- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

PASCO, Wash. (AP) - Republicans believe they can win more statewide political offices in Washington if they are able to flip Snohomish County to the GOP side, Susan Hutchison, chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party, said Friday.

Hutchison, speaking at the group’s convention, said Snohomish County in Western Washington, which includes Everett, can be a swing county in the 2016 elections and could throw the governor’s race to Republican Bill Bryant and control of the state House of Representatives to the Republicans.

She likened Snohomish County to the national swing state of Ohio.

“If we flip Snohomish County, we win statewide,” Hutchison told the convention Friday morning.

She noted that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee won the county by just 2 percent of the vote in his first run for governor in 2012.

Republicans typically win the majority of votes in statewide races in Eastern Washington as well as the southwest part of the state. However they struggle to do well in King County, home to Seattle and by far the most populous county in the state. The 2012 GOP candidate for governor, Rob McKenna, won just 38 percent of the vote in King County.

Hutchison noted that Inslee won the governor’s race over McKenna despite carrying just seven of 32 counties in the state, all in Western Washington.

More than 2,000 Republicans from across the state are expected to attend the state convention, which ends Saturday. Among their major tasks is choosing delegates to the national convention and hammering out a platform.

The convention will pick Washington’s delegates to the national GOP convention in Cleveland in July. But those delegates will not know who they are supporting until after the results of the Washington primary election on Tuesday. On the Washington ballot, Republicans can choose among Trump, and his former challengers Ted Cruz, John Kasich or Ben Carson, who remain on the ballot.

Also Friday, U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., who represents central Washington, welcomed attendees.

“This is the most unpredictable and important election year in our nation in a long, long time,” Newhouse said.

He spoke about conservative principles like smaller government, less regulations, lower taxes and opposition to abortion.

He also took a shot at environmental groups.

“We are the real conservationists, not those people floating around on kayaks on Puget Sound,” said Newhouse, a farmer.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the only Republican elected to statewide office in the state, spoke of her efforts to protect the integrity of ballots in the state and asked for support for her re-election campaign.

“Isn’t it great to be a Republican in Washington state?” Wyman said.

Hutchison noted that Republicans will make their delegate apportionment based on the results of Tuesday’s primary, in contrast to Democrats who are using caucus results from earlier this year.

During the afternoon, Republicans broke up into congressional districts to pick some of their delegates to the national convention. Candidates were given one minute to speak, and many expressed concern for the future should the Democrats retain the White House.

“I fear persecution of Christians,” said Sandra Brabb of Whitman County. “I fear our Second Amendment rights will be taken away. I fear bathrooms will become playgrounds for predators.”

“I’ve never been so afraid for my country,” said Grant Peterson of Stevens County. “I think we have a last stand.”

But State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said Republicans were only two votes shy of taking control of the state House, where they already control the Senate.

“Imagine a state where we defund abortion,” Shea said.

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