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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Lewallen: GOP attempt to force unity will fracture party

By Leslie Lewallen
Published: April 13, 2024, 6:01am

Unity. It is an ideal enshrined in America’s founding documents, and the mantra that held our country together through foreign wars and civil unrest. This election cycle, the Republican Party of Washington has taken the familiar theme of unity to new extremes.

The party is attempting, in the spirit of “unity,” to use the state convention to whittle down the field of candidates before voters ever have a chance to cast a ballot. Far from bringing Washingtonians together, this heavy-handed tactic risks fracturing our party further and losing more winnable seats for Republicans.

Expecting candidates and voters to fall in line with the endorsements made by a self-selected sampling of party representatives is undemocratic and antithetical to the robust electoral process envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

Ostensibly, the state convention is intended to select and support a candidate that best represents the views of the Republican electorate; but Washington is a dynamic state with vastly different priorities and concerns as you head east to west or north to south.

Circumventing the electorate by trying to manipulate who appears on the ballot at the state convention risks endorsing a candidate who does not represent the views or needs of the district they seek to represent. It also opens the process up to undue influence by candidates seeking to strong-arm endorsements outside the prescribed processes.

This undue influence came to bear at the state committee meeting in August, when the rules were sidestepped to secure a premature “endorsement” for my Republican opponent in this congressional race.

A mere 40 people ignored the will of more than 100,000 3rd Congressional District voters who clearly demonstrated in 2022 that they wanted a Republican who wasn’t Joe Kent to represent them.

In the 2022 primary, Kent was unable to secure even one-third of the electorate. He went on to lose the general election in November, despite the fact that U.S. Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley won the district by seven points and Donald Trump carried it by four points.

For more than 30 years, there hasn’t been one federal or statewide rematch in Washington state that has resulted in a flipped outcome. History is not on Joe Kent’s side, and ignoring the will of voters isn’t going to lead to different results this time around.

Unlike Joe Kent, I know what it is like to win an election and represent voters, and it’s not by circumventing their voice.

As such, I will not be participating in a convention that has shown itself willing to support a failed candidate over the concerns of Southwest Washington voters.

I do not think the process, as it has played out, reflects the will of the electorate; and it is the electorate that I want to hear from.

While Kent goes to get the endorsement of the few select delegates, I’m fighting for the endorsements of proven leaders and all 3rd Congressional District voters.

Unity is achieved when members of a group feel their views have been heard and they can move forward together in pursuit of a higher goal. The new process set forth by the Washington State Republican Party does not give voice or choice to the vast majority of Washington voters, showing instead that the party is willing to ignore the will of the electorate in pursuit of what will prove to be an elusive “unity.”

Southwest Washington deserves better, and I intend to deliver because there is too much riding on this election to repeat the mistakes of 2022.

Leslie Lewallen is a Camas City Council member who is running as a Republican for representative of the 3rd Congressional District.

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