Steve Stuart Shows How Cronyism is Supposed to Work

Steve Stuart

Recently, a local politician was appointed by his political allies to a high-paying administrative position for which he had only marginal qualifications outside of his political experience. It has been rumored for some time that this politician, who is notorious for petulant and childish behavior while serving in his capacity as an elected official, would not run for reelection because over the last decade he has made a lot of enemies and with many years worth of baggage, he would have a difficult time mustering up the necessary support from the general population to win against a strong challenger. So rather than face large groups of demonstrators and a very negative campaign, this fellow has chosen to rely on the kindness of his friends and take one of those fat government gigs that seem perpetually to await ex-politicians who are being put out to pasture.

No, I am not talking about Don Benton. This time, it’s Clark County Commissioner and CRC proponent Steve Stuart who has availed himself of the privileges associated with government, and is now the new Ridgefield City Manager at a salary range of between $105,000 and $125,000 annually. Why is he different than Don Benton, whose appointment to a county job with almost an identical salary drew the ire of so many sanctimonious Democrats only 10 months ago? Why, because he went through a ‘normal hiring process’ of course. Unlike the evil Benton hiring, in this case everyone can feel good that Stuart was chosen as the best candidate from among a field of qualified applicants, and those other applicants can also feel good that they left whatever they were doing and spent all of those hours to go through the interviewing process, only to wind up not getting the job. They lost fair and square, and that’s all that matters, right?

Most people see this for what it is: yet another blatant example of political cronyism. The major difference is that the Democrats do it better. They line all levels of administration with sympathizers and make sure that their friends are the gatekeepers in the ‘normal hiring process’ who can ensure the desired result. They are experts in the art of government bureaucracy, and of putting a galvanized public face on their decisions. David Madore, despite his vast business experience in the private sector, had no chance to come out looking good in this environment. The gatekeepers were against him and anyone he might have wanted to hire as an administrator. This is why, although I disagreed with the decision to appoint Benton, I find the objections that the hire was made unfairly because the gatekeepers were bypassed to be as laughable as the assertions today that Stuart was hired via a fair process. I doubt that many people are fooled by the attempt to legitimize what amounts to a backroom deal between C-Tran committee buddies. The only question going forward is how in the world any of the local lefties are going to be able to continue using Benton’s hire as a rallying cry, now that one of their own just executed the exact same maneuver.

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CCRP Elections: Kenny Smith and Brenda Poletti Prevail

February 12, 2014 2 comments

Last night, the Clark County Republican Party held a special election to replace Lynda Wilson and Steve Nelson for their Chairman and Vice-Chairman.  In the chairman race, Kenny Smith, the current 18th Legislative District Chair, was opposed by Thomas Hann, a former candidate for freeholder in last November’s election. The Vice-Chairman race featured current board member Brenda Poletti and Tani Zarelli, the wife of former LD 18 State Senator Joe Zarelli.

Hann is well known in the party, having been on the executive board with Brandon Vick during the last presidential election cycle and again under Stephanie McClintock’s short tenure as party chairwoman, where he served under the title ‘Political Director’. He has also recently been on the board of the local chapter of ‘We the People’, although it is unclear whether this group is still operating, having apparently disbanded for lack of participation shortly after Lynda Wilson and Steve Nelson left to head up the CCRP.

Leading up to the election, it had been rumored that Jaime Herrera’s District Director, Ryan Hart, was searching frantically for an establishment-friendly candidate to replace Lynda Wilson, making inquries about current PCO lists and contact information. Given the CCRP executive board’s open letter in October chiding Herrera for her willingness to vote against the majority of Republicans and raise the debt ceiling yet again, Team Herrera apparently sensed in Wilson’s departure an opportunity to realign the board in their own image. Phone calls went all over the county asking PCOs who had not been to a meeting since 2012 to show up and vote for the Hann/Zarelli slate in order to achieve ‘Party Unity’. For some reason, ‘Party Unity’ always seems to involve shutting out Liberty folks and letting the Establishment moderates take control of stuff.

Some observations from a very interesting evening:

1. In his speech, Tom Hann spoke about how the recent city council results were ‘unacceptable’, a common sentiment among Republicans, and one that those who are no longer in control of the party have used to criticize the current board. On the other hand, Tani Zarelli told anyone who would listen that the local Republican party should stay completely out of nonpartisan races. Her nominator, Micheline Doan, happily accepted $500 from the local party in her failed bid for Vancouver City Council. The impression from this observer was that perhaps Hann and Zarelli were not completely on the same page in terms of approach or leadership philosophy.

