Washington Governor candidate Semi Bird wins the Republican Party nomination after a backlash from the party

Ellen Dennis / The Spokesman Review (TNS)

After a raucous start, delegates returned Saturday for the final day of the Republican Party’s state convention and endorsed governor hopeful Semi Bird, a day after the party leadership’s attempt to not endorse the race at all.

The three-day political gathering drew about 1,800 delegates from across Washington, the majority of whom expressed strong support for Bird. Bird received 72% of the vote, earning the party’s support.

Clashes and surprises erupted Friday afternoon when party leaders announced they did not plan to endorse a candidate for governor at this year’s conference. the public eye earlier this week.

Bird’s supporters stood in the hall at the Spokane Convention Center, shouting profanities in unison and waving campaign signs as party chairman Jim Walsh tried to quell the angry crowd. The delegate body ultimately overturned the Republican leadership’s decision and voted to put the governor’s race back on the agenda.

Party chairman and state Rep. Jim Walsh on Saturday denounced media coverage of the previous day’s events, pointing out how several local media outlets used the word “chaos” when describing what happened. Moments later, he urged the conference audience to “remain calm.”

Susan Messinger traveled from Whitman County to attend the convention. She said the aggressive energy of the crowd on Friday made her feel uncomfortable, and that people were rude and uncivilized.

“It had gotten out of hand,” she said. “It was chaos. It was disrespectful. I don’t think Republicans should treat other Republicans that way. We shouldn’t treat other people that way.”

The conference crowd seemed much calmer on Saturday. Tension arose at one point when a lengthy debate broke out that afternoon over whether delegates should take a 20-minute lunch break.

In his endorsement speech, Bird praised Walsh’s leadership throughout the convention.

The candidate told the crowd that he “sinned” in 1993, when he used his father’s credit to get a $1,800 line of credit.

“That was wrong,” Bird said. “I was bitter. My father was an alcoholic, and yes, he was abusive. No excuse for what I did. I take full responsibility, and I’ll say it again now: If you want me to make it public, I will make it public to make.”

Amid the drama Friday, gubernatorial candidate Dave Reichert announced he would withdraw his name from consideration for the party’s endorsement.

“Some in the Washington State Republican Party are in such disarray that they are considering not supporting the nomination for governor,” Reichert wrote in a statement. “This, after they continually changed the rules, broke rules and twisted the process to achieve the desired outcome.”

Reichert, who did not appear at the convention, described the party event in a telephone interview later that evening as “disorganized, deceptive and deceptive.”

He initially planned to attend, he said, but changed his mind when he learned that party leadership initially had no intention of supporting his race.

“They had a choice between a cop and a crook,” Reichert said. ‘The party has been held hostage by a group of people. You see that happening all over the country.’

Reichert called Bird a “snake oil salesman” on Saturday after hearing news of his opponent’s support.

Bird, the first black gubernatorial candidate endorsed by Washington state’s Republican Party, told a group of reporters Saturday afternoon that he was “surprised and disappointed” when he heard Reichert’s comments.

“Leaders don’t talk like that,” Bird said, “and that’s why I’ve always called Dave Reichert a gentleman. The other gentleman… Although that statement was not gentlemanly, I will not degrade myself.”

Bird also said he doesn’t believe the Republican Party is in “disarray.”

“People are here because they’re excited about something new,” Bird said. ‘About a new direction for Washington state. And that’s what they said to me.’

Washington’s primary elections for state offices will take place on August 6. This year’s general election will take place on November 5. In addition to state offices, seats in the Washington Legislature and the U.S. Congress will also be up for grabs.


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