OLYMPIA — Over the weekend the Washington State Republican Party elected a new leader.
Former TV anchor Susan Hutchison and onetime political candidate is now charged with turning around the fortunes of a party that lost big in the state during last fall’s election, including the best chance the party had in a generation to take back the governor’s office.
“People are tremendously excited about the future with me leading the party,” Hutchison said in an interview Monday. “They see a change, a dynamic change, and I hope that I can fulfill their hopes.”
Hutchison, a longtime anchor at KIRO-TV, has been working in the nonprofit world for the past decade. She did take a stab at politics four years ago when she unsuccessfully competed with Dow Constantine for King County executive.
She takes the reins of a party that has been out of step with a majority of Washington voters and badly in need of a star fundraiser.
“We have money issues,” Hutchison admits. “When you win, you can bring in money pretty easily. When you lose as much as Republicans have lost in this state, it’s hard to get money to come in to the treasury or the state party.”
Hutchison’s opponent for the job came from a more conservative wing of the party. Hutchison says that internal division is a big GOP challenge.
“That’s part of the problem of why we don’t win,” Hutchison said. “What we’ve got to do is remind our voters and those who work in our party that we have to unite together so that we can unite voters to elect our candidates.”
Many also say Republicans have suffered because their positions have been too conservative for a state like Washington.
Asked if the party needs to soften its opposition to gay marriage, Hutchison said the issue has been settled. “That was last year,” she said. “I’m looking forward.”
Hutchison says her focus will be on convincing more in populous King County to vote Republican.
“We’ve got to fix our get-out-the-vote effort,” she said. “Democrats have a machine that have figured this out.”
Hutchinson aims to elect more Republicans to the Legislature, including the Republican-controlled coalition in the state Senate.
“They were able to hold Jay Inslee at bay with all of his horrendous tax increases that he brought to us in January,” she said. “It was because of that Senate coalition that they were able to stop most of that.”
Hutchison says a big focus will be 2016 and finding the right challenger to take on Inslee. “Absolutely,” she said. “That’s the plan.”