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Originally published Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 2:07 PM

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Seattle boom an inconvenient truth for Republicans

All those jobs in liberal, high-tax Seattle get Republicans to thinking about the meaning of their economic policies. Not.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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In a dramatic reversal, Republicans responded to the news that Seattle has become one of the nation’s top jobs factories by openly questioning everything they’ve said over the years about job creation and how to grow the economy.

“Of all places,” said Reince Priebus, the national Republican chairman, who is leading the GOP in a soul-searching exercise.

“For years you heard the word ‘Seattle’ and the first thing you thought was: pot smokers and gays,” he said. “Well, the joke’s on us, because it turns out all those pot smokers and gays have jobs.”

A new jobs report showed Seattle businesses are on a hiring spree that has driven the city’s unemployment rate well below the rest of the state, to one of the lowest for big cities in the U.S.

The realization that neither the city’s high taxes nor its endless bureaucratic red tape seem to have dampened this explosion of capitalism at all has already begun to shake up the local political scene.

Sen. Rodney Tom, leader of a mostly GOP coalition in the state Senate, said he was mulling switching parties. Again.

“The whole point of joining with Republicans was to fight Seattle and its values,” Tom said at a press availability. “But while I’m fighting Seattle, businesses are moving there. It doesn’t make any sense.”

At his side was Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, who made news earlier this year for trying to cancel a Seattle sick-leave policy that Republicans had dubbed a “job-killing nightmare.”

He announced that due to Seattle’s job-creation record, he had reworked his bill so it would extend Seattle’s policies to the rest of the state instead.

“Where’s the nightmare? The unemployment rate in Seattle is now 8 points better than where I live, in Lewis County,” Braun said. “You’d have to be ideologically blind not to see they must be doing something right.”

GOP leaders confessed that their mantra that business is stifled by high taxes and big government is so confounded by the jobs boom in high-tax, big-government Seattle that it’s only prudent they now re-examine those beliefs.

“We’re going to send some fact-finding missions into the city,” said Kirby Wilbur, state GOP chairman. “It’s possible all these years we were wrong.”

Party leaders plan to visit Seattle businesses to ask how it is they keep making money, even with government circled around their midsections like a famished python. The group also plans a trip to Seattle City Hall, where it is believed no one in the GOP has set foot since the late 1970s.

“It’s Nixon to China,” Wilbur allowed.

Wilbur had asked the GOP’s former gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna to help, but after losing the election, McKenna dropped out of politics and got a private-sector job instead. In downtown Seattle.

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” McKenna said.

OK, none of that happened. I imagined it. Well, not all. The part about how Seattle with all its taxes and rules and supposedly socialistic groupthink is also one of the hottest spots for capitalism and jobs in the nation?

That’s true. Inconvenient to the politics of the day. But true.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com

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