Loren Culp is an American law enforcement officer and politician who gained prominence in Republican circles in Washington state. He served as the police chief of Republic, Washington before running for higher office.
Culp first entered politics by launching a longshot campaign for Governor of Washington in 2020. Though ultimately unsuccessful in his gubernatorial bid, Culp continued being politically active and ran for Congress in 2022. His back-to-back campaigns established Culp as a leading figure among populist conservatives in Washington.
Background and Early Life
Loren Culp was born in 1967 in Everett, Washington. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served for over 20 years. He was deployed overseas during the Gulf War.
When he concluded his military service, Culp embarked on a career in law enforcement. He worked as a police officer and narcotics detective in Bothell, Washington in the 1990s.
In 2016, Culp was appointed as the Chief of Police in Republic, Washington, a small rural town in Ferry County. He resided there with his wife and children.
Law Enforcement Career
As police chief of Republic, Culp oversaw a department with just three officers. He took a hands-on approach to the job and was directly involved in routine patrols and investigations.
Culp styled himself as an “old-school” cop who had little patience for unnecessary government bureaucracy interfering with police work. He stated that his top priorities were tackling Republic’s problems with drugs and homelessness.
Culp garnered local headlines in 2018 when he publicly vowed not to enforce a new slate of gun regulations that had been enacted by Washington state voters. This act of defiance against state authority brought Culp to the attention of conservative activists statewide.
Entry into Politics
Buoyed by support from pro-gun constituents, Loren Culp registered as a candidate for Governor of Washington in 2020. He campaigned on protecting citizens’ constitutional rights against government overreach.
Culp’s underdog campaign gradually caught on with grassroots Republicans drawn to his uncompromising stances. Though lacking conventional political experience, he emerged as an insurgent populist alternative in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
2020 Gubernatorial Campaign
Loren Culp embarked on an uphill battle to unseat Democratic incumbent Governor Jay Inslee in the 2020 election cycle. He ultimately fell short but exceeded expectations for an unknown small-town police chief.
The Republican field in the 2020 gubernatorial primary featured multiple candidates besides Culp vying for the nomination. They included:
- Joshua Freed – Bothell businessman
- Tim Eyman – Anti-tax activist
- Phil Fortunato – State senator
Culp centered his campaign on protecting citizens’ constitutional rights, cutting taxes and regulations, and reducing homelessness. His background as a defiant small-town police chief resonated with grassroots conservatives.
When primary election results were tabulated on August 4, 2020, Loren Culp pulled off a surprise second place finish with 17.4% of the vote. Incumbent Jay Inslee led the overall field with 50.1%. Culp’s unexpected success earned him a spot on the general election ballot against Inslee.
General Election Campaign
Loren Culp faced long odds taking on popular Democratic Governor Jay Inslee in the November 2020 general election. Inslee was seeking his third consecutive term as governor.
Culp focused much of his campaign messaging on Inslee’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He criticized mandatory lockdowns and mask mandates. Culp also attacked Inslee for failing to solve Seattle’s homelessness crisis and stop left-wing protesters.
However, Inslee had strong approval ratings among Washington voters for his pandemic response. He also massively out-fundraised Culp’s shoestring campaign.
When general election results were counted, Jay Inslee defeated Loren Culp by a margin of 56.5% to 43.3%. While the race was never particularly close, Culp still won over 1.7 million votes – an impressive showing for a political newcomer.
2022 Congressional Campaign
After falling short in his bid for governor, Loren Culp set his sights on a different office by running for Congress in 2022. He entered a crowded Republican primary for Washington’s 4th District but was unable to replicate his prior success.
In 2022, Culp launched a campaign for the open 4th Congressional District seat. The incumbent 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse was running for re-election.
Culp faced a slate of other Republican primary candidates including:
- Doug White – Pasco City Councilman
- Jerrod Sessler – Former NASCAR driver
- Corey Gibson – Police officer
Culp attacked Newhouse as an out-of-touch RINO (Republican In Name Only) who was insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump. However, Newhouse boasted much stronger name recognition after a decade in Congress.