2. Interesting to see the stark contrast in speeches. Tani Zarelli dropped the names of as many local luminaries as possible in her five allotted minutes, even letting the audience know that she used to live next to Linda Smith. She also mentioned having met Kings in Israel who think that the Republican party is all screwed up. She referred to her own strategic abilities, having worked on campaigns for her husband and others. Brenda Poletti, on the other hand, spoke primarily about her work at the grass roots level, how her team had vastly increased the number of convention delegates and PCOs in the county in the last two years, which in turn led to more participation and higher returns at the Lincoln Day Dinner and other fundraisers, and more candidates from among the PCO ranks than had been seen in previous elections, even citing a quote from the Columbian to that effect. Both spoke about bringing people together and the important work that PCOs had to do, but Brenda underscored developing relationships with PCOs and other volunteers and keeping them involved, and Tani focused more on ‘getting into the minds of legislators and how they operate’. The clear difference between the ‘Top-Down’ and ‘Bottom-Up’ models was made readily manifest. Unfortunately for Tani, over half the voting body at the meeting were PCO Liberty Alliance participants who had campaigned for months on the importance of giving power to the PCOs.

3. The vote totals were slightly closer in this election than at the Organization meeting, both races tallying an 84-55 vote. The Wilson and Nelson team prevailed against Dan Barnes and Stephanie McClintock by a margin of 102-59. The small difference may be attributed to more aggressive phone calling by Hart, Barnes, and Co. this time around (even Sheriff Gary Lucas showed up for the first time since he was elected PCO), as well as the choice of a bonafide Tea Party candidate to run against a former leader in the Ron Paul presidential campaign. Ultimately, the team that had actually spent the hours working with the PCOs prevailed over the team that hadn’t. A great example of the advantage of following a grass-roots-oriented model.

4. Contrary to the opinions expressed elsewhere these elections did not fundamentally change the orientation of the board, since both of the victors were already board members, and each board member only gets one vote. Based on their speeches, I suspect that Hann and Zarelli themselves were unaware that even had they won, they would not have controlled the direction of the executive board, any more than Steve Stuart controlled the County Commissioner board as the minority vote. The openings that have now been created for LD 18 and LD 49 chairs will be more significant in that regard, but again, the PCOs in those districts are likely to choose someone who has put in some time with them rather than taking on a plant from Team Herrera. The bottom line is that if you like the direction that the old board was going in, there isn’t likely to be much change. The idea that has been advanced by local bloggers that somehow Lynda and Steve were like Nehemiah, building the wall with one hand and warding off the Samaritan ‘Paulbots’ on the board with the other is patently ridiculous. This board was elected together for a common goal. They ran as a team, supported each other, and that support continues even as Lynda leaves, as evidenced by her enthusiastic nomination speech on Brenda Poletti’s behalf at last night’s election. There is no ‘grand Paulbot conspiracy’, Lew.

Ultimately, the election was good for the party as it provided legitimacy to the newly elected officers, and the comfortable margin of victory will also help Kenny and Brenda move forward with the clear will of the PCOs behind them. As Kenny pointed out in his speech, the term before the next election is only 11 months long, and they will be a busy 11 months that should pass by quickly. Godspeed to the new board, and to Lynda Wilson as she attempts to gain a seat that has been in Democrat hands since 2008.

Lew Waters appears to have taken the post down in which he bemoaned the fact that a former Ron Paul supporter was now the party chairman shortly after I linked it. Apologies for the dead link. The irrational hatred of Liberty supporters continues…

***EDIT #2***
…And now the post is back up again.

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Kenny Smith to Run for CCRP Chairman

January 31, 2014 2 comments
Kenny Smith poses with newly-minted battle Ground City Councilman, Lyle Lamb

Kenny Smith (left) poses with newly-elected Battle Ground city councilman Lyle Lamb


A few weeks ago, it was announced that Lynda Wilson would step down today as Chairwoman of the Clark County Republican Party in order to focus her attention on a run for 17th LD State Representative. Per the party’s bylaws, Vice-Chairman Steve Nelson becomes the chairman and a special meeting must be called in order to fill the new opening at Vice-Chair. Apparently, due to circumstances involving work, family, and not being able to fit in a full-time, unpaid volunteer position into an already busy life, Steve will not be serving as chairman. It is an unfortunate result of the new bylaws that instead of losing only the chairman, there will now be two vacancies at the head of the Executive board that will have to be filled at the meeting on February 11th.

