GOP drops Chapman from party

The letter begins with a "thank you" but ends with a decision barring the highest-ranking elected official in the county from any support from his political party.

Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles, chairman of the Clallam County board of commissioners, received a letter last week from the Clallam County Republican Party stating he would not have GOP support for his campaigns over the next couple of years.

"We must inform you that for a two-year period you are barred from holding yourself as a Republican with any standing," reads the letter from the party's executive board, signed by vice chairman David Cummins. "By publicly endorsing a candidate of the other party when the Republicans already had an endorsed and financially supported candidate, you have broken the bylaws of the party."

In the summer of 2007, Chapman publicly endorsed incumbent Democrat Steve Tharinger after _Tharinger announced his candidacy for re-election to the commission, which, according to Cummins, was a breach of the local chapter's bylaws.

"Mike is a good candidate and this decision has nothing to do with his performance but everything to do with him breaking the bylaw," Cummins said Feb. 25. "We were flabbergasted that he supported Tharinger."

Chapman points out that he made the endorsement before Tharinger's former challenger, Bob Forde, filed for candidacy. Tharinger won the 2007 election, defeating the Sequim Republican whose wife, Sue Forde, chairs the Clallam County Republican Party and who also ran against Tharinger five years ago.

"I endorsed Steve (Tharinger) long before there was a Republican candidate for the office," Chapman said. "In fact, the filing period closed before there was a Republican candidate. Bob Forde filed a week late to run for the position, which was allowed because no one else filed."

Cummins said if Chapman feels he was not in breach of the bylaws, he has the ability to appeal the GOP executive committee's decision, something Chapman said he should have been able to do when the decision was made.

"Do 10 people really speak for all Republicans who have supported me in the past?" Chapman asked. "This seems like a small representation, something reminiscent of a smoke-filled room where decisions are made without even contacting those involved."

Chapman said he's not inclined to appeal the decision but the option is one of many he will be considering while ramping up for a possible candidacy for re-election this year.

"I'm still a Republican and I endorse Republican candidates like John McCain for president," Chapman said. "I guess what this committee is asking me to do is leave the local chapter on one minor, questionable technicality."

Chapman still is able to run as a Republican but has no access to party help, financial assistance, his party e-mail account, bulk mail services or office space. Chapman also is restricted from attending party meetings, conventions, events, fundraising activities and even caucuses, where if he ran as a Republican he wouldn't be able to participate.

"At this point, obviously I won't be the Clallam GOP's official candidate, so I'll have to wait and see who they choose and what their platform is," Chapman said. "Also, I'll likely wait for the Supreme Court ruling on our Top Two initiative."

The state passed a Top Two initiative that would allow the top two ranking candidates from a primary to move forward to the general election regardless of party. The initiative would allow voters to select their favorite candidate for office in the primary without having to vote solely Republican or Democrat for every other partisan position up for election, which is the current method.

The initiative was challenged in court, however, and the ruling is likely to influence Chapman's intentions to run for re-election.

Port Angeles Republican Terry Roth has indicated interest in running for Chapman's seat.

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