. I've heard that Cathy McMorris, Doc Hastings and Dave Reichert ALL support Luke, because they all see the pathetic job Tebelius is doing as state party chair. Let's hear it for them saying how they feel loud and clear.

Posted by: Don Johnson on January 12, 2007 10:37 PM
19. dedubya,
After the party slapped Dino and Rob in the face last year by electing Diane do you honestly believe they would come out and publicly endorse anyone? Have you attempted a one on one contact with either Dino or Rob to see where they actually stand?

Posted by: aardvark on January 15, 2007 11:45 AM
20. aardvark,

So you think the state committee members
should have just voted for who Dino and Rob
wanted to be state chair just because they
said so? Freddie Simpson had no more right
to the state chair position than anyone else.
This is the problem with State Gop politics.
The mentality of people like yourself who
just because certain people decide to run for
office. That they think have a divine right to that
position.


I submit to you that is exactly whats wrong
with the state party.Just because Dino and
Rob endorse someone for a position doesn't
mean everyone has to act like a robot and
vote for who ever it might be. That is how
running for office is suppose to work.


If Rob and Dino don't have the guts to endorse
because there afraid there chosen person
might lose then they have no business being
involved in politics.

Posted by: phil spackman on January 15, 2007 02:17 PM
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