The sudden necessity for a new chairman and vice-chairman, who must be of opposite genders per RCW 29A.80.030 (although this law may technically only apply to the bi-annual Organization meetings), has caused a lot of candidate searching within the local party ranks. Finding a person who is both qualified to continue the work begun by Wilson in spearheading a resurgent county party, and available for hours upon hours of volunteer work can be a difficult task. Finding one who presents a measured and wise face for the party is even more challenging. Thankfully, a man who has the admiration and respect of many, including this writer, has agreed to run.

Kenny Smith, who currently serves as the Republican 18th Legislative District Chairman, is something of a rarity in politics. He is thoughtful, wise, slow to speak, and completely lacking in ego or pretension. His greatest enjoyment is enabling others to grow in experience and abilities. He has probably spent more time with PCOs than anyone in Clark County, teaching, organizing, and lending his wisdom and experience. He is a one of the best human beings I know, in an arena that often feels bereft of human beings. Kenny Smith will make the Clark County Republican party better. I could wish that the national Republican party was led by more people like Kenny Smith, rather than the egomaniacal sociopaths that are currently in charge, who stamp out the grass roots wherever they find them.

It is unknown at this time if other candidates will enter the race for chairman, or who the vice-chair candidate will be (several names are being mentioned, but nobody has been nominated to date). More info will be posted here as it is made public.


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Stephanie Rice Attempts to Smear David Madore for Being a Taxpayer Advocate


Yet again demonstrating the disconnect between the local media and voters in Clark County, Columbian liberal hack reporter Stephanie Rice recently offered up
this latest attempt to publicly mock County Commissioner David Madore.

A Wednesday discussion on allowing smaller minimum lot sizes in certain agricultural and forest zones included a lesson on property taxes for Clark County Commissioners Tom Mielke and David Madore, both of whom questioned why property taxes would increase even if property owners didn’t decide to split up their land.

What was Madore’s offense this time? Well, it seems that while having a discussion with County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick regarding the likely tax implications of changing zoning on certain rural properties, Madore dared to ask how rising property taxes for people who didn’t plan to split up their land might be avoided. Many of these folks moved out to the rural areas in the first place because they could no longer afford the property taxes and housing costs in the city. David was elected as a representative of the taxpayers, and in doing his job, he incurred the wrath of the big-government shills at the Columbian.

Van Nortwick’s own characterization of the exchange after reading Rice’s spin job:

Wow, talk about taking a briefing to the Commissioners where we were discussing potential options and they were asking clarifying questions on a range of questions. The article doesn’t have the same feel as I had sitting across from Tom and David answering their questions which was why they had the meeting and invited me to begin with.

Of course, the Columbian’s amen corner in the comments section dutifully continues the droning on about how uninformed David is, he who started his own business from scratch that employs over 100 people in Clark County. When one has read these comments enough times, it becomes clear that it is the same five or six people every time, and that they are there as low-level Democrat/Public Union operatives, not as reasonable representatives of the voting, tax-paying public.

It never ceases to amaze me how the left presents themselves as champions for the poor and working classes, while also demanding that they pay higher taxes simply for existing on a piece of property, or crossing a bridge to go to work, or filling up their gas tank. All of these measures, property taxes, bridge tolls, and the highest gas taxes in the country, affect the poor more than the rich as they cut into poor people’s subsistence income while only being a small part of the excess of the wealthy. Jesus explained this principle in the story of the widow’s mite . I have no doubt that David Madore, a committed Christian has read and been influenced by this story. He is doing exactly what the voters commissioned him to do – to be our advocate against runaway government taxing and spending.

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Lynda Wilson Running for 17th LD State Rep; Resigns as Clark County Republican Chairwoman

On the heels of Lynda Wilson’s recent announcement of her intention to run for the state legislature in the 17th Legislative District comes today’s public statement that she will be stepping down as Clark County Republican Party Chairwoman at the end of the month. She had originally intended to fill both roles, chairwoman and candidate, for the remainder of her term, but she is now putting all of her efforts into winning the state rep seat.

