YAKIMA, Wash. — State Attorney General Rob McKenna expects to join a private law firm after he leaves office in January, but the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate plans to remain engaged in politics and has some advice for the Republican Party, which was battered in the presidential election.
McKenna, on a statewide farewell tour of his satellite offices and newspaper editorial boards, said Wednesday he plans to volunteer for a GOP presidential candidate who understands the national party must rebrand itself or risk being doomed to “irrelevance.”
He told the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board the party has to find ways to broaden its appeal to communities of color, women and young voters. The party also needs to mirror the winning re-election campaign of President Barack Obama in the use of data to identify voters and mobilize to get those voters to the polls.
“The Republican Party better figure out how to be consistently competitive,” he said.
McKenna, who lost to Democratic candidate Jay Inslee last month by fewer than 100,000 votes out of more than three million cast, said there are a number of potential GOP presidential candidates who understand the need to move the party and can implement the changes.
He mentioned former Florida Gov, Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey among those for whom he would volunteer his time.
McKenna, 50, has spent eight years as the state’s top attorney. In that time, his office achieved settlements in cases involving mortgage lending practices and obtained loan modifications for homeowners. He also touted his work on battling illegal drug use, including methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse.
He said the inability to win legislative approval for comprehensive programs to combat gang activity is one of his disappointments. But he said Yakima County and its cities have been on the leading edge of anti-gang activity.
“This county is farther ahead than any other place to address gang violence comprehensively,” McKenna said, pointing to county-wide efforts to provide alternative activities for at-risk youth, involvement by community groups, and effective law enforcement.
As for his own future in politics, McKenna said it is too early to say whether he might make another run for governor.
“I want to take a break from public service,” he said.