This morning, based on his Twitter feed, we reported that Tea Party candidate Clint Didier, who's challenging Dino Rossi in this year's de facto Republican primary, was in Washington, D.C.
Didier's campaign consultant, Kathryn Serkes, just confirmed for PubliCola that Didier is in D.C. and that he's doing a few fundraisers and meeting with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the group that heavily lobbied Rossi to run throughout April and May.
Despite NRSC chair Sen. John Cornyn's (R-TX) promise that he would support Rossi, Serkes said: "They [the NRSC] haven't endorsed anyone yet. There are couple of candidates in this race. They made some noises about supporting Dino Rossi before he declared, but now that his campaign hasn't soared the way it was supposed to, they're talking to us."
The GOP establishment Serkes said, "thought they could swoop in and tell us who to support, but they've realized this is a [grassroots] year."
Rossi's campaign would not comment and referred us to the NRSC.
In an email, NRSC communications director Brian Walsh said Didier asked to meet with NRSC staff in Washington, "which we’re happy to do. We have not endorsed in this race. ... Throughout this election cycle, we’ve been happy to meet with any candidate in any race who is interested in sitting down with our staff to discuss our efforts to win races in November. Until this morning, we never heard from the Didier campaign until they contacted us and requested a meeting—had they contacted us six months ago we would have been happy to talk to them then as well. But to spin this into something it’s not, is disappointing. The bottom line is that the voters in Washington will decide who faces Patty Murray in November. The race in Washington is a top priority as we work to hold Senator Murray accountable for her reckless spending record in Congress.”
Serkes was also the main character is a pretty big-deal Politico story focusing on related Washington State Republican Party squabbles this afternoon.
The Politico story says Serkes claimed the Washington State Republican Party tried to endorse Dino Rossi from the floor of last weekend's GOP convention and, a week before the convention, sent a letter to Rossi's intramural rivals, including Didier, asking them to agree not to push for party endorsements at the convention.
WSPR Chair Luke Esser told Politico that what Serkes told Politico isn't true.
However, Serkes tells PubliCola that Politico got the story wrong. The attempt to endorse Rossi didn't come from the floor; instead, it was a behind-the-scenes plot Serkes says took place in the runup to the convention, starting at a May 1 WSRP board meeting in Yakima at which board members discussed changing the rules so they could do a nomination from the floor and also find a way to have more King County delegates to help Rossi's cause.
Serkes says Washington State Sen. Don Benton (R-17) and Spokane County GOP Chair Cindy Zapotocky were at the May 1 meeting and can confirm her account of events. We have calls out to both GOP board members.
Curt Fackler, a Spokane County GOP member—and one of two Spokane Republicans who attended the May 1 Yakima meeting with state party leaders—tells PubliCola, “there was a feeling at the meeting” that the state Republican Party wanted to endorse Rossi. But at the end of the meeting, he adds, there was no State GOP plan to endorse him.
“There was definitely a group of people gunning for Dino,” Fackler says, explaining that there was talk Rossi would announce his candidacy and “walk into the convention as the anointed one.”
But those pushing for Rossi—Fackler couldn't name who, exactly—were inhibited both by the fact that Rossi had yet to announce his candidacy, and by a contingent at the meeting that resisted Rossi in favor of Didier, and said they wanted a competitive primary.
Serkes says that once the GOP top brass realized they couldn't get the votes to nominate Rossi they sent out a letter to all the candidates (the morning of the convention) asking them not to go for a nomination.
Here's the June 11 letter from GOP Chair Esser suggesting language for everyone to sign off on:
We the undersigned Republican candidates for U.S. Senate herby urge the Washington State Republican Party to not make a pre-primary endorsement or nomination of any candidate in this year’s race for U.S. Senate, and to offer equal access to party resources for all Republican candidates. A pre-primary endorsement or nomination would only serve to divide our party at a time when we all need to be united in the effort to defeat Patty Murray.
Patty Murray has become part of the arrogant D.C. establishment that spends too much, taxes too much, grows government too much and is drowning our country in debt. Patty Murray has fallen in love with earmarks, with pork spending, and with the perks of power. For the sake of future generations we simply cannot allow Patty Murray to continue the liberal policies that are endangering the opportunities and economic freedom that we have enjoyed as residents of this great state.
We pledge to conduct a vigorous campaign of ideas and principles with a thorough and frank discussion of the issues throughout the entire state over the next two months, and then to endorse and fully support whichever Republican candidate wins the August primary election. It is critical for our party, our candidates and our citizens to be unified in this pivotal year. We are united in our desire to replace Patty Murray with a common-sense conservative who will put our country back on the right track. For the sake of our state and nation we will each work tirelessly to achieve this goal.
Peter Cowman, spokesman for the WSRP, tells PubliCola there was never a plan to nominate or endorse Dino Rossi and that the party wanted a competitive primary.
And regarding Didier's meeting with Sarah Palin last Friday as the GOP convention was just getting under way, Serkes said Palin and Didier discussed a series of Didier fundraisers with Palin. Asked what Palin said about Rossi, Serkes paraphrased "too little to late" and that Palin was "very aware" of her timing, endorsing Didier right before Rossi announced.
Chris Kissel contributed to this article.