Good decision, in this writer’s humble opinion. Looking around the county, the two areas of greatest focus for Republicans would likely be the 17th LD Rep position and the Clark County Commissioner position currently occupied by political lifer Steve Stuart. In choosing to limit her efforts solely to the 17th LD race, Lynda is also taking personal responsibility to accomplish what the party would have had much of their focus on anyway. Instead of a supporting role, she has chosen to move to the front lines.

Lynda’s accomplishments during her tenure as CCRP chairwoman have been well documented on this blog, but here is a recap:

1. She managed to unite a large body of Republicans in Clark County under one banner, including a large swell of Liberty-oriented volunteers who had been shut out from participation in former days. Her honesty and grace in dealings with the new blood that was manifested in the wake of the PCO Liberty Alliance campaign will always be remembered and appreciated. She is one of the few politicians who can honestly claim to be a ‘uniter’ rather than a ‘divider’.

2. She inherited a county organization that was essentially broke, and of very little use to candidates, and transformed it into a financially healthy organization, flush with cash and ready and willing to help candidates. One of the criticisms that was repeatedly manifested in the months leading up to the organization meeting in 2012 was that the rabble ought not to try to get involved in the party, because they don’t know how to raise money or command respect among the Important People Who Matter. One prominent member of the old guard even wrote to me that if we managed to win a majority of the board, we  would only raise about $15,000 and be gone in two years. In retrospect, this argument has been made to look utterly ridiculous.

3. Under the leadership of Lynda Wilson and her team, PCO involvement has been at an all-time high. Not only have more precincts had representation in the CCRP Central Committee, but more candidates have been helped from PCOs than ever before. Shortly after the elections last November, I attended a gathering of most of the Republican candidates in the last election, and to a man, the message was the same: they had never seen the support from the Republican party that they saw this cycle.

And so Lynda now takes her experiences as an effective leader, a tireless worker, and a great galvanizer of people, and brings them to a new role, that of candidate for state legislature. As a voter in the 17th LD, I am very excited about the prospect of having representation in Olympia such as I know she would provide, and quite frankly, I don’t often get excited about people running for office. Rather than hold my nose and pick the least objectionable as I seem to find myself doing every November, this time I will be looking forward to checking her box.

Some other responses to Lynda’s eminent departure:

“Desiring new leadership for the Clark County Republican Party, in May 2012 some friends and I began to organize the election of a majority of Precinct Committee Officers who also shared our vision.   In December of 2012 they were faced with choosing who that leader would be.  Lynda Wilson was the right person at the right place at the right time, and she made the decision an easy one.  With an admirable combination of strongly held principles and widely held respect, she was able to steer the party in new directions and set fundraising records — all while continuing to honor the legacy and hard work of those who had come before her.  I know she will be missed by all my fellow board members.  But the State Legislature is in dire need of someone who will work to restore Liberty, Opportunity and Trust to the people of Washington State.  Lynda Wilson is just the person to take on that task.  The 17th Legislative District will now have an opportunity to elect an extraordinary representative of the people.  I encourage all who share my respect for her to contact her campaign and offer their support.”

-Christian Berrigan, CCRP Operations Director

“I have worked alongside Lynda for almost five years as we fought hard to restore and protect the people’s individual rights and liberties in southwest Washington. I’ve seen firsthand her ability to come up with real world solutions in efficient and effective ways. Through it all, she has shown a consistency in her character to always do what is right rather than follow the path of expedience. I feel that she will be a strong advocate for the people of the 17th Legislative District and I strongly urge that all my friends, family, and associates support Lynda Wilson in this great endeavor.”

-Steven Nelson, CCRP Vice-Chairman

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Jordan Page Coming to Vancouver

December 8, 2013 3 comments

I wrote last year about an episode during the week of the 2012 Republican National Convention when libertarian economics professor Walter Block made an unfortunate decision to unveil his theory regarding ‘evicting’ babies from the womb at a Ron Paul rally, only to be met with a chorus of boos. After Block was yanked from the stage, musician Jordan Page provided one of the more memorable moments of my week in Tampa. He approached the microphone, held out his arms and said very simply, “Before we get started….I’d just like to say that evicting babies from their mothers’ wombs is not something we are advocating here today.” He then asked everyone in the crowd of 11,000 to say hi into his cell phone for the benefit of his wife and four children who couldn’t be there. In one simple gesture, he made it very clear that the Liberty movement was both pro-family and pro-life. He also won me as a fan that day.



