Where have all the "Evans Republicans" gone? They're Democrats. The state GOP's center is not holding. Not only are traditional Republican strongholds, like Seattle's Eastside suburbs, turning from Red to Blue, but the center of gravity in state politics has moved decisively. It's likely to be a long-term shift. That's because the business community is largely aligned with the Democratic party and that's where the deals will be made. At least so says the newly minted Democrat centrist Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island, whose defection from the GOP ranks earlier this month raised eyebrows and alarms in Republican circles. The pro-choice, moderate legislator Jarrett has long been the centrist face of the GOP in Olympia and greater Seattle. But he increasingly seemed to feel out of step with his own party's leadership. I exchanged emails with then-Republican Jarrett last spring while writing an article about the loss of Eastside GOP state representative Toby Nixon, a libertarian conservative who did not always follow the party line. Jarrett worried about the consequences of a shrinking "big tent" for the party: Our ability to maintain a stable democratic government requires that both parties have a robust, centrist core. I think we've seen the results of polarization and [Democrat House Speaker] Frank Chopp has been much more successful at building that centrist core. I contacted Jarrett again after his announced party switch to find out how he felt about the state of democracy now that he had thrown in the towel on the GOP's centrism. He replied: I've concluded, I guess, that the governing coalition in this state will be formed within the Democratic Party. This is unfortunate in the sense that a robust two party system provides a discipline on the system. But, the reality is that the decisions about the future of the state, the balance between labor and business, the environment, etc. will be worked out in the Democratic Party. Candidates who'd run as "Evans Republicans" in the past are running as Democrats today (e.g., Judy Clibborn [D-Kirkland], Ross Hunter [D-Medina], Mark Ericks [D-Bothell] and many more). The challenges for the state GOP are outlined in a couple of recent stories. The Seattle Times has an overview. The bleak picture for Republicans in the legislature in 2008 is due to a number of factors: the unpopularity of George W. Bush, scandals involving GOP legislators, and the Frank Chopp factor, namely Chopp's prowess at finding strong, centrist candidates in swing districts. The result is what former state GOP chair and sometime Crosscut contributor Chris Vance describes as a "rout." The Democrats, he says, "have proven they can win anywhere." This has left GOP leaders scrambling to catch up while facing more likely losses in 2008. How to claim some shred of victory? Says House Republican leader Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis)" "The best we can hope for is that we put our solutions out. They steal the ideas and run them as Democratic ones, and we should all be happy." In other words, the best they can do is sit back and allow the Frank Chopp strategy to work. Such spin can't begin to cover the defeatism reflected in that quote. No wonder Jarrett jumped ship. Why stay in a party whose best hope is to have its ideas "stolen" instead of joining the party that's making the deals and getting the credit? Adding to Republican woes is funding. As the Democrats increase the number of incumbents, they extend their advantage since incumbents are usually more successful at raising money and have a higher winning percentage. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer takes a look at where donations from high-tech PACs are going this election cycle, and sees a decided shift to Democrats for companies like Microsoft, Amazon and T-Mobile. That's partly because the Democrats are in control in Congress and Olympia. But more worrisome for the GOP is the fact that the money now aligns with the politics of the employees of these types of companies. According to Massie Ritsch of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics: Calling Western Washington's political donors "a pretty deep shade of blue" for their support of Democrats, Ritsch said the change in power is giving liberals a chance to use the PACs in a more partisan way than they could when Republicans ruled the roost. "For a lot of companies the change in power has allowed them to show their true colors. ... It's an opportunity to support politicians whom the employees agree with ideologically," he said. And Ginny Terzano of Microsoft's Washington, DC legislative office: "We give to the candidates who care about the same issues we care about," said Ginny Terzano, citing trade, immigration reform, intellectual property and "freedom to innovate" as the company's priorities. She agreed that her industry has increased support for Democrats, but maintained that supporting Democrats' allies is more than just power politics. "Microsoft's giving philosophy centers around the idea that we support the candidates who work hard on the issues Microsoft cares about," she said. This all tends to back-up the Jarrett conclusion: the pro-business centrism taking hold in the Democratic party is where the action--and the money--is. It aligns the interests of the region's cutting edge industries as well as those of their urban and suburban-based employees. This makes for a powerful combination that heals the traditional split between labor and management who often have divided loyalties between parties. The effect is marginalizing the GOP and making the Democrats the party of big business. It's hard to see how this trend can be reversed in the short-term, sans ground-shaking events like a major scandal or disaster. The state is more liberal than the Republican base and Blue areas (cities and burbs) are the ones that are growing. Our populist impulses seem to be satisfied by the occasional Tim Eyman anti-tax initiative. On the Democratic side, some liberals are impatient with what they see as centrist caution holding back Gregoire and Chopp who are accused of putting of real progressive agenda items on hold until "after the next election." But the power of pragmatism seems to be holding sway for now. There's really only one party for centrists to be in these days, and both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree which one that is.