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…
…And now the post is back up again.
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.
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.
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
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:
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:
Van Werven – 41
Hutchison – 39
Walsh – 16
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.
I just received this transmission from the Secretary of the Washington Republican Liberty Caucus:
Dear RLC Member,
The WA state RLC board has decided to endorse Jim Walsh of Grays Harbor for WSRP Chair. The vote was nearly unanimous with 8 cast in favor of Jim with one abstention. We had four candidates address the WA State RLC BOD meeting on Sunday: Susan Hutchison, Luanne Van Werven, Christian Berrigan, and Jim Walsh. To be absolutely honest, Christian was very impressive, and it was a toss up between Christian and Jim for many of our BOD members up until the final vote. All of us were extremely impressed with his energy, drive, as well as his accomplishments in reforming the Clark County GOP. Ultimately, it came down to who best represented the liberty values of the WA State RLC. In addition to his work in Grays Harbor, Jim authored the book “Liberty in Troubled Times” (which is available on Amazon if you care to get a copy) which does a great job of describing how liberty minded activists in both parties are different from their more mainstream counterparts.
As we extend our congratulations to Jim Walsh, we want to thank to each of the candidates who came out and wish each the best of luck in their race for WSRP Chair.
If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com.
WA State RLC
Some very nice words about all of the accomplishments that Christian Berrigan has logged, but in the end, they chose Jim Walsh. The main argument for choosing Walsh over Berrigan appears to be that Walsh wrote a book. Obviously, they have never seen any of Christian’s emails.
Meanwhile, the Clark County Republican Liberty Caucus voted unanimously on Monday to endorse Christian Berrigan for Washington State Republican Chairman. Members gave Berrigan rave reviews for work he has done over the last 18 months on the Presidential cycle, PCO elections, State Legislature and County Commissioner races, bylaws changes for the Clark County Republican party, City Council races, and his tremendous work as Operations Director with fundraising and data development. In addition, Christian has now been endorsed by State Senator Don Benton, State Representative Liz Pike, former CCRP chair Anna Miller, current CCRP chair Lynda Wilson, and the Washington Citizens for a Responsible Government.
“Christian Berrigan is one of the smartest and most successful grass roots strategists I have ever worked with. If our goal is to change the political dynamic to elect exceptional Republican leaders across Washington State, Mr. Berrigan is the person for the job.”
- Representative Liz Pike, 18th District
“Christian Berrigan is a tireless worker for the conservative cause. He helped my re-election effort immensely. Having been the State party chairman, I can assure you he has the skills, drive and intelligence to do the job extremely well.”
-Senator Don Benton, Deputy Majority Leader
Allow me to point out just a couple of things about the Benton endorsement. As Kirby Wilbur was leaving, this is how he summed up his accomplishments:
“Chairman Wilbur was elected to his first term in January 2011. Under his leadership, Washington elected the only statewide Republican official on the west coast in Secretary of State Kim Wyman, and picked up 1 seat in both the State Senate and the State House in 2012. In late 2012, early 2013, two Democrats joined with our Republican Senators to create the Majority Coalition Caucus, thus giving Republicans a majority in at least one chamber of the Legislature for the first time since 2004. Chairman Wilbur was reelected to a second term in January 2013.“
So Kirby hangs his hat on the fact that under his watch, Republicans picked up one seat in the Senate. And the last Senator to win his race? Don Benton, on Dec 5th by 74 votes. Kirby’s other crowning achievement was getting two Democrats to join with Republicans and form a majority in the Senate. Was Kirby really the one who accomplished this? Or was it actually that same Senator Benton and a few of his colleagues? So if Senator Benton, a former WSRP chair himself, credits Berrigan with helping him get re-elected and is confident enough in Christian’s qualification to publicly endorse him, I’m thinking that might be kind of a big deal.
Now if Christian can only write a book between now and the 24th, maybe he can get those eight board members from the RLCWA behind him too.
Edit: (Apparently, after the email was sent to everyone, Christian did receive one dissenting vote.)
