Clark County GOP snubs three of its candidates

Group refuses to endorse Rivers, Herrera Beutler — and will oppose Blom

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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The leadership of the Clark County Republican Party is drawing fire from some party members for refusing to endorse the re-election bids of Republicans U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and state Sen. Ann Rivers — and voting to oppose the candidacy of Republican John Blom for the Clark County council.

The decision was made Saturday by members of the Clark County Republican Central Committee. The official results of the group’s vote were not immediately released, but the tally was known to precinct committee officers, including Carolyn Crain.

“Republicans vote for Republicans, and we do not play these games,” Crain said after the meeting. “Who the hell are you voting for, then? Are you voting for (Democratic Congressional candidate) Jim Moeller? Are you voting for Democrats?”

The party has 187 precinct committee officers. About 50 or so showed up Saturday, and a handful left following news that the party would hold an executive session to decide its endorsements. Crain said the party barely had a quorum, much less a representative complement of committee officers, leading to the walkout by her and several others.

County party officials held their endorsement discussion and voting in a closed session. At the meeting, party Chairman Kenny Smith said the group wanted to be able to discuss its decisions candidly.

Blom, the only one of the three candidates the central committee voted to oppose outright, released a statement saying it was a bad day “for the Republican brand in Clark County, as a handful of people behind closed doors try to overrule the voice of thousands of voters.”

He added he’ll continue trying to reach out to voters from across the political spectrum, libertarians, Republicans, even Democrats.

“As a lifelong Republican, I’m grateful to live in a land where the voters decide who best represents them and their values. This fact was made evident in the primary. My message to the voters remains the same,” he said. “Let’s work together to go further in Clark County.”

Rivers, who reportedly avoided being targeted for opposition by a single vote, also issued a statement,  saying, “It’s deeply disappointing that the leadership of the Clark County Republican Party is so out of step with the vast majority of Republican voters in Clark County.”

“The 20 people who voted in opposition in no way outweigh the almost 17,000 votes — 60.25 percent — I received in the primary,” Rivers said.

Herrera Beutler had not released a statement as of Saturday evening, but state party chairwoman Susan Hutchison released a statement Saturday affirming her personal support and the state GOP’s support for Herrera Beutler’s re-election to the 3rd Congressional District.

“Our mission is to elect Republicans at every level of government. We support the re-election of all our state’s Republican members of Congress serving in Washington, D.C.,” Hutchison said in the news release. “We enthusiastically back Congresswoman Herrera Beutler.  We honor her service and look forward to her re-election in November.”

‘Mass lunacy’

Camas investor and philanthropist David Nierenberg called the party’s vote “mass lunacy.”

“We have just seen a mass rush of Clark County Central Committee lemmings over the cliff,” he said.

Nierenberg was a prominent fundraiser for Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign, and put $50,000 into a recently-disbanded political action committee that targeted sitting county council member David Madore and District 4 council candidate Eileen Quiring. 

Blom and Democrat Tanisha Harris outpolled Madore to advance to the general election. Quiring won, and will face off against Democrat Roman Battan in November.

In a year where the party has such a “controversial and unworthy nominee” in Donald Trump, the local party shouldn’t be playing the game of deciding who is Republican, Nierenberg said.

“What they should be doing locally is making sure that everybody down the ticket — from this atrocious presidential ticket — that every candidate is actively supported,” he said.

County party chairman Smith did not return calls Saturday afternoon for additional comment.

Endorsement talk

The vote on general election endorsements and non-endorsements came after the central committee voted to continue holding off on endorsements or support of Republican candidates during primary races.

The resolution, adopted with some minor changes, would require the county party to stay neutral during contested primary elections with more than one Republican candidate. That includes not sharing voter database information or using funds to promote one candidate over another.

Trevor Winton, a Republican precinct committee officer, and an architect of the resolution, pointed to a recent mailer that generated controversy in the party.

The mailer winkingly questioned Clark County Council candidate Jennifer McDaniel’s conservative bona fides, noting her support from some Democrats, while touting candidate Quiring as “a conservative we can trust.”

Both candidates ran as Republicans, and the ad was paid for by the Clark County Republic Party. Quiring won 2,901 more votes than McDaniel in the primary, and will face Democrat Roman Battan in November.

Winton said the resolution merely clarifies what’s already a part of the party bylaws.

How much a difference the change will make is unclear. There are still questions about how and where in the process the party could vet candidates before giving support or voter information, Winton and Smith said.

Also, the change may be moot: A new batch of precinct committee officers will start later this year and make a new set of bylaws.