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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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May 9, 2008 9:57 AM

State Republicans make nominating conventions optional

Posted by David Postman

The state Republican Party is recommending, but not requiring, local GOP officials to endorse candidates in contested primaries. That’s a more laissez faire approach than what state Democrats have done. State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz has said local party organizations are required to pick among Democrats in contested races and vote to give one candidate an official endorsement.

Pelz has been disappointed that a few local Democratic organizations balked at endorsing candidates.

The nominating conventions are the parties’ response to the first-ever top-two primary scheduled for August. In that election, they party has no way to identify its preferred candidate and the top two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the November ballot. Candidates endorsed by party organizations can show that in the voter’s pamphlet, but not on the ballot.

Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said the GOP state committee shares Pelz’ concern about the party having a say in who is nominated. But, he told me yesterday, some felt uncomfortable requiring county and legislative district organizations to nominate a favored candidate.

It can be a little bit challenging to extraordinarily painful for a grassroots organization to go through selecting among different Republican candidates.

That’s particularly true in a heavily Republican district where the November ballot would be likely to include two party members facing off. The party has at least two eastern Washington legislative districts with multiple Republicans running in primaries.

The 117-member State Committee met Saturday to approve the nominating rules. The committee also voted to endorse the three incumbent Republican statewide officials and the three Republicans in the state’s Congressional delegation.

In addition, gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi and state treasurer candidate Allan Martin were endorsed.

Democratic leaders have pushed nominating conventions both as a way to give the party it’s say in the primaries, but also as part of a legal strategy as challenges continue against the top-two primary. Esser said he shares those concerns.

That does make sense. One of the reasons that we went ahead with the nominating process on fairly short notice is to recognize that we’re in the middle of a lawsuit and we needed to send a message that we take this very seriously, and we are concerned about confusion between the officially endorsed Republican candidates and other Republican candidates.

Esser said that allowing the locals to decide whether to hold nominating conventions should not hurt the party’s standing in the legal fight against the primary.

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