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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Washington GOP convention kicks off Thursday in Spokane. Here’s what’s at stake

The state Republican Party is expected to decide Friday whether to endorse Congressman Dan Newhouse or throw its support behind former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler, who is Newhouse’s only challenger in the upcoming primary.

Last week Sessler received the backing of former President Donald Trump in a post on Truth Social, the Trump-owned social media platform.

“Jerrod Sessler is MAGA all the way, and has my Complete and Total Endorsement – He will never let you down!!!” Trump posted.

In a Wednesday email, Newhouse campaign manager Robert Bugner said Trump’s endorsement changes nothing for the incumbent congressman.

“The hardworking people who live in Central Washington will decide who represents them in Congress,” Bugner wrote. “No one from outside this district will make that decision for them.”

The state GOP begins its convention in Spokane on Thursday and will consider early endorsements in congressional and statewide races in the hopes of thinning crowded fields and avoid diluting the Republican vote during the state’s top-two primaries in August. Sessler said he will be in attendance. Bugner noted that Newhouse had planned to, but will be in D.C. this weekend as House Speaker Mike Johnson told Republicans Wednesday that he was calling for a Saturday evening vote on an aid package for Israel and Ukraine.


In a Wednesday interview, Sessler said he was confident of receiving the party endorsement. He is among the few who have signed the candidate pledge that the state party requested in order to seek its endorsement, which states that a candidate who does not receive the state party’s endorsement will back the candidate who did and will not file for the office in May. Sessler said that he would only abide by the agreement if Newhouse also signed on; Bugner wrote that Newhouse would not.

“The primary election exists to allow the voters to choose their candidate, and Dan will abide by the results of the August primary,” he wrote.

A crowded field two years ago likely spared Newhouse.

Trump has made ousting Newhouse a priority since the third-generation farmer from Sunnyside voted to impeach the former president for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“(Sessler) is running against a weak and pathetic RINO named Newhouse, who voted to, for no reason, Impeach me,” Trump wrote in his Friday post endorsing Sessler while disparaging Newhouse using the acronym for “Republican in name only.” “Newhouse has to go!”

Sessler unsuccessfully tried to unseat Newhouse in 2022, when six Trump-aligned Republicans split the vote in the primary election.

The incumbent survived a primary challenge with 25.5% of the vote, ultimately defeating Democrat Doug White in the November general election in the state’s most reliably conservative district.

With less than a month before candidate filing week and only one Republican challenger thus far filing with the Federal Election Commission, Newhouse may face off one-on-one with Sessler this August.

Former Republic Police Chief Loren Culp, who was also in the crowded 2022 field and received Trump’s backing at the time, said Tuesday that he was not considering jumping in “at this time.” He congratulated Sessler for receiving Trump’s endorsement. He declined to comment further, but has previously called Sessler a spoiler for not dropping out of the race when Culp received the Trump nod two years ago. Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, a former NFL tight end, told The Spokesman-Review in February he was considering a run.

Newhouse remains the best candidate for central Washington, Bugner wrote.

“He believes what the people of Central Washington believe in: secure borders, that less government is good government, and that American families know better how to spend their hard-earned dollars than bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.,” he added. “His experience and ability to get things done is exactly what the people of Central Washington need, and why we’re confident he will be re-elected come November.”

Sessler, on the other hand, believes central Washington is ready for a change in representation.

“It’s not just the impeachment vote that Newhouse has failed America on, he has failed in many ways, and he doesn’t deserve to call himself a conservative,” Sessler said, pointing to the American Conservative Union’s relatively low score for Newhouse’s voting record.

That organization, which published its 2023 ratings for members of Congress in March, gave Newhouse a score of 65% for the year. It’s a marked decline in rating; in 2017, Newhouse touted the organization’s Award for Conservative Achievement after earning an 83% rating for votes the year prior.

Newhouse has a fundraising advantage over Sessler, having raised $909,000 to Sessler’s $83,000, according to FEC filings reported on Monday.

“I’m not particularly worried about money, but we are fairly full throttle on it now,” Sessler said, noting that the recent Trump endorsement will likely help with fundraising efforts.

Sessler has also received the endorsements of prominent Trump-aligned political figures Roger Stone and General Michael Flynn. Newhouse has been endorsed by a number of Republican lawmakers from central Washington, including state Sen. Judy Warnick and state Reps. Tom Dent and Alex Ybarra, among others. He recently received the backing of the National Federation of Independent Business.