2004 Washington State Republican Convention, Day One

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Day one of the 2004 Washington State Republican Convention -- the next step after the county convention -- was an eventful one. It was my first.


When we first arrived at the convention center, we saw four protesters holding up signs about torture, wearing black hoods and electrodes. C'mon, I thought the Seattle area could do better than this. I was hoping for more.

Inside, there were many tables filled with bumper stickers and t-shirts and flyers. We chatted with Jay from the Log Cabin Republicans, who was urging people to not amend the Constitution to exclude gay marriage. We agreed that equality was the important issue, and that people should be working on a way to provide equality, not to prevent it.

We also agreed that people are much more than their sexual proclivities: if you agree with the Republicans on most issues, why should you oppose them just because of the one issue where you don't? But then again, many people feel strongly enough about one issue to be a single-issue voter, especially when that issue is so core to their beliefs. But then again, it is sometimes better to work within the system than against it.

Anyway, we went inside for the convention. The convention seating is broken down by county (or in the case of King County -- by far the most populous, accounting for nearly a third of the 1000 delegates from 39 counties, by my count -- which was further broken down by legislative district (e.g., districts for the state legislature). Later, when we would caucus for selecting delegates, we would split up by congressional district (e.g., districts for the federal Congress).


Most of the morning was taken up by candidates for office, and other VIPs, giving speeches. Washington has 11 federal congresspeople, including the two Senators, and three of them are Republicans: Representatives Jennifer Dunn, Doc Hastings, and George Nethercutt. Dunn, who is retiring from Congress, spoke first, followed by Hastings and Nethercutt, who is running against Patty Murray for the Senate.

Next came the other big candidate in the state, Dino Rossi, the candidate for governor. He was followed by the only two Republicans in statewide office in WA, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland.

They were followed by others chasing statewide office: Rob McKenna (the favorite) and Mike Vaska (the outsider) for attorney general, Jim Wiest for lieutenant governor, and Curtis Fackler for insurance commissioner.

I really like Rossi and Fackler. Wiest seemed not entirely there, to me. I like Vaska a lot, but McKenna wasn't bad either. I plan to vote for Vaska in the primary, but I think McKenna is going to win, and I think he'll be fine too.

Richard Sanders was the only nonpartisan candidate to speak. Rarely are nonpartisan candidates allowed to speak, but in the case of the state supreme court, if the party executives decide a candidate is worth endorsing, then they do endorse him and allow him to speak. I'm not big on electing judges, but whatever.


The one statewide candidate I left out is Reed Davis. I left him out, because the state party did. You see, the state party requires that candidates wishing to speak sign the so-called 11th Commandment, popularized by Ronald Reagan: thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican, under pain of a $5,000 fine. Davis refused to sign it, so was refused access to speak.

The notion of the 11th Commandment is a fine one, but the idea that it should be a rule is nonsense. Reed Davis is running in large part because he thinks Nethercutt would not make a good Senator. If he thought Nethercutt would make a good Senator, he wouldn't run. So to ask he refrain from criticizing Nethercutt is patently ridiculous.

Further, the party broke their own rules by endorsing Nethercutt, a candidate in a contested primary. And who decides whether or not a criticism of another candidate amounts a violation of the 11th Commandment? The exact same people who endorsed Nethercutt decide whether to fine someone for criticizing him. The process lacks any integrity whatsoever. And this is why Davis didn't sign it: he would be signing onto a sham.

After the candidates -- sans Davis -- spoke, the convention was officially opened and the rules were proposed. The very first motion was to amend the rules, allowing a candidate to speak without signing the 11th Commandment. The arguments against the amendment amounted to two specious claims: first, that Davis violated the rules and therefore should not speak; the second, that we should not have candidates attacking each other.

I already addressed the second, but let me add that one woman complained that when she heard Davis speak at her county's convention, she was offended that he spoke ill of Nethercutt there. I heard what was likely the same speech at my county's convention, and I had a very different impression. Maybe I am more open to conflict than she is.

