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WA GOP endorses slate of candidates amid discord at state convention

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(The Center Square) – Endorsements for all statewide offices were made by the delegates to the Washington State Republican Party convention held in Spokane last week.

Candidate speeches were heard on the first day, except for the office of governor. Gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird gave his speech on Saturday morning just before the endorsement vote. Former Congressman Dave Reichert, also a candidate for governor, withdrew his request for an endorsement and did not attend the convention.

What follows is a list of the endorsed candidates with the percentage of the vote they received, including other candidates seeking endorsement, as well as highlights from the endorsed candidates’ speeches.

U.S. Senator: Dr. Raul Garcia 73% (Issac Holyk)

“I have to tell you my why,” Garcia said of his run for national office, explaining his “why” started with the day he was to leave Cuba with his mother at age 11 and government officials tempted him with a big party if he chose to stay.

“But I had already fallen in love with America,” he said.

Garcia noted he was polling within 8 points of incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell.

Governor: Semi Bird 72% (Note: Although Reichert had announced his withdrawal, his name remained on the preprinted ballots.)

“I had some problems in the ’90s, and God gave me my wife Ann … I will not live in shame for the sins of my past,” Bird said, a reference to the failure to disclose a misdemeanor charge for grand larceny in 1993.

Bird is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a former Richland School Board member who was recalled after his opposition to state masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He listed auditing all state agencies, reversing Washington’s status as a sanctuary state, and honoring law enforcement officers as three key actions he would take as governor.

State Auditor: Matt Hawkins 99% (unopposed)

Hawkins acknowledged state auditor is not a position that sets policy or enforces law, but in that position “I can ask questions” to hold government institutions, including schools, accountable.

Secretary of State: Dale Whitaker 64% (Sen. Phil Fortunato, Bob Hagglund)

Whitaker is running on a platform of election transparency.

“I will fight for same-day in-person voting with paper ballots,” he told those at the convention.

Attorney General: Pete Serrano 100% (unopposed)

Serrano, a Pasco attorney, outlined his qualifications to defend individual rights and emphasized that “we have to educate the people on how to self-govern.”

He closed with a plea for post-convention unity, quoting President Abraham Lincoln’s Biblical paraphrase, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Commissioner of Public Lands: Sue Kuehl Pederson 86% (Jaime Herrera Beutler)

Pedersen lost to incumbent Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz in 2020

“We need far better long-range planning for our forests,” Pedersen said.

Speaking about her experience working for Seattle City Light, she emphasized the need for a balanced energy production portfolio for a stable grid, including hydroelectric power.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: David Olson (Brad Klippert, Chad Magendanz, David Spring)

Olson is a retired naval officer and veteran of the Peninsula School Board in Gig Harbor.

He discussed his school board’s decision to ban cell phones and social media and the positive impact that has had on students’ mental health, before taking a shot at current Superintendent Chris Reykdal.

“Reykdal took away local control of our schools,” Olson said. “I’ll give it back on Day 1.”

State Supreme Court: In a separate process designed to meet the requirements of the code of judicial conduct, Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Dave Larson was recognized and recommended for an open seat on the Washington Supreme Court.

Larson emphasized he cannot make any promises, but quipped, “I want to make the judiciary boring and dependable again.”

He quoted from the Washington State Constitution on the relationship between government and the people and the need to have justices with different backgrounds and experiences.

“I’m not afraid to be that person who says, ‘Wait a minute’ and offers another perspective,” Larson said.

He cited his experience working on the front lines of the mental health and homeless issues revolving through municipal courts as a potentially valuable addition the state’s highest court.

Larson noted there hadn’t been an open seat in 16 years. Judges have resigned mid-term with seats filled by an appointment by the governor, forcing candidates to run against an incumbent.