Former radio talk show host new state Republican Party chair

Jan 24, 2011

Kirby Wilbur is the new Republican Party chairman in Washington, unseating former state lawmaker Luke Esser over the weekend in a party's leadership vote. The former KVI talk radio host beat Esser by a vote of 69 to 36, with seven votes for Puyallup Republican Bill Rennie, according to The Seattle Times' Jim Bruener.

Despite GOP gains in the state, Wilbur told the Times the party's advances should have been bigger

"The question is not are we better off. The question is are we as good as we could be?" Wilbur said.

Wilbur's been active in local Republican politics for decades, and was most recently director of the local chapter of Americans for Progress (AFPWA), a group founded by Karl Rove, a political strategist and former aide to President George W. Bush. 

Publicola's Josh Feit spoke with former state chair Chris Vance, who says it would be wrong to consider Wilbur's win a victory for the Tea Party in Washington State:

“No, no, no, no. This has nothing to do with the Tea Party. The Tea Party is new people flooding into the party. Kirby Wilbur has been a Republican since the 1970s. He’s a longtime Reagan Republican.”

Wilbur's organization is under investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), which monitors campaign reporting laws.

Peter Callaghan has been following the situation in the News Tribune, and reports:

While the PDC staff is not yet commenting, it appears that AFPWA did violate state disclosure law. In fact, state chapter director (and former KVI talk host) Kirby Wilbur said last week that he now thinks his disclosure filings were late and inadequate.

At Saturday's Republican Party meeting, Attorney General Rob McKenna spoke in favor of Esser's re-election, supporting the candidate's contention the party made big gains in 2010, especially in the state house and senate.