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Gop Chairman Bows Out Eikenberry’s Four-Year Tenure Marked By Fighting Between Party’s Conservative, Moderate Wings

After a grueling four years at the helm, Ken Eikenberry is stepping down as state GOP chairman.

In a letter last week to state committee members, Eikenberry said he will not seek a third two-year term for the post he has held since 1993.

“I’ve appreciated the opportunity of the last four years but now it is time for me to take a new course in my career,” the one-time FBI agent and former attorney general said in the letter.

Eikenberry did not return phone calls for comment.

State GOP Executive Director Kelly Rogers told the Seattle PostIntelligencer that Eikenberry had “accomplished all of his goals” and had “nothing left to prove.”

Eikenberry’s letter was dated Thursday, two days after his party came away with a mixed bag in the general election.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen Craswell was crushed by Democrat Gary Locke, but Republicans took control of both houses of the state Legislature.

And in Congress, if absentee balloting trends hold, it seems likely that four and perhaps five of the six GOP freshmen who were up for re-election will retain their seats. Currently, seven of the nine members of Washington’s congressional delegation are Republican.

Rogers called the party’s resounding loss in the governor’s race Eikenberry’s “one shortcoming,” but noted that Eikenberry was particularly pleased with the GOP’s record fund-raising of $8 million in 1996.

Eikenberry’s two terms as GOP chairman were marked by widening ideological rifts between the party’s Christian conservative and moderate wings.

Eikenberry angered the religious right last May when he refused to allow presidential contender Patrick Buchanan to speak at the state party convention unless the conservative commentator promised to enthusiastically support Bob Dole and to sign a GOP loyalty oath.

As punishment for shunning Buchanan, Eikenberry was blocked from attending the National Republican Convention in San Diego in August.

“The Buchanan affair did not enhance his standing with the party’s grass-roots activists,” said Reed Davis, chairman of the King County GOP.

“It left a sour taste in people’s mouths,” Davis said.

More recently, Eikenberry took some heat when he called several Republican women “dingbats” for supporting Locke for governor. Among the women was his own former gubernatorial campaign manager, Susan Brady.

Eikenberry, 64, is a longtime party conservative and former state representative. He served three terms as attorney general and ran unsuccessfully for governor against Mike Lowry in 1992.

State GOP committee members elect their new leader in January, and the field of candidates to succeed Eikenberry is already taking shape.

Among the potential contenders: Dale Foreman, the departing House majority leader, who failed to win the GOP nomination for governor this year; Nona Brazier, former King County party chairwoman, who was also unsuccessful in her bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination; Dave Welch, executive director of the state Christian Coalition; and Randy Tate, who lost his 9th District congressional seat last week to Democrat Adam Smith.

Foreman, a friend of Eikenberry’s, said he is interested in running for party chairman but has not made a final decision yet.

Brazier said Sunday, “If Ken is out, I’m in.”

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Eikenberry plans extended vacation Associated Press OLYMPIA

Retiring state GOP Chairman Ken Eikenberry has another career - and a lot of playtime - on his mind. Eikenberry said he’s had overtures from several law firms and probably will take at least a part-time job after an extended vacation. “I plan on another career,” he said. “First, I’ll take six months or even a year and catch up on my reading, maybe go out to St. Martin’s (College) and take a philosophy course. “I have a 22-foot boat sitting out in my driveway that I haven’t taken out in a year. And I intend to bring my golf handicap down a few strokes.”

This sidebar appeared with the story: Eikenberry plans extended vacation Associated Press OLYMPIA

Retiring state GOP Chairman Ken Eikenberry has another career - and a lot of playtime - on his mind. Eikenberry said he’s had overtures from several law firms and probably will take at least a part-time job after an extended vacation. “I plan on another career,” he said. “First, I’ll take six months or even a year and catch up on my reading, maybe go out to St. Martin’s (College) and take a philosophy course. “I have a 22-foot boat sitting out in my driveway that I haven’t taken out in a year. And I intend to bring my golf handicap down a few strokes.”



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