One Question

The Republican Party in Washington state has a deserved reputation for being out-of-date on issues such as gay marriage; only 21 percent support the gay marriage measure while 86 percent of Democrats do and 57.9 percent of likely voters do as well. 

Republican Attorney General candidate Reagan Dunn has defied the party orthodoxy, he's pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.

He was disinvited to two or three Lincoln Day dinners because of his views. But later on, he came to our state board meeting and talked to us and reached across and bridged the gap.Dunn came in a distant second in the sleepy August top two primary, 52-38. But as voters got to know both candidates, he crept up in the polling. A recent Elway poll found Dunn behind by just two points. However, today's KCTS 9/Washington Poll had him trailing by 11.

Given Dunn's blacksheep position in a party that may have to change its spots to win big statewide elections, today's PubliCola One Question is for Washington State Republican Chairman Kirby Wilbur.

Have Dunn's liberal positions on social issues helped him or hurt him in this election?

Here's what Wilbur said:

I have not seen it hurt him within the party. There are some Republicans that are disappointed and disagree with his positions but no one’s said, 'I’m not going to help him or vote for him.'

Early in the year, around Lincoln Day, he was disinvited to two or three Lincoln Day dinners because of his views. But later on, he came to our state board meeting and talked to us and reached across and bridged the gap and explained why he believes the things he does. That seemed to soothe any discontent with him.

I think we have a fairly big group of dissenters in our party unlike the other guys. How many pro-life Democrats are there? We have a fair amount of dissidents in our party. No one’s going to vote against him. The party understands the importance of having the Attorney General’s office and that he’s been a loyal republican.

Wilbur didn't address the real existential question we were putting to him about his party.

[Gay marriage] is just one issue; it’s a significant issue—but I don’t think they’re ready to throw him under the bus over it. Because he’s made it clear that he wants to protect religious liberty.

One issue is protecting marriage but another is can a business owner get sued if they refuse gay couples? Reagan’s fought that there’s provisions that protect business owners. That’s helped dampen any criticism. He understood rank and file and he understands that if he’s Attorney General he has to rep the law of the state.”

Obviously, Wilbur didn't address the real existential question we were putting to him about his party. We didn't ask him if Dunn's liberal stance hurt him within the GOP, we asked him if it helped or hurt him overall in the election. The point being: Does the party need to change?

When pressed he would only say that he had no way to know how Dunn's social liberalism was playing with independent voters. (The latest KCTS 9/Washington Poll found that 54.8 percent of independents vs. 21 percent of Republicans supported the gay marriage measure.)

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