But the first argument, while at first glance seems reasonable, really lacks any merit. Note that I said we were addressing the proposed rules of the convention. The convention had no rules until we, the delegates, voted to adopt them. He had not violated any rules, because there was no rule to violate. It's begging the question.

Unfortunately, after lengthy debate, the amendment was defeated, and Davis was not allowed to speak. Davis was disallowed from speaking under the auspices of unity, but it surely resulted in increased disunity. That's what happens when you don't allow people a voice.

Slate Voting

There was only one other proposed amendment to the rules, relating to slate voting. The Bush campaign selects the people which it thinks we should vote for, for delegate to the national convention, and puts them on a slate. That's fine, but what isn't fine is that these slates end up on the ballot itself. There's one box you can check that chooses an entire slate, or you can vote for delegates individually.

It's similar to the party-line ballots some states have, where you can check one portion of the ballot to choose all Republicans, or all Democrats. But this is different. In the case of party-line ballots, you are consolidating information that is already on the ballot: party endorsement/affiliation. Here, they take a private endorsement that wouldn't otherwise be on the ballot, and promote it to a privileged position.

I can understand why people do this: it makes the voting process more expedient. But what I can't understand is how people can't understand how undemocratic this is. People actually stood up and said this wasn't undemocratic, and emphasized, over and over, that you can vote for people not on the slate. They proved how much they don't get the point. They couldn't see how putting someone in that privileged position on the ballot itself is inherently undemocratic.

Thankfully, this amendment did pass.

Voting, and Losing

We then retired to our nine congressional district causes, to vote for delegates to the national convention. I was one of about 15 people who was up for three delegate and three alternate spots.

The first round we voted for delegates (the ballots had been preprinted with the slates at the top, which had now been torn off, as per the adopted rules), and several of the people said they only wanted to run for alternate, so were excluded. We each spoke a few words about ourselves. I thought I might, at 30 years old, play the "I'm the youth of this party" card, but the person directly before me was 21. And wore a nice suit. And had a Tom Cruise smile.

So, I tried a different tactic. I told them I was from Massachusetts, the home of John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, the Democratic National Convention, and the Boston Red Sox, who were going to sweep the Seattle Mariners this weekend in a three-game series in Fenway Park. I thought that would win them over, but I did not get 20% of the voting, and was eliminated.

One needs 50% of the vote to be elected, and only two received 50%. Anyone more than 20% and less than 50% -- four people -- were in a runoff. No one got 50% on the second ballot, and only three of the four got 20%, so we went to a second ballot with three. Then a third, again with three: Tom Cruise, the senior member of the state rules committee, and a young Army veteran who was going back to school and becoming more involved in politics.

We heard from each candidate again, and on the fourth, we finally had our man, Mr. Rules. I'm glad, even though I voted for Army Guy, because he would then have the opportunity to serve on the national rules committee, apparently.

Then we went to alternate voting. I spoke again, and thought, hey, maybe I wasn't convincing enough about my qualifications. So I said:

Voting is a funny thing. I don't how many of you are baseball fans, but a few years back, one guy voted for Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra 40,000 times. Do any of you remember that? Well, that was me. Really, it was. I'm a computer programmer, and it was just a little hack I wrote. So, I've voted more times in my life than anyone else here. Please vote for me. Thank you.

I got a lot of laughter and smiles, but still, I came up short. But then again, I was up against the county chairwoman, Tom Cruise, and Army Guy. I didn't really have a chance, although from the feedback I received, it seems like I might have been close behind.

It's not over: on Saturday, the party will select 11 at-large delegates and 11 at-large alternates. But maybe next time I should change my tactics. Maybe I won't use the word "hack." Or "Massachusetts."

We finished up the day by selecting an elector for the electoral college. Remember, you have one elector for each state representative to Congress, which means one for each congressional district, and two statewide. So tomorrow we will also choose two statewide electors, in addition to the additional delegates.

The elector we elected wasn't in attendance, but two respected party men spoke on her behalf, noting that George Bush calls her at home, and calls her his "second mom." Her opponent was well-respected in the party, but it's hard to be the President's mom. slashdot.org

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