State Republican, Democratic Parties Elect New Leaders

OLYMPIA - The state's two major political parties elected new leaders Saturday.

Diane Tebelius was chosen as chairwoman of the Washington Republican Party, while former state senator and former King County Councilman Dwight Pelz was named state Democratic Party chairman.

With 113 of 117 state committee members voting in Tukwila, Tebelius received a majority of votes to defeat the party's current vice chairwoman Fredi Simpson of Wenatchee. Tebelius succeeds former party chairman Chris Vance, who earlier this month announced his resignation to pursue a better paying job in the private sector.

Details of the vote were not being released to the public, spokesman Brad Harwood said Saturday evening.

Tebelius of Bellevue has served as a Republican National committeewoman for five years. She ran for Congress in 2004 and lost to U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in the primary. She has been an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle since 1986.

Simpson was endorsed by former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, Attorney General Rob McKenna, U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings and Reichert, and former party chairman Dale Forman.

In Kent, the state Democratic Party's central committee voted 95-70 in favor of Pelz, who defeated former state Rep. Laura Ruderman to succeed Paul Berendt.

Berendt plans to retire this month after 11 years at the helm.

Pelz, 54, of Seattle, said he'll focus on re-electing Sen. Maria Cantwell and expanding upon the party's majorities in the House and Senate in Olympia.

Pelz was backed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sen. Patty Murray in his bid for the post.

Democrats enjoy a majority in the Legislature, hold the governor's mansion, control the state treasury and run the state's auditing arm. In Congress, Washington's two senators and six of its nine House members are Democrats.