Discontent rumbles in state GOP over Vance's leadership
Seattle Times staff reporter
Several of the party faithful said they want Vance to step down when his term expires in January. Rumors are circulating that he's already decided not to run again, but Vance said he hasn't decided.
"I can't imagine he'd be re-elected unless there were no other (candidates)," said Brett Bader, a longtime Republican consultant from Bellevue. "I think there are too many folks, including those who were once supporters of his, who have become disappointed by his heavy-handedness."
Others gave the two-term chairman mixed reviews.
"I think there's some legitimate criticism of his style at times," said KVI talk-show host Kirby Wilbur, a delegate to the convention. "But what is ultimately the key test is the health of the party."
Wilbur said Vance deserves some credit for working to unify Republicans and for helping guide the party through one of the more peaceful state conventions in memory.
Republicans wrapped up their two-day gathering yesterday. Unlike in past years, the delegates this year had barely any disagreements over the new party platform and only minor differences over who should represent the party at this year's national GOP convention.
Vance said the new platform — and the ease with which it passed — demonstrates how happy Republican activists are with the direction of the party.
"It wasn't a watered-down platform, but a good, solid, conservative platform," he said. "And nothing incendiary or controversial ... or weird."
The platform includes the traditional GOP opposition to abortion and support of President Bush's "doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense" in Iraq and Afghanistan. It backs tax cuts, rollback of unspecified regulations, Arctic oil drilling, charter schools, school vouchers and both nuclear power and alternative fuel. It calls for improvement of transportation systems, recognizes the importance of labor unions and calls for continued support of Israel.
The platform opposes further gun-control laws and endorses property rights and keeping the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Vance became party chairman in January 2001, replacing Don Benton, who served a stormy eight months in the job. Vance has had a long career in Republican politics, working on the staff of former Congressman Rod Chandler, serving in the state House and on the Metropolitan King County Council before becoming party chairman.
Supporters say he's done a lot to advance the party as chairman.
"I think he's been much better than we've had in a number of years," said Harold Heacock, a delegate from Kennewick. "I think I'd give him another four years."
Yet a number of delegates clearly are upset with Vance. His outspokenness and aggressive leadership style have attracted a number of critics who blame him for moving the party more to the middle, away from its conservative base.
Vance also has been criticized for pushing the party to endorse prominent statewide candidates early — such as gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi — and leaving other contenders out in the cold.
B.J. Mole, a Republican delegate from Bellevue, accused Vance of being "dictatorial."
Mole and a number of other delegates blame Vance in part for muzzling U.S. Senate candidate Reed Davis at the state convention.
The only significant feud of the convention erupted Friday when Davis, a former King County GOP chairman, was barred from the stage for refusing to sign an agreement to obey the party's "11th commandment," which says Republicans should not speak badly of other Republicans.
"Whether you like Davis or hate Davis, it's an insult to everyone who walks in the door," Mole said.
Sy Iffert, a Republican from Seattle's Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, confronted Vance at the convention Friday to complain about the treatment of Davis. "I worked for this party 50 years. I'm appalled and ashamed," Iffert told him.
Even some of the delegates who say Vance has done a good job in office said it's about time for him to leave.
"It's my opinion chairmen should only serve two terms anyway. So it's time for a new leader," said Yvonne Goldsmith of Ferndale.
Vance said that he thinks he has scored some successes in the job.
"I've put the party in a position to possibly win by helping recruit solid candidates. But, it's inescapable — the party chairman is going to be judged on one simple thing: Did we win or lose."
Information from Seattle Times reporter Ralph Thomas and The Associated Press was included in this story.
Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com
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