‘We’re making history.’ Washington GOP endorses MAGA candidate Semi Bird for governor

By: Scott Greenstone, KUOW

Former Richland school board member Semi Bird was endorsed by a majority of the roughly 1,800 delegates gathered in Spokane for the Washington State Republican Party convention Saturday.

“We will come together, we will unite,” Bird told a roaring crowd. “We will celebrate and support one another because we have the people’s business at hand: saving Washington state and making Washington state great again.”

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Bird is a former Richland school board member who voted to repeal Covid mask mandates in 2021 before he was recalled last year.

He’s controversial even among Republicans.

On Friday, there was a move from the party’s candidate committee to disqualify him for not disclosing financial crimes he committed 30 years ago, but the majority of delegates overturned that decision in a raucous display of boos and chants of “bullshit.”

Before the vote, former Congressman Dave Reichert, who’s far ahead of Bird in polls and fundraising, withdrew from the endorsement process. Reichert, who plans to remain in the race, said in a phone interview Sunday that the rules around endorsement disqualification kept changing.

“I just became disheartened in the disjointed party factions and just decided it wasn’t worth going through a deceptive process,” Reichert said. “And I really don’t need their endorsement.”

Jim Walsh, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, disputed that characterization.

“We didn’t change rules, other than the normal. I mean, there are often amendments to rules in any convention,” Walsh said Friday. “This is a matter of perspective. This is the reason why some people don’t like real conventions, is ‘cause they’re unpredictable.”

This is the first convention of its kind for Republicans since the state adopted a system where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, win the August primary. It was an effort to unify the party early and avoid many Republican candidates splintering the vote so much that only Democrats advance to the general election.

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Reichert and Bird are likely to be the two most prominent Republican names on the ballot in the August primary, along with two Democrats – Attorney General Bob Ferguson and state Sen. Mark Mullet. A host of lesser-known candidates are also running, and more may enter the race before the May 10 filing deadline.

“We’re making history,” Bird told reporters after the endorsement vote Saturday. “The first Black American ever endorsed by the Washington state Republican Party for the candidacy of governor in Washington state history. Please print that. Please report that.”