WASHINGTON – Rep. Dan Newhouse said Monday he will not step down after most of the county GOP leaders in the Central Washington district he represents called for his resignation for being one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump on Jan. 13.
In a letter, the local GOP chairmen in six of the eight counties in the 4th congressional district condemned Newhouse for “promot(ing) your own personal agenda, with complete disregard to the citizens who elected you.”
“It is your sworn duty as an elected official to represent the people accordingly,” the chairmen wrote. “When a representative fails to represent the people, the people must respond.”
“I am not resigning,” Newhouse responded in a statement, emphasizing his conservative credentials and expressing no regrets about what could be a politically dangerous position in a Republican Party still largely defined by loyalty to the now-departed president.
“After days of deliberation and prayer, I made a decision to vote based on my oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Newhouse said. “Many Republicans have agreed with my vote, and many have disagreed. For those who disagree with me on this issue, I hope they will remember my lifelong support for conservative causes and values.”
“I am a conservative Republican who holds the principles of our Constitution and the priorities of Central Washington above all else, and we have a lot of work to do to keep the Biden Administration accountable.”
The signatories included the GOP chairmen from Grant, Benton, Franklin, Yakima, Adams and Douglas counties. The party’s chapters in Okanogan and Walla Walla counties opted not to join the call for Newhouse’s resignation, saying his political future should be decided at the ballot box.
“We want to leave it to the voters,” said Teagan Levine, chair of the Okanogan County GOP. “If they do not want him in there, then it will go to the polls. We value the vote of the people.”
In their own letter to Newhouse on Jan. 23, the Okanogan County Republican Central Committee commended Newhouse for his support on issues like preserving dams and opposing a plan to relocate grizzly bears to the county, but said they unanimously voted to censure him for the impeachment vote.
“You have stood by us,” the committee wrote. “You have fought to preserve the dams and so much more, yet when it counted the most to the ones who voted for you and put you in office you bowed to the other side.”
The GOP leader in Walla Walla County, which is split between the 4th and 5th congressional districts, acknowledged “there are many mixed emotions” among Republicans about the election and its aftermath.
“Although we disagree with the vote of Congressman Dan Newhouse and have expressed that to him,” chairman Shane Laib said in a statement, “we will not tar and feather him nor any other elected official with the same brush that Democrats have used on President Trump and his administration for the last four years.”
The 10 Republicans who voted with all 222 House Democrats to impeach Trump have faced swift backlash from constituents and other GOP officials. Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, was censured by a county GOP in Wyoming, as was Michigan Rep. Fred Upton. Multiple Trump loyalists have already launched primary challenges against the dissenting legislators.
The Washington State Republican Party passed a resolution Jan. 17 condemning the impeachment vote and expressing “particular disappointment” in Newhouse and southwest Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who also voted to impeach Trump.
The fallout from the impeachment votes raises questions about what it means to be a Republican in the post-Trump era. The former president remains widely popular among GOP voters who expect loyalty to Trump from their representatives.
Just before voting to impeach the outgoing president a week before he left office, Newhouse told The Spokesman-Review he couldn’t look past Trump’s role in the violent insurrection that left five people dead and dozens of police officers injured Jan. 6.
“I have to vote my conscience,” Newhouse said at the time. “Even though I’m a Republican and a supporter of Donald Trump – and that’s what makes this really hard – I felt that the president let us down, particularly when he knew what was going on and did not do all he could to stop the violence. I can’t condone that.”
Despite the criticism, Newhouse appears to be in a strong position. On the same day the county GOP leaders called on him to resign, the fourth-term lawmaker was named assistant whip of the House Republican Conference, a show of support from GOP leaders. He was also elected in November as chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, an influential group of mostly Republican lawmakers that bills itself as “the voice for rural America.”
Washington’s unique primary system also insulates Newhouse and Herrera Beutler somewhat from the primary challenges many Trump critics in the GOP fear. In the state’s nonpartisan primaries, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party.
Newhouse, who won two-thirds of votes in November, could benefit from independent and even Democratic support if he faces a GOP challenger in 2022. A group of anti-Trump Republicans has also pledged to support members of the party who voted to impeach Trump.
After House impeachment managers delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, senators agreed to delay the trial until Feb. 9. In a vote Tuesday, all but five GOP senators voted to block the trial on the disputed grounds that it is unconstitutional to try a former president. While unsuccessful, the vote suggested there will not be the two-thirds majority required to convict Trump.
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Jan. 29, 2020 because the original version listed the incorrect number of counties in Washington’s 4th Congressional District and incorrectly stated that the Okanogan County Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment. Walla Walla County is one of eight counties in the district. The updated story includes responses of the GOP leaders in Okanogan and Walla Walla counties.