Once upon a time, Republicans in Washington state were a credible and proud political force. Republican Dan Evans was elected to three terms as governor and went on to serve in the U.S. Senate. Republican Slade Gorton was a strong state attorney general and then had a distinguished Senate career. Republicans Joel Pritchard and John Miller were popular, effective members of Congress. Republican John Spellman was King County Executive and then governor.
It now seems remarkable that all of these successful Republicans hailed from Seattle. These days, a Republican has about as much chance building a successful political career in the Emerald City as the proverbial snowball has of surviving in Hell.
Yes, Seattle has gotten much more liberal over the years, but that does not fully explain the current withered condition of the Republican Party in this state. Even as Washington has evolved into a dependably Democratic, blue state, the GOP has veered sharply to the right. Rather than follow an independent, pragmatic line suited to the Northwest culture, as Evans once did, the state Republican Party has become a clone of the doctrinaire conservative national party.
The result: decades of losses in races for governor and the U.S. Senate and a complete shutout from King County legislative and congressional seats. And now it gets worse. Ex-Congressman Dave Reichert has opted out of mounting a gubernatorial campaign in 2020. That means Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee will likely not have a serious Republican challenger as he seeks a third term in office, a full 40 years after the last Republican — Spellman — managed to win the top job in Olympia.
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