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Updated Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 09:17 AM

State GOP Chairman rips Koster campaign as "horrible"

By Jim Brunner
The Seattle Times

Post updated at 2:09 p.m. with comment from Koster campaign manager Larry Stickney.

Finger pointing has erupted in the Republican Party over John Koster's loss to Democrat Suzan DelBene in the 1st Congressional District.

Trailing 47-53 percent, Koster announced he'd concede the race Friday. But in a letter to supporters, he took shots at national and state Republican leaders for not helping him enough.

"Sadly, and for reasons untold, neither the National Republican Congressional Committee nor the Washington State Republican Party stepped up to provide us with anything more than token support. To be frank, we were on our own, yet thanks to people such as you, we nearly overcame the odds," Koster wrote.

That enraged state Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur, who called Koster's assessment hogwash.

"They simply ran a horrible campaign, and they're blaming it on us," said Wilbur, who put much of the blame on Koster's campaign manager, Larry Stickney.

Wilbur said the Koster campaign didn't get more help, because it failed to meet targets set out by the NRCC, which had to decide where to divvy up its money among Republican Congressional candidates nationally. Although Koster was named to the NRCC's "Young Guns" program, he did not receive cash to buy the TV advertising needed to compete with DelBene.

"The NRCC wanted to work with them, wanted to help them, wanted to give them money - they didn't meet any of the marks," Wilbur said, adding the campaign also resisted advice from the state party.

Wilbur said the tension between the Koster campaign and the NRCC was building since at least the summer. On a conference call in July, Wilbur said he heard Stickney accuse a top NRCC operative of not liking the Koster campaign, because the operative was a "liberal."

In an email, Stickney disputed Wilbur's account of the campaign, saying Koster had met very rigorous standards to be named to the NRCC "Young Guns" program. Yet the party still did not come through with the help needed.

"The NRCC as well as the WSRP simply chose to not weigh into our campaign to a degree that would impact our race in a meaningful way… and the bottom line is that we lost because we were outspent 5 – 1," Stickney wrote.

It's not clear whether more cash or a better-run campaign would have pushed Koster over the top. The 1st District was redrawn last year to be the state's only true swing district - equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. In other words, a district likely to favor a political centrist.

But Koster, a Snohomish County Council member, is a longtime social conservative who embraced the tea party movement and joined other national Republicans in making controversial comments about rape and abortion.


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