After some deliberation, Christian Berrigan confirmed to me this evening that he will announce his candidacy for Washington State Republican Party chairman tomorrow. As the Operations Director of the Clark County Republican Party, Christian has been working full time on crunching data, targeting voters, and door-knocking for both the Frank Decker (Vancouver) and Lyle Lamb (Battle Ground) City Council primary campaigns. The races culminated in primary victories for each of these grass roots candidates, who have gone from relative unknowns in the political sphere to successfully winning their primaries on the first attempt.
Frank Decker writes:
I have come to know Christian Berrigan over the past several months and I can say without hesitation and with all sincerity that he is a man of high character and unbelievable intelligence. I am running for a political position for the first time in my life (Vancouver City Council). Christian’s insight, advice, and strategic mind have been invaluable to my campaign. He has played a significant role in helping to propel me–someone who was literally a complete unknown 3 months ago–to a Primary victory, defeating a 16-year incumbent.
I believe that Christian has the leadership ability, the strategic thinking capability, and the positive personality to bring the Washington State Republican Party not only together in a unified way that has never been seen, but also into the 21st century without compromising our core conservative values. I fully support him for the position of Washington State Chair and I am confident that he will be exactly what our party desperately needs.
And from Lyle Lamb:
I couldn’t have gotten this far without the help of a number of really great people. One of those is Christian Berrigan. It’s been awesome having his assistance throughout this primary. He has such enthusiasm for liberty and for the elective process! His dedication was manifest in late nights he put in generating targeted walk lists, his constant communication with me, his willingness to knock on the doors of strangers in a town he doesn’t even reside in, and his ever present creative process. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with as much drive and determination, coupled with an ability to bring the power of technology to bear in such a comprehensive way. I think that Christian’s ability to communicate, generate ideas, lead people, bridge political divides, and burn the midnight oil would make him an excellent chair of the Washington State Republican Party. As happens in all political arenas, it’s time for change, and I sincerely believe that Christian is the necessary change-agent.
Many who are not from Clark County and have not witnessed the revolution within the party over the past 18 months as we moved from an exclusionary and fractured establishment-centered environment to a vibrant organization capable of generating candidates and the energetic volunteers and funding necessary to support them. I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat, and have done my best to pass it on as it unfolded via this blog. My conclusion after watching Christian in action over that time is that his message, energy and talent is just what is needed in a party that has been on life-support ever since November’s anemic showing in the elections.
Clark County State Committeewoman Laney Maxwell says:
I don’t know if every idea Christian Berrigan has is genius, or just the ones he says out loud, but the quickest way I know to make something successful is to put Christian Berrigan in charge of it. He has clever political strategies for every level–national, state, and county–he even brought media attention to the Clark County PCO races while bringing all the Republican factions together. In the interest of finally turning Washington State red, I fully endorse and look forward to a Christian Berrigan Chairmanship.
18th Legislative District Chairman Kenny Smith writes of Christian:
[He is] a great motivational force overflowing with ideas to advance the party. Christian would get this party moving, that is for sure. Whether people could keep up with him is the question. I would love to give it a try.
Recurring themes in everyone I spoke to about Christian were his tireless work ethic, his ability to clearly articulate the conservative message, and especially, his endless stream of ideas and innovations. He is a 21st Century candidate, and this party needs him now.
In a surprising development, Kirby Wilbur, who only recently was elected for a second term as Washington State Republican Party chairman, has resigned his post in favor of a higher-paying job with Young America in Washington D.C. Few in the Liberty movement will miss Wilbur, who was notorious for doing his utmost to quell any kind of grass roots uprising in the party. From illegally reconvening the Kitsap County convention last year for the purpose of electing an all-Romney slate, to using WSRP funds to help non-Liberty PCO candidates in their campaigns, Wilbur’s attempts to shut out conservatives and keep the moderates in power predictably led to a complete thrashing at the hands of the Democrats in last year’s elections. Wilbur leaves only a few months after shutting down the 2014 State Convention in favor of a ‘training conference’ somewhere in Eastern Washington, the planning of which he now leaves to his successor.
The predictable slate of King County Establishment candidates to replace Wilbur has already surfaced, including King County chair Lori Sotelo, and former news anchorwoman and failed King County Executive candidate Susan Hutchison. Neither of these options signals a change in direction for a party that faces further drubbings and a possible shift in the Senate after next year’s elections. It seems obvious that new blood is needed in the worst way.
