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

State Republican Party convention erupts in chaos after GOP leaders try to stop governor endorsement vote

SPOKANE – An aggravated crowd of delegates at the statewide Republican Party convention chanted an expletive and yelled in opposition Friday afternoon after GOP officials initially announced they did not intend to endorse a gubernatorial hopeful, “in light of some information” that candidate Semi Bird was not “forthcoming” in the party’s vetting process.

Roughly 1,800 delegates showed up to the three-day political gathering at the Spokane Convention Center, marking the event’s highest turnout in history, officials said. People drove from across Washington, many of them anticipating the event’s big-ticket item: Who will the party endorse for governor?

The GOP’s last-minute attempt to forgo making an endorsement in the governor’s race came after The Seattle Times reported earlier this week that Bird was convicted in 1993 of a misdemeanor for lying on a credit card application.

The attempt by party leaders was ultimately thwarted when the largely pro-Bird group of delegates reversed the decision.

When party leaders announced their decision to skip making an endorsement in the governor’s race, “boos” and profanities erupted from the crowd speckled with the red MAGA hats that have come to illustrate the party’s tie to former President Donald Trump.

“Please, if you could respect me enough to let me complete the report,” GOP Vice Chair Lisa Evans announced in an attempt to stifle the angry sea of screams.

The delegates showed strong support for Bird over his opponent, former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert. Reichert did not show up to the convention Friday. In the midst of the raucous developments, Reichert publicly announced online that he was withdrawing his name from the GOP convention’s endorsement process, condemning party leadership.

“Some in the Washington State Republican Party are in such disarray that they’re considering making no endorsement for governor,” Reichert wrote. “This, after they continually changed rules, broke rules, and twisted the process to accomplish their desired outcome.”

In the announcement, Reichert also clarified he is still running for governor and seeking the endorsement of Republican Party members statewide.

In a phone interview Friday night, Reichert told The Spokesman-Review that he showed up to the conference Thursday “fully intending” to go. The candidate was scheduled to give a speech Friday.

Then party officials attempted to change the rules, Reichert added, and “find a way” to disqualify him after they tried to disqualify Bird.

“They decided to change the rules again and take the gubernatorial race off the agenda,” he said. “There was no point to show up because they canceled the vote and canceled my speaking role.”

Reichert called the process “deceptive” and “deceitful.”

“The party’s been taken hostage by a group of people,” he said. “You can see that happening across the state.”

Bird was seated in the front row of the auditorium as his supporters pushed to get his name back on the endorsement ballot.

“Now that’ll show them,” he said as an official told the crowd that Reichert had officially withdrawn his name from the endorsement process.

“This is called self-governance,” Bird told The Spokesman-Review in an interview, “where we the people take a stand for all the people of Washington state.”

Bird later told a group of reporters that he takes “full ownership” of his past.

“What about human decency and civility?” the candidate said. “A man can fall and falter, and still get back up.”

Friday’s drama was unprecedented in the history of state GOP conventions, said party chairman and state Rep. Jim Walsh.

“It’s never been like this before,” Walsh said. “This is all new. The whole thing is new. That’s what people wanted: They wanted a real, live convention. So that’s what we got.”

After the commotion died down, the delegates voted to overturn the decision by GOP officials. The party’s endorsement vote is scheduled to take place Saturday.

Along with the gubernatorial race, the GOP on Saturday is slated to endorse candidates in state races including: attorney general, auditor, commissioner of public lands, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction and a soon-to-be-vacant state Supreme Court seat.

All the Republican candidates seeking endorsements were asked to sign pledges that they would drop out of their respective races if the GOP didn’t endorse them.

Reichert refused to sign the pledge, party leadership said.

Fourth-grade teacher Debbie Ogura traveled from Yakima to attend the conference in support of Bird. It was the first GOP conference she’d joined, and she said she was disappointed that Reichert didn’t show up.

“It reflects poorly on the entire party,” Ogura said while sitting in the lobby between events. “I’m not particularly interested in politics, but I want to leave a better place for the younger generations. And having a candidate not show up delegitimizes the party.”

Washington’s primary elections for state offices will be held Aug. 6. The general election this year will take place Nov. 5. Along with state offices, seats in the Washington Legislature and U.S. Congress will also be up for grabs.