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'Our party screwed up': Washington Democrats, Republicans meet to pick leaders

Washington Democrats chair Jaxon Ravens faces challengers from within the party.
KUOW photo/Amy Radil
Washington Democrats chair Jaxon Ravens faces challengers from within the party.

Democrats and Republicans in Washington state will vote on their parties’ leadership this weekend.

And the differences are stark.

On the Democratic side, party members are charting a way forward after November’s tumultuous election.

Many Democrats made clear they weren't happy with the party’s performance, even in this “blue” state.

Sure, they won many statewide offices and supported successful ballot initiatives last November.

But in an open letter, a number of Democrats called on their leadership to “seriously reflect” on why the party lost ground in local and state legislative races.

“I think we’ve missed an opportunity this past year,” said Bailey Stober, the 25-year-old chair of the King County Democrats. “I’ll be one of the first Democrats to say I think our party screwed up. And we’re paying the price for it. And we’ve got to do better moving forward.”

Stober says Democrats’ biggest mistake in the November election was a lack of focus on jobs and the economy.

This weekend party chair Jaxon Ravens faces challenges to his leadership from former legislative candidate Roger Flygare and Tina Podlodowski, who lost a bid to unseat Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

Other candidates could be put forward at the meeting Friday night and Saturday in Olympia.

Stober says he sees a higher level of energy in the party, with new chairs in Pierce and Snohomish counties, in addition to himself in King County.

He says special elections are already looming this year that will put the party to the test. At stake will be control of the Washington state Senate.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Washington State Republican Party leader Susan Hutchison at the GOP national convention last summer.", "fid": "133272", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201701/20160718-SusanHutchisoncropped2.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW photo/David Hyde"}]]On the Republican side, meanwhile, Susan Hutchison is taking a victory lap.

She’s running unopposed for reelection as state party chief. The vote is Saturday in Ellensburg.

Hutchison is a fierce President Trump supporter. She made national headlines last summer at the Republican National Convention when she called Senator Ted Cruz a traitor for not endorsing Donald Trump.

And some anti-Trump Republicans in the state vowed to challenge Hutchison for the job.

That movement fizzled.

Hutchison says she is impressed with President Trump so far, pointing to the stock market as evidence for her optimism about the future of this state's economy.

And she says she doesn't think Trump’s crackdowns on immigration will lead to a state farm labor crisis or hurt the tech sector.

There’s a but, however:

"I think we're all waiting to see what his trade policies are going to be."

Washington is one of the most trade-dependent states, with huge markets in China and Canada.

Hutchison sees two main goals for Republicans in Washington in the coming year.

"We want to hold onto the Senate and we want to prepare for the 2018 elections, where we hope to gain the House as well,” she said. “And I think we've got the Democrats on the run."

Year started with KUOW: 2004
Year started with KUOW: 2005