So here is my thought.
Elect Christian Berrigan.
Oh yes, some will say I am off my rocker, that Berrigan has no state-wide resume, that he hails from a small, southern Washington county, and that he will never be able to raise the money necessary to run the State Party. Let me just call attention to what he has accomplished in the last 15 months:
When I first met Christian at the Clark County GOP convention last March, he knew very few of the delegates there. He had, however, quickly recognized the divide-and-conquer strategy that the Romney campaign was employing to great effect with the ‘Unity Slate’, and although he did not support Ron Paul, he saw that the Paul delegates were being wrongfully maligned and shut out of the process. After our first round of balloting in the 17th LD, all of the Santorum delegates on the slate were elected, and no Paul delegates had reached a majority of votes. As one of the leaders of the Paul campaign in that district, my heart had completely sunk, knowing that, now that they were elected, we had absolutely no leverage with the Santorum group, several of whom had already told me they had no intention of voting with us. Immediately, Christian took it upon himself to stand up on a chair with no microphone and persuade these same Santorum supporters that they had been deceived; that the Paul people were not the back-stabbing double-dealers that the Romney camp had made them out to be, and that the faithfulness we had shown to them on the first ballot ought to be reciprocated. I watched people I knew had previously voted against us nodding their head in agreement and vote for Paul delegates on the second ballot. Christian had an innate skill in identifying the truth and explaining it to others in clear, concise terms. The next day, the leaders of both camps got together to debrief, and all anyone could talk about was Christian and his amazing presence of mind and leadership. Nobody knew him or where he came from, but everybody was talking about him.
It was with great surprise then, that I got an email from him days later. He was full of energy and ideas about how to get the remaining 17 seats in our district filled with those who had received the highest votes on ballot number two, the final ballot we completed. He wrote up a very impressive brief to the CCRP Executive board, and eventually was granted an audience at their next board meeting. Every person on that board had been proudly wearing a ‘Unity’ sticker on convention day, but somehow he convinced them to vote in favor of ‘the 17 of the 17th’ being seated, despite the fact that 14 of the 17 were Ron Paul supporters, and none supported Romney. He even managed to get the highest vote-getter from the Romney camp, Senator Don Benton, to write a strong letter to the board recommending that we get seated. Only Brandon Vick and Greg Kimsey voted against us. The fact that our applications and checks were later ignored by Kirby Wilbur and returned unopened to us did not detract from the fact that Christian had accomplished an amazing feat by bringing all of those people together to do the right thing.
After this, Christian and I spoke regularly and became fast friends. I told him of our idea to run a number of candidates from the 17th LD for PCO to try to make inroads into the Establishment’s monopoly in the party, and he blew my mind by suggesting that we run a County-wide public campaign. He contacted some like-minded people from the convention who, like us, were outraged at the party’s tactics at the convention, as well as the incompetent way it was run. We all met at Burgerville and I suddenly found myself talking with people who had heretofore viewed me with suspicion and mistrust. We found much common ground and began working together to develop our recruiting strategy. Thus was born the PCO Liberty Alliance, a name which Christian himself coined. I told him that using the word ‘Liberty’ might be a problem for those who didn’t support Ron Paul, but he could not have cared less. Instead of the failed strategy that had been used in past elections by Paul people to run for PCO by stealth so as not to attract party funds to the race, he wanted a very public campaign with elements of several groups rather than just Paul people. He wanted overwhelming numbers of candidates so that the party elite could not focus on just a few. He wanted to unite several groups of conservatives under one banner.
The strategy not only worked, it worked overwhelmingly. I have never seen teamwork in my life like what I witnessed over those summer months last year. My house became campaign headquarters for the PCO Liberty Alliance, and numerous people I had never met were soon working, eating, and sharing their stories with us. The former looks of suspicion melted away and were replaced by strong friendship and trust. Christian and his friend Mark Engleman brought people in to our group that I would never have even spoken to, some, even, that were openly hostile to Paul delegates at the convention. We found that we had much in common, and we began to realize that there was a lot we could reform in our party if we worked together. Christian was going everywhere making speeches, detailing strategy, and recruiting. We started with the Paul supporters in our network that Kenny Smith and Trevor Winton spent untold hours recruiting, and worked our way out into Samaria and all the world. Soon, even a few from the old board were with us.
