The Libertarian Party had argued that the GOP should now be considered a minor party because it didn't officially nominate a U.S. Senate candidate in 2010 the only statewide race on the ballot that year. A state law cited in the case defines major parties as those that receive 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race during a November general election in even years.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee determined that while Republicans didn't officially nominate someone at their state convention, the party did take the proper steps to choose Dino Rossi as their candidate during a meeting after the state's primary. Rossi went on to get 48 percent of the vote in the November election.
John Mills, an attorney who handled the case for the Libertarian Party, said he was disappointed by the result but not surprised
"There are different rules for different people," Mills said after the hearing. "That's a reality we have to live with."
Mills said an appeal was unlikely.
Minor party candidates can get on the presidential ballot by holding a nominating convention within the state and collecting at least 1,000 qualifying signatures. Mills said Thursday's ruling could open a new and potentially awkward way for minor parties to qualify.
Mills suggested that leadership of minor parties could now quietly nominate Romney or President Barack Obama, a Democrat, this year and then declare themselves major parties after the election because their chosen candidate got at least 5 percent of the vote.
That possibility led to an amusing exchange between Mills and Republican attorney Rob Maguire after the hearing.
"Just make sure you nominate Romney," Maguire told Mills.
Mills laughed, then responded: "I'll take that under advisement."