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Collisions, maybe

The approach the Washington Republican Party is using to determine who can and can’t run as a Republican makes sense from a number of angles: encouraging candidates to worh with and be part of the party strcture, to set them up as a relatively unified group, and to have the people who are active in the party have a role in who will be their standard bearers on the ballot.

But it also requires that everything fall into place just right, and therein lies the problem – if it doesn’t, lawsuits and political chaos could result.

The situation is outlined in the Vancouver Columbian, home of one of the spots in Washington where all this may matter most, since Clark County is a politically competitive place, and fast-growing besides.

The Washington Republican Party has put in place a rule placing an added requirement for some candidates who want to run as Republicans. The Columbian described it: “Under new rules adopted by the state GOP, all candidates for legislative and partisan state and local offices who are not incumbents must win the support of at least 25 percent of voting delegates in the districts they seek to represent if they want to run as Republicans in the September primary.”

As noted, there are organizational benefits to this approach – it is not irrational or unreasonable. But there is a problem.

Suppose a county clerk received candidacy papers from someone who is legally qualified under state law (is a registered voter, lives in the district, and so on) who wants to run in the Republican primary? The state law doesn’t include the convention requirement. That clerk reports to state law, not a political party’s organizational rules, and would be obliged to let that person file for office as a Republican. State law would have to be changed to do otherwise.

State Republican Chair Diane Tebelius was quoted as saying, “I would say 100 percent of our candidates are doing it so far. We don’t think there are going to be any problems or that we will have to file any lawsuits against anyone.”

And maybe not. Certainly, a candidate who wants to run seriously as a Republican this year would be well advised to do what the rules suggest.

But what if everyone doesn’t go just right? Politics is a touchy business. And bear in mind that while the county convention season is just getting underway, the candidate filing deadline is months off. What if someone decides in June they’d like to run. (For that matter, what if someone now planning to run, who gets the endorsement, drops out before candidate filing?)

Will be worth watching to see how this plays out.

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