When primary election results came in on August 2, 2022, Loren Culp finished in third place with just 21.6% of the vote. Doug White edged out Newhouse 25.1% to 25.5% to clinch the other general election spot. Culp’s Congressional bid fell short of expectations.
Political Views and Positions
Throughout his campaigns and time as an elected law enforcement official, Loren Culp staked out hardline conservative stances on numerous issues.
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
As a small-town police chief, Culp proclaimed himself a stalwart defender of law and order. He advocated tough-on-crime policies and opposed measures to restrict police powers.
Culp vehemently opposed Washington’s sanctuary state laws limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. He vowed to ramp up enforcement efforts against undocumented immigrants as governor.
Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Culp came out against proposed policing reforms such as banning chokeholds. He argued that additional regulations would hamstring officers and undermine public safety.
Economy and Budget
Loren Culp campaigned as an economic conservative who would slash taxes and regulations. He called for eliminating Washington’s capital gains tax and reducing the statewide sales tax.
Culp strongly opposed environmental policies like cap-and-trade schemes or carbon taxes. He argued such regulations would raise energy costs and stifle business growth.
On social issues, Loren Culp aligned with the Christian right on most stances. He proclaimed himself staunchly pro-life and called for prohibiting abortions.
Culp opposed laws barring discrimination against LGBTQ individuals on religious freedom grounds. He argued that private business owners should not be forced to violate their beliefs.
The police chief also came under scrutiny for allegedly making homophobic remarks and refusing to investigate hate crimes. Culp denied any wrongdoing.
Controversies and Scandals
Both as Republic’s police chief and during his gubernatorial campaign, Loren Culp generated a string of controversies that drew negative scrutiny.
As chief, Culp faced multiple accusations of misconduct toward suspects as well as discrimination against minority residents. Critics alleged he turned a blind eye to violent extremists within his jurisdiction.
Culp also became embroiled in several scandals during the 2020 campaign. He was criticized for spreading conspiracy theories and filing frivolous lawsuits challenging the election results.
The State Patrol investigated Culp over whether he illegally used his office to bolster his gubernatorial campaign. No criminal charges ultimately resulted from the probe.
Impact and Legacy
While he fell short in both his statewide campaigns, Loren Culp succeeded in raising his political profile and carving out an influential role in Washington’s Republican Party.
Culp became a popular figure on the GOP speaking circuit following his gubernatorial run. He was sometimes mentioned as a potential 2024 challenger to Governor Inslee prior to announcing his 2022 House campaign.
As Republic’s police chief, Culp set an example for like-minded sheriffs who have refused to enforce certain state laws and Democrat-led reforms. However, his department also attracted heavy scrutiny over its practices.
Given his relatively young age, some Washington political observers believe Culp may take another shot at a major elected office down the line if the right opportunity emerges. But his two electoral defeats showed he faces challenges expanding his appeal beyond a devoted conservative base.
Loren Culp burst onto Washington’s political scene in 2020 as an insurgent populist Republican challenging entrenched Democratic rule. Though his gubernatorial bid fell short, Culp succeeded in channeling conservative grassroots energy and carved out an influential role on the right.
How well did Loren Culp perform in his races for governor and Congress?
In the 2020 gubernatorial election, Culp lost to incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee by a margin of 56.5% to 43.3%. In the 2022 Congressional primary for WA-04, Culp finished third with just 21.6% of the vote.
What were some of Culp’s main campaign positions and promises?
Culp campaigned on protecting gun rights, cutting taxes and regulations, opposing abortion and sanctuary laws, and cracking down on homelessness. He criticized COVID restrictions imposed by Democrats.
What controversies did Culp face as police chief and candidate?
As chief, Culp faced accusations of police brutality and discrimination. In his campaigns, he was criticized for spreading conspiracy theories and filing dubious election lawsuits.
Why did Culp gain prominence despite losing his races?
Culp exceeded expectations as an underdog outsider candidate. His defiant stances appealed to populist conservatives and established him as an influential figure on the right in Washington state politics.
What’s next for Loren Culp after his 2022 primary defeat?
It’s unclear if Culp will run for office again soon. Some speculate he could be a GOP candidate for Governor or Congress again in the future if conditions seem favorable. He continues speaking around the state.