Elections 2012
6:45 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Washington State GOP Searching Its Soul Over Losses

US Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, in the final days of the campaign. Cantwell cruised to an easy victory against Republican Michael Baumgartner.
Credit KUOW/Deborah Wang

As the vote count continues, Washington Republicans are preparing for possible losses in several key state races.

Democratic attorney general hopeful Bob Ferguson leads Republican Reagan Dunn. The two are vying for the seat left open by Republican Rob McKenna, who stepped down to run for governor. McKenna has held the office since 2005.



Democrats also appear poised to add one more member of Congress to their ranks. As expected, Democrat Denny Heck is leading Dick Muri in the new 10th Congressional District. In the 1st Congressional District, which was redrawn this year to be a swing district, Democrat Suzan DelBene holds a decisive lead over Republican John Koster. Republicans had considered the 1st District their best chance for a GOP victory.

In a close race for secretary of state, Democrat Kathleen Drew and Republican Kim Wyman are neck and neck, with Wyman just slightly ahead at the end of election night. A Democratic victory in this race would be significant, since Republicans have held the seat since 1964.

Chris Vance is a public affairs consultant and former chair of the state Republican party. “Losing the attorney general’s race is disappointing. Not being competitive in the US Senate race at all is disappointing,” he said. But the probable loss of the 1st District Congressional seat, according to Vance, stings the most. "That district was drawn to be a 50-50 district, and we’re gonna end up losing it by nearly 10 points."

But Vance says if Republicans win the governor’s race, they will feel a whole lot better about their other losses. He believes McKenna can still pull off a win, by a very narrow margin.

Republicans will be searching their souls about what went wrong this election, Vance said. While the GOP appeals to older, white voters, the country is changing and the party needs to find a way to reach younger, non-white constituents, according to Vance. Those are people who now vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

If McKenna wins the governorship, Vance said, the party can start rebuilding itself from the top down.

If McKenna doesn’t win, then there is always the option proposed by current state GOP chair Kirby Wilbur. He joked to the election night crowd that if Rob McKenna can’t get elected in this state, it might be time to move to Texas.

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