The Republican Liberty Caucus elected a Yakima woman as its leader Saturday, formalizing a position she had filled on an ad hoc basis since last year.
The statewide caucus of the Republican Party, which also passed its official bylaws and elected eight other board members, voted Sandra Belzer-Brendale state chairwoman. The longtime conservative activist had been serving in that capacity already and she presided over the daylong meeting of the politically conservative group at the Howard Johnson hotel in Yakima.
The business part of the caucus convention, which began with an informal “Liberty on the Rocks” gathering in the hotel lounge Friday and concludes today with a brunch, was primarily about formally adopting bylaws and electing leadership — “dotting i’s and crossing t’s,” as Belzer-Brendale put it. The event attracted about 75 participants and came a couple of months after a February kickoff that brought more than 160 conservative Republicans to the same hotel.
That meeting was about spreading the right-of-mainstream-Republican political message of the group — limited government, civil liberties and minimal taxation. It galvanized a group that felt abandoned by the Republican Party following the 2012 presidential election, Belzer-Brendale said.
“Washington, which chartered its first chapter in Yakima Sept. 15 and had about 25 (dues-paying) members at that time, now has close to 300,” she said. “That is a remarkable pace.”
This gathering, on Saturday at least, was more about nitty-gritty rules. The bylaws passed by the group were necessarily heavy on procedure and light on political philosophy, though there were a few passages that addressed the group’s core beliefs. A section on candidate endorsements, for instance, says: “Preference shall be granted to any candidate who has signed the ‘Liberty Compact’ of the caucus or who has been rated as ‘libertarian’ in the ‘liberty index’ of the caucus.”
The most spirited debate in the first few hours of the business meeting had to do with whether to pass the bylaws in their entirety or to address each article individually. Those who favored the former saw it as a matter of efficiency. Those who favored the latter spoke of how Republican Party leadership on the county level has pushed procedures without discussion and didn’t want to see that happen with the Liberty Caucus. Ultimately, the latter camp won and the meeting trudged forward.
By the end of Saturday, however, the group had dotted all of its i’s and crossed all of the t’s it set out to. In addition to Belzer-Brendale as chairwoman, Matt Dubin of King County was elected vice-chairman, Evangie Levine of Clallam County, secretary; Dana Jacobson of Yakima County, as treasurer. It also elected five at-large board members: Pam Leslie of Okanogan County, John Christina of Spokane County, Tony Stephens of Kitsap County, Michele St. Pierre of Okanogan County and James Caswell of Pierce County.
The group also elected 46 delegates to the national Republican Liberty Caucus convention in Austin, Texas, from May 10-12.