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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington state GOP endorses Brian Dansel for Congress

Republican Brian Dansel, Ferry County commissioner

A week after the Spokane County GOP gave Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel its top rating for the 5th Congressional District, the state Republican Party has given the former Trump appointee its endorsement.

The endorsement came at the end of a long day at the state GOP convention in Spokane, which got off to a chaotic start with a kerfuffle over gubernatorial endorsements and a smaller-scale battle over the rules congressional endorsement. Endorsing so early in the race, months before the August primary election and weeks before candidates even officially file for office, is a new move for state Republicans hoping to thin crowded fields – and few are as crowded as the race for the 5th Congressional District.

Dansel is one of nine Republican candidates in the race for a reliably red seat, which also has four Democratic contenders. In a brief interview Friday evening, Dansel said he was thrilled to have come out on top.

“I feel it shows the diversity of my campaign and that we’re reaching people on a grassroots level,” Dansel said. “So we’re going to keep it going, and I’m going to be taking this to the people I want to work for, and that’s the regular nine-to-five crowd and people trying to do the best they can for their families.”

Dansel has served in many roles in elected and appointed office, including as an adviser to the National Economic Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Trump administration, as state executive director of the Farm Service Agency and the regional director of the Pacific Northwest region of the USDA. He also previously served as a state senator, having defeated appointed state Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, in 2013.

Dansel was vying for the state party’s endorsement with Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle, Medical Lake Mayor Terri Cooper, former state employee John Guenther, talk radio show host Rene Holaday, state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber and cattle rancher Michael Schmidt. Former deputy sheriff Jody Spurgeon, who recently announced a bid for the office, was not up for consideration.

In speeches ahead of the endorsement vote, candidates largely echoed their pitches during the Spokane County GOP convention in March. What was new was a willingness to attack other Republicans, started off by Baumgartner, who was the first to speak.

Baumgartner started his speech by pledging to “protect the American Dream,” quoting French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, touting his massive fundraising lead in the race and railing against crime, homelessness and drugs. Quickly, however, he pivoted to calling Bingle and Cooper inexperienced, questioning Maycumber’s integrity and attacking Dansel.

“Then you have candidate Brian Dansel that was put into office by the WEA teacher’s union,” Baumgartner said. “I know the WEA supports mask mandates, woke ideology – well, they also support Brian Dansel.”

“Do you think Nancy Pelosi is scared of a candidate that’s endorsed by the WEA?” he added. “She’s not.”

The Washington Education Association, a powerful advocacy organization in Washington, endorsed Dansel for his 2014 state Senate re-election bid against Republican Tony Booth. The organization has not endorsed candidates for Congress.

After opening the door to attacks, Baumgartner got a few subtle return volleys from Cooper and Bingle, but no one was as direct as Dansel.

“I was never a tool or installed in office by the teachers union; that was a good one, Michael,” Dansel said during his speech. “Michael’s a little bit upset because Mike voted for the very highest gas tax increase in the history of America and also didn’t show up and vote at all for the Dream Act, the one that gave free college tuition to illegal aliens.”

The endorsement process itself was long and drawn out, with delegates repeatedly calling for points of order, points of inquiry and occasionally shouting over each other or at the chair leading the congressional district caucus. At one point, amid fierce disagreement about how to interpret a particular rule regarding whether the caucus had to endorse any candidate, a delegate called for the chair to be vacated, another interjected that the chair couldn’t be vacated, the chair voluntarily vacated, and a vote was held for another chair.

State Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, was elected as the new chair and with assistance from state GOP leadership was able to better control the delegation, though some delays persisted. Finally, after a first round of votes were tallied, only Dansel, Maycumber and Bingle had enough votes to survive to the second round.

In the second round, Dansel received 156 of the 281 votes cast. Maycumber received 59 and Bingle received 45.

In a dramatically more brief endorsement process for Republican candidates hoping to represent the neighboring 4th Congressional District, Jerrod Sessler easily won endorsement of the state party over incumbent Rep. Dan Newhouse. Newhouse, the only sitting Republican Congressman in Washington running for re-election this year, has fallen out of favor with party loyalists over his vote in 2021 to impeach former President Donald Trump.