Politics & Government

Chris Vance, ex-GOP chairman, announces 2016 bid for Patty Murray seat

Chris Vance
Chris Vance Courtesy

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has a Republican challenger in her 2016 bid for a fifth term.

Former state Republican Party chairman Chris Vance of Auburn announced a run for Senate on Tuesday, promising to run a campaign based on policy with “no cheesy, Hollywood-style attack ads.”

He promptly unveiled a website chock full of detailed policy proposals, many adopted from the recommendations of a bipartisan commission on the national debt, which Vance says is unsustainably high. Those prescriptions include a simpler tax code and changes to Medicare and Social Security that would require higher-income earners to contribute more and raise the ages of eligibility.

In his announcement, Vance said such problems could be solved if Republicans and Democrats would work together, and he decried the gridlock and “dysfunction” in Congress.

“And the truth is, after 24 years in the Senate, Patty Murray is part of the problem,” Vance said in a campaign video.

But Vance has also been quoted calling Democrat Murray “an incredibly skilled lawmaker,” as state Democrats were quick to point out in a statement Tuesday. Murray in recent years has helped broker prominent deals with Republicans on the budget and education.

Vance, 53, is a former King County councilman and state representative. He served as GOP chairman from 2001 to 2006, a period that included the closest gubernatorial race in U.S. history, the contentious 2004 contest between Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi.

Democrats rely on that history to paint him as “a professional partisan,” as state Democratic Party chairman Jaxon Ravens said in a statement Tuesday.

More recently, Vance has been a consultant to Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.

Murray, elected in 1992 as an outsider, has ascended to leadership among Senate Democrats and a series of powerful committee roles. She last won re-election in 2010 by beating Rossi 52 percent to 48 percent in a tough year nationally for Democrats.

Murray had $3.8 million in her campaign bank account with more than a year left before the 2016 election.

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