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Republicans shrug off anti-LGBT comments from top Washington governor candidate

caption: FILE: Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 28, 2017.
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FILE: Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 28, 2017.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington Republicans are largely shrugging off a new political attack from Democrats in the race for governor.

Former congressman and King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, widely seen as the leading Republican running for governor, was recorded at an event earlier this year telling a crowd that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” as part of a longer response to questions he was asked about transgender people.

Earlier this week, Democrat Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a social media attack ad condemning those remarks. Ferguson posted a longer video of Reichert’s remarks on social media, saying that those views “have no place in the Governor’s mansion.”

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Reichert has since said that, if elected governor, he will not take any steps to restrict same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Washington for over a decade and was made legal nationwide by the Supreme Court in 2015.

“I don’t want to run anyone’s personal life, I’m running to lead the Washington state government, to keep our communities safe, help our neighbors in need and bring businesses back to our state,” Reichert said.

The kerfuffle comes as Republicans prepare for their party’s upcoming state convention in Spokane, where they’ll decide whether to endorse Reichert for governor.

And while several Democrats are raising the alarm over Reichert’s take on LGBTQ issues – especially as rights for transgender people are being targeted across the country – Washington Republicans have largely been unmoved by Ferguson’s attack ad.

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In a text message, Washington Republican Party Chair Jim Walsh dismissed it as “desperate.”

One former Republican strategist characterized Ferguson’s attack as a classic political strategy deployed right as the election cycle starts to heat up.

“This appeals primarily to the Democratic base,” said Randy Pepple, who currently teaches political science at the University of Washington. “Bob Ferguson is depending on the Democrats to come out and vote for him, and all he needs to say is ‘Dave Reichert’s extreme.’”

Pepple was a campaign manager and chief of staff for Washington’s former Republican attorney general, Rob McKenna, who narrowly lost his bid for governor in 2012. Pepple added that it’s common for election campaigns to focus on energizing a base of supporters, not necessarily addressing issues that are top of mind for most voters.

“You’re sending a message to your people: ‘Hey get out and vote for me,’” Pepple said.

Pepple suggests that Reichert will keep talking about public safety – an issue Pepple says Ferguson is not as strong on. Reichert has so far received endorsements from several law enforcement officers and groups from across the state, including in King County.

Ferguson released a public safety plan in late March, which includes a focus on hiring more police. [Copyright 2024 Northwest News Network]

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