Republicans nationally have a lot to crow about after their big Election Day victories, but here in Washington state… not so much.
In what was arguably the most pro-Republican/anti-Democratic political climate since 1994, WA GOPers only managed to pick up three, maybe four seats in the state Senate, all of them against freshman incumbents in traditionally Republican-leaning districts the Dems had just recently captured during the Big Blue Wave of 2006. In the state House, Republican’s did manage to knock off a couple long term incumbents, but still only captured four or five seats, barely eating into the Dems’ huge majority.
But as disappointed as over-exuberant R’s might be by their candidates’ underperformance in in the Legislature, where Dems still firmly control both houses, their party’s performance at the top of the ticket was downright dismal. Once the dust has settled and the final votes are tallied, Democratic incumbent US Sen. Patty Murray will have defeated three-time Republican loser Dino Rossi by a nearly five point margin, while for all their talk of a 1994-like wave, the Republicans’ only US House pickup will be an open seat in WA-03… a seat the Dems were almost certainly going to lose in 2012, after it’s inevitably redrawn as a strongly Republican-leaning district.
In fact, the biggest upset of the election season went against Republicans in the putatively nonpartisan State Supreme Court race, where unofficial Democratic favorite Charlie Wiggins defeated unofficial Republican favorite Richard Sanders in a rare unseating of an incumbent justice.
All in all, considering the circumstances and the expectations, not a bad election year at all for Washington Dems. Which means it wasn’t all that good an election for Washington State Republican Party chair Luke Esser, who as a result, now faces a very serious challenger from former KVI talk radio host Kirby Wilbur.
Yeah, I know, Esser is Rob McKenna’s political altar boy, and it seems unlikely the Republican establishment would want to cross McKenna by ousting Esser just as the two were preparing to launch McKenna’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign. But with the rise of Clint Didier and the “Tea Party” movement, it’s not at all clear that the Republican establishment is still in firm control of the Republican Party.
See, the problem for Esser is, even the Republican Party is somewhat small “d” democratic when it comes to electing a chair, and if the teahadists have managed to take over enough local committees, he could be in for a real fight, especially against a well known opponent like Wilbur, who has long been active in party affairs, yet convincingly manages to strike that tone of ideological purity the teabaggers demand.
And it’s not like the WSRP doesn’t have a history of punishing its chair for disappointing results at the polls. Just ask Chris Vance and Diane Tebelius.
So if Esser isn’t already looking over his shoulder, he should.