WA GOP endorses Semi Bird for governor at Trump-dominated convention

by Jim Brunner at seattletimes.com

SPOKANE — The last time Washington Republicans met in person for a state convention, they were not yet sold on Donald Trump.

At the 2016 gathering in Pasco, supporters of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz outnumbered Trump backers, and many talked openly about their misgivings. Some went on to the national GOP convention in Cleveland that summer and engaged in a futile, last-ditch effort to deny Trump the nomination.

Eight years later, the Washington GOP, like the national Republican Party, is indisputably the party of Trump.

That was on full display this week in Spokane, where the 2024 GOP state convention was filled with Trump hats, Trump shirts, life-size Trump cutout figures, Trump flags — and a parade of pro-Trump delegates and candidates.

This was a Trump show. It was also a Semi Bird show.

The GOP, as expected, endorsed Bird for governor on Saturday, with more than 70% of the roughly 1,800 delegates backing him over former Congressman and King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, who never showed up.

Reichert withdrew his endorsement bid on Friday, slamming the Republican Party event as a chaotic and deceitful sideshow.

In contrast with the drama on Friday, when some top state GOP officials sparked a loud protest when they unsuccessfully tried to disqualify Bird for an endorsement over what they termed a lack of candor about his past legal problems, Saturday’s proceeding was relatively calm.

Bird was greeted by rapturous cheers, firing up the crowd with an exuberant speech exhorting them to carry him to the governor’s office in November.

He acknowledged his past struggles, including the federal misdemeanor bank larceny conviction from 1993 reported by The Seattle Times, which GOP officials cited in trying to disqualify him, saying he should have disclosed it earlier in the party’s candidate-vetting process.

“If you want me to apologize for falling, if you want me to apologize for making mistakes in life, I will apologize. I will take ownership. But I will not live in shame for the rest of my life for the sins of my past,” Bird said.

He pledged, if elected, to call for a “third-party audit” of state government programs, to end the “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants and to fully support police.

Republicans delegates continued to display a grudge against former U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler over her 2021 vote to impeach Trump for his role in stoking the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

When Herrera Beutler, now a candidate for Commissioner of Public Lands, spoke to the convention on Friday, she was greeted with boos and dozens of delegates who stood and turned their backs to her.

On Saturday, the convention endorsed Sue Kuehl Pederson, a retired scientist, over Herrera Beutler, giving Pederson 86% of the vote.