I recount these events because, while Christian did not do it all by himself, he was the one who made sure it all happened. He worked tirelessly, infusing energy in the Paul leadership who were already exhausted from several months of full-time campaigning before the conventions. Without Christian, we never would have dared to think on such a wide scale. There were friends of mine walking out of meetings telling me that they thought he was crazy, promising to make signs, campaign literature, business cards and slim jims, and get media attention for PCO races…the ideas seemed preposterous. Every one of them happened. He asked for $100 from each candidate, many gave him double or triple that amount, even those who had no competitor. We ended up with recruits for about 80% of the precincts in the entire county. Half of those won without an opponent, because the Establishment, despite their best efforts and superior network, simply could not keep up with us and our energy to reform the party. Between our recruiting and Christian and Mark evangelizing the message, the old guard had no answer for us. A few of their more vitriolic leaders even quit the party altogether. The PCOLA candidates won with overwhelming numbers .
One of the more amazing accomplishments of that campaign was the media attention Christian was able to attract. He kept coming up with ideas. Reporters told us that they had never covered PCO races before, but now we regularly found pieces about our efforts in the news. One of Christian’s ideas was to catch one of the people who were stealing our signs in East Vancouver. We bought a camera and planted it near one of the signs for future party chair Lynda Wilson, and the very next morning, we caught John Ellis-Reisdorf red-handed. It was all over the papers and the six-o-clock news on multiple channels. Another time, Christian had signs made up resembling orange construction signs warning people to prepare for tolls to cross the river if they didn’t vote for David Madore. The response was amazing, not only on the streets, but also all over the media. It had the same effect as thousands of dollars of advertising and had social media buzzing for several weeks. The number of shares that the Columbian article got dwarfed anything in their news cycle that week.
Christian’s tenure on the Clark County GOP Executive Board has been marked by an extraordinary increase in volunteerism. He has been instrumental in providing a vision and motivation for many who had given up on the party completely. Recently, the CCRP put on the most lucrative Lincoln Day dinner in the state, netting over $50,000 in profit. We are also experiencing unprecedented levels of CCRP participation in elections for City Councils and School Boards, which the Columbian has also noted :
The Clark County Republican Party has become increasingly involved in local races.
In each of the last two off-year elections, 2009 and 2011, three sitting precinct committee officers ran for nonpartisan positions, two Republicans and a Democrat each time. PCOs, as they are known, are elected every two years and serve as grass-roots organizers for the parties. This year, eight PCOs — all Republicans — are running for city councils, school boards and a fire commission seat.
One of these PCOs, Frank Decker, has stated that he first got the urge to get involved in local politics after reading one of Christian’s PCO Liberty Alliance sign last year. At the time, we were mocked by a few in the old guard because the signs said that ‘the most powerful office in the country is PCO’. Apparently, Frank wasn’t laughing. He is now running a strong and energetic bid for Vancouver City Council.
The culture in the CCRP is now such that people are shedding their apathy and jumping on board a movement that promises to make a serious difference in local politics. This is the culture that Christian has been promoting these many months. He has already floated many ideas for state-wide efforts, and if he were elected as WSRP chair, he would be in a better position to implement them. Imagine, a party chair with a pulse who, instead of trying to dictate and control members and shut out entire swaths of conservatives, actually has plans to increase the profile and participation in the party! Imagine a chairman who would welcome the Liberty movement with open arms instead of spending all his time trying to ward off the future of the party. A grass roots candidate for a change, rather than yet another Establishment toadie.
To a party that lost every important state-wide race in 2012, I ask: what have you got to lose?
