EVERETT — The Snohomish County Republican Party is backing Rep. Robert Sutherland for re-election, a move that could bolster the conservative firebrand’s efforts to repel an intra-party challenge from Snohomish County Councilmember Sam Low.
Sutherland, who is seeking a third term representing the 39th Legislative District, is known well for rejecting COVID vaccine mandates, spreading false election fraud claims and taking on Democrats and Republicans with equal fervor. He has won his two elections handily.
He snagged the endorsement of the district’s precinct committee officers early in the year. That earned him standing as the county party’s choice in the Aug. 2 primary where he faces Low, and Democrats Claus Joens and Karl de Jong.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring 38th District, Republican activists backed Bernard Moody over Anita Azariah as the Everett residents compete in August for a shot at facing state Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, this fall. As a result, Moody is the party’s preferred candidate in that race.
Azariah, the vice-chair of the county party, is supported by several state lawmakers, including the leader of the Senate Republican caucus. Her recent move to the district — she re-registered as an Everett voter in February — didn’t sit well with precinct officers who sided with Moody, who lost to Robinson in 2020.
Sutherland and Moody can cite the endorsements on mailers, in ads and in their voter pamphlet statements. It’s unclear how much value that will bring to either, but it could sway undecided Republican voters unfamiliar with the candidates.
The two men also may get a financial contribution and other campaign assistance from the party. So too may their GOP opponents.
“While we do endorsements, we support all the (Republican) candidates,” said Doug Roulstone, chair of the county party. “We provide canvassers to everybody. If they need volunteers we look for them.”
The decision in the 39th District might seem surprising as the Republican stronghold in east Snohomish County got a makeover with redistricting.
New maps moved Lake Stevens out of the 44th District and into the 39th. Monroe, Gold Bar and much of Sultan got shifted out of the 39th and into the 12th. As a result, the current GOP electorate is viewed by party leaders as more moderate.
Low, of Lake Stevens, decided to challenge the incumbent when the new lines came out. Sutherland, of Granite Falls, denounced the move and and has been more sharply critical of his Republican opponent than of Joens of Marblemount or de Jong of Sedro Woolley.
Sutherland sought the precinct committee officers’ endorsement. Low did not — and did not say why.
That made it an easy decision.
“People do like (Sutherland). He’s an interesting character,” said Bob Hagglund, chair of the district’s Republican committee. “People like the fact that he is willing to do what he says he’s going to do. That’s not normally what politicians do.”
Hagglund said the endorsement is important because it means Republicans leading the legislative district and Snohomish County operations want to see the incumbent returned to office.
Low said he isn’t concerned. He said he garnered backing from a host of mayors of cities in the district, along with fellow County Council member Nate Nehring. He has outraised Sutherland by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. Low said that also demonstrates the breadth of his support.
“It’s the voters who are going to choose. I think they’ll look at the resume of all four of us,” he said. “I don’t think they’re concerned who the party insiders want.”
A different dynamic played out in the 38th District.
Azariah oversees the county party’s outreach committee. She has become one of GOP’s better recognized names in the community through her organizing of rallies against mask and vaccine mandates, and in support of law enforcement.
Azariah also goes by Anita Shad, and under that name ran unsuccessfully for hospital commissioner in November. At that time, she lived in Lynnwood, according to her voter registration records. Lynnwood is not in the 38th District.
She re-registered at an Everett address in February, making her eligible to run for the Senate seat. She got off to a fast start, snagging support from Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley and Nate Nehring. She has raised nearly $28,000 — eight times Moody’s total.
Moody, a career law enforcement officer, said only two endorsements really matter.
“One is the voter,” he said. “The other is who is contributing to the campaign.”
John Thaler-Sanborn, chair of the legislative district Republican group, said both candidates are going to get plenty of help from Republicans in the district. An endorsement doesn’t prevent that.
What it does, he said, is let voters know “that we think this is probably the best candidate for this seat we have in our district.”
Primary ballots went out Friday to overseas and military voters. They will be mailed to the rest of the electorate July 14.