King County Republican Party chair Reed Davis doesn't mince words.
When in-party critics departed his rebel GOP county convention last weekend to deny him a quorum, he called their actions "cowardly." He should have acknowledged that they saved his sorry ass.
Davis gathered Republican precinct officers to nominate an alternate slate of party nominees, which could then be used to challenge the results of this week's primary election. He and other party leaders are still furious that Washington state is again holding a blanket primary, which lets voters choose between all candidates for a given office without stating a political party affiliation. Although courts recently declared this approach unconstitutional, a judge let Washington continue this year under the old rules after the Legislature failed to reach compromise on a replacement system.
The vast majority of the county's Republican precinct officers boycotted the event—only about 250 of the 1,200 showed up, and another 30 walked out after convention participants declined to pass a resolution pledging to support the will of primary voters.
They did the right thing: Under our two-party system, the Democratic and Republican parties are merely vague catchall labels for millions of voters who will never attend an official party function. The reason we instituted government-run primary elections, instead of leaving nominations to the political parties themselves, was to give the power of nominating candidates to ordinary voters—rather than to a handful of well-connected party bosses.
Although Republicans faced a pair of tough King County Council primary battles this week—Ed Sterner versus Kelly Snyder in the 1st District and Pam Roach versus Les Thomas in the 13th—all four candidates are longtime party members with significant support. With Republicans poised to lose partisan control of the King County Council, Davis' attempt to muddle the legitimacy of his party's own nominees seems like political suicide.
While the Democratic Party leadership was greedy enough to join with the Republicans in their lawsuit challenging the blanket primary, they wisely declined to attempt a Davis-style end run around the will of the people.