Over the weekend, the conclusion of this year’s legislative session in Olympia came without passage of funding for everyone’s favorite bridge project. Now that even the Columbian concedes that the CRC has met its end, at least in the near term, it is time to debrief and see what we can glean from this experience in terms of political wisdom. We have listened to many proponents of the light rail/tolling scenario assuring us that there was absolutely nothing that could be done about the implementation of this unwanted project. Over and over we were told that it was a ‘done deal’, and nothing we could say or do could change that. A sampling:
“In New york, where tolls are ubiquitous, they’re 2-3 bucks. There is no way of knowing for sure. But this I will tell you for an absolute fact. No elected official from a medium sized town or a small, half rural county that’s on an international trade and defense route will have any input into the amount or reality of tolls. Anyone who pretends to have that influence is blowing smoke. This candidate doesn’t even know what the job of county commissioner entails, or how this project works. Are the people of Clark County really that stupid? This candidate seems to think so.” -Pat Jollota on David Madore
This comment was in response to our sign project last October, notifying commuters that if something was not done (such as electing David Madore), tolls to cross the interstate bridge would soon be a reality. Is there even a question at this point that Madore’s election has contributed to the defeat of the CRC project? The moral here is that citizen voices CAN make a difference, and don’t believe anyone who tells you differently. Ms. Jollota’s ‘absolute facts’ ended up not being worth very much.
“When I ran for the office of Mayor, I told you honestly and in good faith that I would fight against tolls on the Columbia River Crossing. But unfortunately, not every battle can be won. I could continue to protest, to throw up my arms and stomp out of the room, as some of my detractors have insisted. But frankly, whether or not I protest, the bridge will go on and tolls will happen.” -Tim Leavitt, July 19th 2010 Vancouver City Council meeting.
Another great lesson to be learned is that when an elected official assures you that there is nothing further he can do to stop a bad project, he is lying and has ulterior motives for standing down. Such is clearly the case with Mayor Leavitt, who had numerous opportunities over the past three years to continue to fight against light rail and tolls. The truth, of course, is that he never had any intention of opposing what was in his personal financial interest to support. Contrast his behavior with David Madore, who, like Leavitt was not a member of the legislature that the mayor swore up and down was the only body with standing to change the ‘inevitable’. Somehow, Madore kept fighting, and now, strangely, there are no pending tolls or light rail.
It is said that ‘victory has many fathers’, and there are a lot of people to credit for this tremendous victory:
1. Don Benton- I have not always agreed with Senator Benton, and it is very likely that I will disagree with him again in the future, but his work to win the Senate seat in the 17th LD and then the subsequent coalition he helped form with two Democrats has been HUGE in keeping the tax-and-spend agenda of the Democrats at bay. Time after time, as terrible legislation sailed through the House, the Senate was the only body standing between the citizen flock and the Democrat shearers looking to relieve them of money and liberty. If Tim Probst had won that Senate race, Governor Inslee would have been able to appropriate the necessary $450 million to continue with the CRC plan. A hearty THANK YOU to Senator Benton for his work on our behalf.
P.S. I still don’t agree with his appointment to the County.
2. David Madore- A lot of people mocked him for spending $300k of his own money on a county commissioner race, but the majority of that money was spent fighting the CRC insanity, including on the ballot last fall. Passage of the ‘Operation and Maintenance’ sales tax increase would have been the only vote by the people that the CRC would ever have needed in order to justify the project. That they were forced to move on without any semblance of popular support seriously eroded at their message. Madore continued that fight as commissioner and as a member of the C-Tran board, while also being target #1 for local unions and others seeking to profit from massive appropriations of taxpayer funds. The time and money that he has spent in raising awareness of this issue has borne fruit in terms of citizen involvement and media coverage, and his name will always be linked with this major political victory in Clark County.
3. Jim Moeller- I have to think that his constant mocking of those arguing for fiscal sanity served to keep those who were against the CRC engaged and energized. His cartoonish behavior galvanized his opponents in a greater way than anything else ever could. We owe you a debt of gratitude, Representative Moeller. Please keep making a daily mockery of the term ‘elected official’. You add more to our ranks every day.
There are, of course, many more to thank – some, even, from the other side of the political spectrum. Even Congresswoman Jaime Herrera joined the fray on the right side, with a little nudging from the citizenry. In the end, this was a victory by citizen activists in Clark County. Look for more such victories as activism continues to increase.