Jordan will be performing at a Republican Liberty Caucus gathering in Vancouver on the evening of Sunday, December 15th, the last stop in his tour of the Northwest. I spoke to Katja Delavar, the Clark County RLC chairwoman, and she is making a special effort to find a family-friendly venue so that kids will be able to attend as well. Page is well known for lingering after his set is done to meet and talk to people, and I found him to be a very engaging and sincere fellow in my brief conversation with him at the P.A.U.L. fest last year. He is a great representative of the people-centered, grass-roots orientation of the Liberty movement, with song lyrics that are both thought-provoking and inspiring. I encourage you to come and listen.

For more info on time and location, check out the facebook page:

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Hutchison elected WSRP chair

August 24, 2013 5 comments

Today, 107 state committee members, three from each county, met in Spokane to decide among Christian Berrigan, Susan Hutchison, James Walsh, and Luanne Van Werven to replace Kirby Wilbur as Washington State Republican Party chairman. The results were as follows:

First ballot:

Van Werven – 41

Hutchison – 39

Walsh – 16

Berrigan- 11


Second ballot:

Hutchison – 59

Van Werven – 46


The scuttlebutt was always that Van Werven had the race sewn up from the start with commitments from a majority of the committee. As the elected Vice-Chair and interim Chairman of the WSRP, she has had more opportunity to campaign among the voters that matter. This, of course, was probably the goal when Wilbur resigned with no warning and then the vote was scheduled for the very next meeting, less than a month later. The party establishment appears to have done its best to hand the position to one of their own. Any candidate entering this race knew at the outset that overcoming those odds was something of a long shot. This makes Hutchison’s victory even more interesting.

Given the fact that another and far more important chair election happens in a mere seventeen months, this campaign in many ways was a trial run for a few people and organizations looking to gain standing among Washington Republicans. Some interesting people to watch going forward are:

1.  Susan Hutchison

Her supporters on the blog NW Daily Marker conducted an online poll for her, and she won it handily over second-placed Christian Berrigan and the rest of the field. The former Seattle news anchor and failed King County executive candidate has apparently overcome her former reluctance to be identified with the Republican party and has sold herself, with some effectiveness, as a great fundraiser. That skill will always be in demand among establishment Republicans, regardless of her personal philosophy of government. It will be interesting to see if she makes good on this promise, now that she has pulled off the upset victory.

2. The Washington Republican Liberty Caucus

Although a national organization since 1991, the RLC is new to Washington in 2013, and has had some growing pains in its first year of existence. The State Convention in April was reportedly highlighted by hours of arguing, resulting in a schism over the abortion issue that left many members signing resignation letters.  Amid the din of angry blog posts and public facebook arguments, the RLCWA executive board decided to manifest its presence in the GOP by backing a candidate for party chair. The candidate the eight-member board chose, Jim Walsh, was apparently promised at least 25 Liberty votes on the state committee as a foundation for his candidacy. RLCWA chairwoman, Sandra Belzer Brendale, had this to say to her local paper, the Yakima Herald :

Belzer Brendale said the Republican Liberty Caucus has actively engaged members across the state to poll the state Republican Party’s 117 committee members to gauge the group’s influence. She said leaders believe they can sway at least 25 members to vote for their candidate.

“It’s silly to ignore us,” Belzer Brendale said. “Very silly.”

As the PCO Liberty Alliance discovered, the media is always very happy to do interviews and report on fractures and uprisings in the Republican party. This has created an opportunity for the RLC to get some attention as a vocal representative in the larger Liberty movement. Here’s hoping they put that attention to a productive use.

3. Christian Berrigan

Christian is everything his supporters have cracked him up to be. He is a tireless worker, a fountain of ideas and he has gained the trust and respect of most Republican leaders in Clark County. He is also a strong conservative who does not hide his goal of shifting the party back to a more populist conservative agenda, rather than the cronyist, power-hungry elites that run the party but lose elections currently. The message of what has been going on in Clark County, the uniting of conservatives under a conservative message, the work they can accomplish together, and the renewed faith that can be restored in the Republican brand, these must be spread to other counties if any change in state elections is to occur. The one thing Christian has lacked up to now in order to execute many of his ideas is a statewide presence, which he is now quickly gaining. Of all the candidates for chair in this election, he is the one that shows the most promise to be a future influence and leader in the party.

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