By Gabe Stutman / Kitsap Daily News
BREMERTON — Republican Susan Hutchison was in Kitsap County rousing support for her U.S. Senate campaign and raising funds at the 19th Hole Bar and Grill in Bremerton Tuesday.
Though trailing by 14 percentage points according to the latest Elway poll, Hutchison sought to capitalize on what she said was a successful debate against the three-term incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) on Oct. 8.
Hutchison faces an uphill battle with less than three weeks to go until Election Day. Cantwell has raised more than $11 million according to the latest figures from the Federal Election Commission, with about $4.8 million remaining in her war chest. Hutchison, a former party leader as chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party and a well-known 20-year television news anchor for KIRO-TV, has raised about $1.3 million with $640,000 left to spend, FEC reports show.
At the crowded event Tuesday evening, Hutchison was received warmly by Kitsap County voters who nursed glasses of wine and beer, and ate bar food during the dinner hour. She articulated a conservative platform while criticizing Democrats in the Senate including her opponent Cantwell, and delivered a full-throated support of President Donald Trump.
Hutchison’s biggest applause came when she expressed support for the president’s policies on battling ISIS and immigration. “Make America Great Again” hats were scattered in the audience.
“It’s when politicians run the wars that they drag on for years,” said Hutchison, whose father was a U.S. Air Force pilot and whose son is in the Marines. She said Trump and General James Mattis had convincingly beaten back terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
“Nobody’s talking about ISIS anymore, or Al Qaeda,” she said, to hearty applause.
Citing what she called a porous southern border and lax immigration laws, Hutchison said she supports Trump’s major campaign promise.
“I support a wall in whatever form it needs to take,” she said, to even greater applause.
“Trump has kept his promises, and he’s still got two years to go,” she said.
“Or six,” she added.
Hutchison, who expressed support for limited government and no new taxes, criticized Democrats in the state of Washington and on the national stage.
She said Democratic leadership in Seattle had led to an increase in crime and drugs.
And she was dismayed at the behavior of Democratic senators during the nomination process of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, saying they “basically destroyed two people.”
Hutchison, who has said she experienced sexual harassment while working in the television news business in the 1980s and ‘90s, accused the Democrats of publicizing the name of Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor who said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
“What we witnessed during the Kavanaugh hearing was one of the saddest things in recent history,” she said. “The outcome made a big statement to Democrats that we won’t tolerate this.”
Russ Robison, an attendee who owns a plumbing business and is a Hutchison supporter, said he appreciates her military background.
“She’s a disciplined human,” he said. “A solid person.”
In an interview following the event, Hutchison tempered her support for the president somewhat, while maintaining support for his policies: “I don’t like what he says, but I like what he does,” she said, quoting a friend she said she agreed with. “Or I love what he does as a matter of fact.”
The transcript of the interview is below, edited slightly for clarity and concision:
Let me ask, journalist to journalist. Obviously you have been a supporter of the president. He has not always been kind to journalists, which is an understatement.
Yeah, the fake news thing?
Fake news, and actually today it was announced that the PEN America foundation is suing him for potentially suppressing journalists through attacking Jeff Bezos and blocking a merger.
I don’t know about that.
Does it concern you when he attacks not journalists specifically or articles specifically, but the press as whole?
Yeah. The other day at a board meeting, I said I totally understand when you’re confronted with a reporter who’s supposed to be a general assignment — or a straight, objective reporter — and you can feel how biased they are against not just you, but biased in a political way. So I totally understand that. And he doesn’t hesitate to call that out.
But the broad-brush is hard, because I know so many great journalists, and people who are really working hard to do the best job. When I was in the business we didn’t have nearly the amount of commentary that they have nowadays. When it’s labeled commentary, that’s great.
We really strived to be objective. And I know an awful lot of journalists who do strive to be objective and unbiased in their reporting, and I really respect that. I have a lot of colleagues from the good old days, so absolutely.
What a lot of people have to do is — a friend of mine said to me — “I don’t like what he says, but I like what he does.” Or I love what he does as a matter of fact. For me, that’s kind of where I am. His style is nothing like mine, as you can tell.
I really appreciate how he’s kept his promises to do things — everything from moving the capital of Israel to Jerusalem, to the Supreme Court nominees being Constitutionalists, to the tax cuts and jobs bill and improving the economy, to a stronger military — all of those things are things I want for this country, so I’m real pleased with policy.
But I agree with you — I wish he would do a lot less of the “fake news” stuff.
In terms of the direction of the Republican party — you’re very influential in the party. You’ve chaired the Washington State Republican Party. What kind of Republican would you say you are — if you had to pick between Trump, the late John McCain or let’s say Mitt Romney.
Well, I supported them all when they ran for office. I have a special place in my heart for John McCain because of his years in the POW camp and how courageous he was. At the same time, I thought Mitt Romney would be a breath of fresh air — bringing in his business acumen and his experience.
But I think what happened with Donald Trump — and I certainly did not see him coming at all, from the very beginning, I didn’t think he would get the nomination — but I began to understand as time went on, as I would hear from people like the folks in that room who really wanted to win. And they didn’t feel anybody else wanted to win. They had already seen Romney sort of give it up, and they wanted somebody who had the fighting spirit in them. And he showed them that he was a fighter, for sure.
He gained more support as the months went on. I had an office of nine people — all nine of us supported somebody different. And not one of them was Trump. And so as people would drop out of the race, folks had to find a different person to support. So we got a kick out of that. My office is the GOP office, but the fact that they all supported somebody different was really fun for us. ‘So why do you like Rubio?’ ‘Why do you like Christie?’ It was that kind of thing.
Let’s think about an upcoming presidential election. Are there any Democrats who worry you, who could beat Donald Trump in 2020?
Not at all. None. I don’t see it. But it doesn’t mean they’re not there.
But right now the frontrunners — Biden, no. Elizabeth Warren, no. Sanders, no. Somebody actually came up to me out there and said, “I was a Bernie supporter and I’ve converted to you.”
This story originally appeared in the Kitsap Daily News, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.