State Rep. Jim Walsh elected as Washington state GOP’s new chairman

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(The Center Square) – The Washington State Republican Party has announced that state Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen will serve as the party’s new chairman.

Walsh, 59, was elected Saturday in a 95-15 vote by GOP members attending the WSRP’s summer state committee meeting in Olympia.

“Jim Walsh is an exceptional representative and community leader who has a proven track record of winning tough battles, including flipping Legislative District 19 from a Democrat stronghold since the days of FDR into a Republican stronghold built on a variety of voting coalitions,” WSRP Executive Director Brady Batt said in a news release.

“I’m confident in his abilities to build successful programs and trust with the members of our party, just as he has done with the voters of his district,” he added.

In his acceptance speech, Walsh said Republicans “have a tremendous opportunity to show the people of Washington state that there is a better path forward, that the state government currently representing them in Olympia has failed them and their families time and time again through rampant crime in their cities, crumbling education standards in their schools, and an attack on their personal property and incomes.”

Walsh and the GOP face a challenge in convincing voters. Democrats hold every statewide elective office in Washington, majorities in both the House and Senate in Olympia, eight of Washington’s 10 congressional seats, and both U.S. Senate seats.

In emailed comments Monday, Walsh said he intends to serve a dual role, at least initially, remaining as a state representative for the 19th Legislative District while also chairing the state Republican party.

“For the near future, anyway,” said Walsh. “My constituents in LD19 seem to want this, as do most members of the WSRP State Committee. There’s precedent for a sitting legislator holding both positions. We’ll just see how the balance works.”

As state GOP chairman, Walsh said his priorities include setting timelines for party caucuses and county conventions leading up to next April’s earliest-ever state convention, coordinating ballot delivery efforts for general elections this November and in 2024, “challenging” Washington’s 39 counties to do a more-effective job of updating databases of valid registered voters, supporting signature-gathering efforts to qualify six initiatives by the end of this year, and supporting at least two dozen school board races around the state heading into 2024.

Walsh said he also wants to “launch a more pro-active and issues-focused media campaign to reboot the WSRP’s brand and persuade voters … to support Republican candidates because of policies rather than personalities.”

“The common theme in all of these actions is to position the WSRP to help Republican candidates win elections. We win on issues,” he said.

“We’re going to reach out to all people of goodwill in this state, including people you might not think of as ‘traditional’ Republicans,” Walsh told the WSRP state committee on Saturday. “I don’t believe people are Republicans or Democrats. People are people. They just vote one way or the other. And, here in Washington, they’re ready to vote the other way.”

Walsh, a 1986 graduate of Amherst College who continues to operate a small publishing company formed in 1998, was first elected to the state House by a narrow margin in 2016 and has since been re-elected three times. His legislative district includes parts of Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific, Thurston and Wahkiakum counties.

Voting members at Saturday’s GOP gathering included the chair, state committeeman and committeewoman from each of Washington’s 39 counties, and other eligible voting members from each county. The only other candidate for the party chair position was a state committee member from Spokane County.

Walsh succeeds Caleb Heimlich, who announced in June that he intended to step down as the state’s Republican party chair. Heimlich was elected to the post in January 2018 after serving as the WSRP’s executive director beginning in 2013.

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