TUKWILA, Wash. – The state Republican Party on Saturday ousted Chairwoman Diane Tebelius and replaced her with Luke Esser as the party’s new chairman.
Esser, a former state senator from Bellevue and a longtime party activist who lost his seat in November’s Democratic sweep, defeated Tebelius by a vote of 71-43.
“The first step towards recovering from our defeat in 2006 is recognizing that we have a problem, and today we did that,” Esser said. “Though we face difficult times, I’m confident we will rebound. The Republican Party is overflowing with ideas for making Washington more prosperous and secure.”
Esser blasted Democrats for “using their majorities to restrict the initiative process and spend a massive $30 billion on state government. They’re governing way to the left of Washington voters.”
Tebelius was elected last winter after veteran Chairman Chris Vance resigned to become a public affairs consultant. She defeated a handpicked candidate backed by the party’s gubernatorial contender, Dino Rossi, and other party leaders.
Tebelius arrived just as the state and nation turned on the Republicans, but she helped the party erase a $730,000 debt and strongly supported its candidates. She came into Saturday’s election saying she had a comeback plan for the party.
Both Esser and Tebelius ran unsuccessfully for the party’s 8th Congressional District nomination in 2004. She edged Esser but then lost to Dave Reichert, who won the seat.
Esser served in the Legislature eight years before losing last fall. He is a longtime aide to Rob McKenna, now the state attorney general, and is on leave to campaign for the state party office.
Also Saturday, longtime Lewis County state committeewoman Olga Miller was elected vice chairwoman. Miller chaired the state party platform committee in 2004 and 2006. If the chairperson is a man, state GOP rules require that the vice chairperson be a woman.