Caucus Votes, Not Delegates, May Have Been Used to Derive Evergreen State's Still-Incomplete Results
ALSO: State Party Chair, 'Esser the Suppressor,' Closely Allied, Beholden to McCain's State Campaign Chair...
By Brad Friedman on 2/11/2008, 6:50pm PT  

The strange situation with Washington state's Republican Caucus over the weekend keeps deteriorating by the hour, the more we learn about it. It all underscores, of course, why full transparency is useful when it comes to elections.

And yes, the process overseen by the state's GOP chair Luke Esser "the Suppressor" --- where Huckabee led McCain for the bulk of the day as returns were coming in, only to stop the counting at 87% once McCain took a 242 vote lead --- was anything but transparent.

Seattle's NBC affiliate KING 5 is now questioning the reported vote totals out of Snohomish County:

KING 5 News has determined that there are inconsistencies in the "votes" being counted and reported by the Washington State Republican party.

Throughout the vote reporting process, State Party Chairman Luke Esser has said the party is reporting the presidential preferences of the delegates who were elected at the caucuses. But today we learned that Snohomish County, the third-largest county in the state, reported the preferences of all caucus attendees instead of the elected delegates.

One Snohomish County caucus chairman told KING 5 that the delegate preferences are "dramatically different" than the attendee counts.

The Snohomish County Republican Party does not have the delegate preferences from many of its caucuses and is working to obtain them.

This is all made possible, as the WA state bloggers at HorsesAss (who have been doing some terrific work on all of this) helpfully report, due to the bizarre way in which WA Republicans determine delegate proportionment from the caucus voters.

Unlike the state's Democratic Caucuses, where delegates are essentially selected by a mathematical formula to mirror the way caucus goers voted, on the GOP side, participants at each precinct may determine how to proportion delegates any way they wish. For example, even if, say, Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul were to receive the most votes at a precinct, the organizers could still choose to give the most delegates to John McCain.

As the KING 5 report above points out, there is now a question of consistency with the numbers that state party chair Esser the Suppressor was reporting.

Adding still more worries for the Huckabee camp, or even the Paul camp who currently follow Huck with a close third place, David Goldstein at HorsesAss also points out that Esser has long served as a reliable hatchet man, for years, to WA State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who helped him get the job, and who just happens to be the state campaign chairman for, you guessed it, John McCain...

As Lee at HA details...

There is no formal system applied in the Precinct Caucuses to relate the presidential preference of the Caucus participants to the choice of the precinct’s delegates. The participants at each Precinct Caucus alone determine if presidential preference is to be a factor in such choice and, if so, how it is to be applied.

That all likely has come in very useful, since, on the day before Saturday's caucus, a pro-McCain party insider posted his plea along with several reasons, just one excerpted below, as to why, as Lee at HA describes it, the WA "Republican base should STFU and just support McCain":

Point two – A McCain loss will embarass [sic] the Washington State Republican Party

Particularly when McCain coasts to an easy victory in the primary on the 19th. It will demonstrate that the local party activists and caucus-goers are woefully out of touch with the Washington State Republicans who actually supply the votes. Remember those? They’re important. Now, it may be true that we activists are out of touch, and if it is, we need to figure out how we can rectify that situation. But personally, I’d rather it were not pointed out in such blatant fashion.

Because of the timing of our caucus and primary, and that of recent political events, we’re a party uniquely positioned to embarrass itself. That’s one opportunity I sincerely hope to avoid taking. Our party needs to gain influence over the voters of this state, both friendly and otherwise, and caucusing for Huckabee will diminish it, instead.

Rounding it all out, then, we return to Esser, who, for years worked closely with AG McKenna, who helped to oust the previous state GOP chair in favor of Esser who continued, until forced to resign, to pull double duty both overseeing the party and remaining on the state payroll working for McKenna.

Goldstein then connected the dots this way late this afternoon [emphasis in the original]:

On resigning from the AG’s office under public pressure, Esser took pains to detail his close affection and ties to McKenna, writing in his resignation letter: “… Rest assured that I will always be available if I can ever be helpful to you.

Well… considering Attorney General Rob McKenna is also Sen. John McCain’s Washington state campaign chair, it looks like Esser was awfully damn helpful to his patron Saturday night.

Other than that, everything's fine in Washington state.

What Huckabee could have been talking about when he told CNN this morning...

That is not what we do in American elections... Maybe that's how they used to conduct it in the old Soviet Union, but you don't just throw people's votes out and say, 'well, we're not going to bother counting them because we kind of think we know where this was going.'"

...we can't possibly imagine.

Curiously, if Snohomish reported votes as opposed to delegates, an accurate reporting of delegates there (if, in fact, that's what Esser was counting elsewhere) could end up benefiting McCain, if precincts decided to march in lockstep with the party bigs and give the bulk of delegates to the presumptive Republican nominee, despite more proportional votes for his competitors.

As pointed out in KING 5's coverage:

By way of comparison, Pierce County Republicans posted both totals on their Web site. In Pierce Co., Mike Huckabee was preferred by more overall attendees, with 609 caucus goers saying they supported Huckabee, compared with 571 who preferred John McCain. But McCain won more delegates - 192 to 186. The latter number is the one being reported to the state.

Not to worry though. AP reported earlier today that, "Washington Republican Party chairman Luke Esser says he'd be happy to look into a complaint from the Huckabee campaign about Saturday's caucuses."

That would be the Fox guarding the Fox House, of course.

Esser also told AP that "he does not regret calling the race." But we'll see about that.

One last note for now...Where is the honorable John McCain in all of this? He is the man who, after all, served as a war hero on behalf of this country in the hopes of defending democracy around the globe. Shouldn't he be joining Huck's call for a full, transparent accounting of Washington state's Republican Party Caucus? If such a thing is even possible at this point?

UPDATE: Looks like Josh Marshall had the same question we did about McCain and subsequently updated to point to his following heroic statement on the matter, as reported by MSNBC...

“It's pretty clear that we won [in Washington],” McCain said. “[Huckabee] certainly has the right to challenge if he chooses to. But I honestly don't know enough about the details except that I know that state parties declare elections when they have sufficient evidence as to who's won and who's lost. That's not unusual in any way.”

Attaboy, Mac. Very impressive.


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