Archive for December, 2014

Last Saturday, the Cowlitz County Republican Party held their biennial organization meeting to elect officers for the executive board. As I reported in August, despite the headlines in the local paper loudly proclaiming a heavy Establishment victory, the elections for Precinct Committee Officers actually yielded a slight edge for the Cowlitz chapter of the PCO Liberty Alliance. The results set up an extremely tight race for leadership seats that had previously belonged by default to a few perpetual party leaders. Predictably, these leaders of the Cowlitz county party appealed to PCOs for votes based on their years of experience and expertise in the ways of politics, as well as their knowledge of all the important political players in the county. The PCO Liberty Alliance candidates, in turn, spoke about a return to the grass roots of the party, to listening and reaching out to the community, and to making leadership accountable again to the common voters.

As mentioned in the August post, among the signs that a change in leadership was needed was the case of one David Steenson, a Republican who, having made the decision to run against Democrat incumbent Dean Takko for LD 19 State Representative, had approached the Cowlitz party leaders for help. Apparently, the conservative Steenson found the reception by the moderate leadership somewhat less than welcoming, despite there being no other Republican in the race, and he ended up running as a Libertarian. As a third-party candidate, he lost to Takko by a wide margin.

The previous leadership had also made it a practice to pick favorites in contested races many months before the primary elections, rather than wait to see which candidates had the most support from the electorate. With these kinds of repeated attempts by the few to make decisions on behalf of the many, it seems small wonder that LD 19, which is about half in Cowlitz and the other half spread over four other counties, is currently entirely represented in the state legislature by Democrats.

In addition to instituting grass roots leadership, the Cowlitz PCOLA had also resolved to reform the party bylaws. As in Clark County two years ago, the changes include a requirement by all prospective voting members of the executive board to first face a vote of the PCOs. This change prevents the party chairman from appointing board members at will who could vote in favor of his or her agenda. The PCOs are also given the power to remove board members.

The PCOLA bylaws draft was circulated and meetings with PCOs, party leaders, and interested Republicans from all sides were called to go over them. As in Clark in 2012, the Cowlitz leaders were quick to respond and let everyone know that these meetings were not ‘official party business’. Unlike in Clark however, the existing leadership decided to mount their own ‘counter-reformation’ of the bylaws, and so last Saturday’s election included a choice between two new sets of party bylaws, both  differing significantly from those that had governed the party previously.

In the end, the PCOLA bylaws were adopted with a few slight alterations, and the PCOLA slate of leaders won control of the executive board after a painfully long and drawn-out meeting which lasted from 10 a.m. to after 5 p.m. Among the newly-elected officers is Chairman Arne Mortensen, who prevailed by a vote of 25 to 23. State Committeeman Rustin Jones, State Committeewoman Valerie Tinney, and Treasurer Michelle Jones prevailed by similarly close margins. Two holdovers from the old board that appeared on both slates and were elected unanimously were Vice-Chairman Bonnie Decius and Secretary Carol Bales. According to Scott Whittington, a leader in the PCOLA organization, “The Liberty Alliance reached out to the old board and asked the Vice Chair and Secretary if we could list them on our slate.  We think they do good work and we are willing to work with them.

The Directors for LDs 19 and 20 are yet to be voted on, but the plan to do so is in the works. Because of the complications arising from LDs 19 and 20 being in multiple counties, previous boards had not held elections for legislative district directors, so the plan to hold elections is also a reform of sorts.

I had a chance to chat with Chairman Mortensen for quite awhile this week, and came away from the conversation impressed both with his vast life experience, and his goals for the party. A retired software engineer, he now lives in Kelso. His early years were in Venezuela, followed by four years in the United States, two in Spain, and all but one year in California until his move to Kelso nine years ago. Spanish, his first language, is not forgotten, but has given way to English, his language of choice as an adult.   He believes that, “The Republican Party is the only hope we have to re-establish the principles of individual liberty. The central planning and top down mandates are killing our country. I do not want to be another Europe. The world needs America.” His goals include encouraging PCOs to take the initiative in the party beyond campaign functions, to give guidance to elected officials and monitor their votes, to increase the number of Republican candidates, and to replace Dean Takko and his LD 19 seatmate, Democrat Brian Blake. He is also interested in increasing the variety of fundraising and community outreach events.

Liberty-loving folks in Clark County can examine that agenda and see if there is anything they can affirm in it. As for this writer, I am excited to see what changes Mortensen and the new leadership in Cowlitz County enact in the next two years. Godspeed!

Advertisements

With the off-year elections completed and the calendar nearly turning to 2015, the jockeying among possible presidential hopefuls is beginning in earnest. Like clockwork, the candidates begin to come out from wherever they have been hiding for three years, trying to position themselves as a frontrunner in the minds of the media and voters. With every cycle, the field of candidates seem less and less compelling to conservatives and lovers of liberty – one of the major reasons so many went bananas for Ron Paul. Regrettably, Dr. Paul will not be serving as the lone bright spot in a field of big-government-loving neoconservatives. That field, however, is already beginning to take shape with some very familiar faces.

In 2011 the media had already anointed Mitt Romney as the Republican frontrunner, so that one was either for him or against him. While the majority of Republicans were against him, the liberal Establishment wing of the party needed only to achieve a split among various groups of conservatives in order to sail their guy through to a plurality. The way the delegate system was set up, a plurality in many states meant that Romney won all of the delegates.

In order for this strategy to work, it was necessary to have a candidate who could successfully split the vote among the conservative majority, but who was then willing to quit and back the Establishment guy by the time the convention rolled around. Rick Santorum played this role perfectly. A moderate neo-conservative himself, Santorum styled himself as the social conservatives’ champion, trumpeting his opposition to abortion and other Christian hot-button issues, and engaging in a non-stop attack of the only electable conservative in the race, Ron Paul. Many ‘values voters’ did not know about Santorum’s past as a ‘pro-choice lawmaker‘ and his work with the K Street project and other efforts that put him at the center of the lobbying world. While his associate Jack Abramoff had gone to prison for fraud, Santorum had avoided legal difficulties and he was able to preempt media scrutiny by coming out swinging against Romney, at one point even going so far as to call the former Governor of Massachusetts “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama” in March of 2012. Of course, this rhetoric was not to last, and six weeks later he endorsed Romney and by July, he was hosting campaign events on Romney’s behalf. Having done a great job of splitting the vote in the primary, he readily assumed his role in support of the Establishment’s choice, and was rewarded by the Romney campaign, who agreed to help him pay his campaign debt and gave him a prime speaking slot at the national convention.

The whole thing worked so well, it appears that Santorum is ready for another round in 2016, having all but announced his candidacy in a recent interview. This time, he swears it will be different:

“America loves an underdog. We’re definitely the underdog in this race,” he said in an interview Tuesday. Santorum added that being underestimated — again — “has given me a lot of latitude.”

His iconic sweater vests will likely make a return appearance. But Santorum 2.0 will be a very different presidential campaign than the one that came from almost nowhere to win the Iowa caucuses in an overtime decision, he vows.

“I get the game,” Santorum said.

It seems clear that Rick Santorum ‘gets the game’, the question is, did conservatives catch on, or will they fall for it again? As people close to Romney begin to hint that he is considering running again, are we seeing the same scenario being constructed once more? Is it possible that the Republican Establishment believes that conservatives are stupid enough to fall for it again?

This evening, the Columbian picked up on our story about the ongoing investigation into County Auditor Greg Kimsey’s role in getting the charter passed. By the way, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge our newest lurking presence, if for no other reason than because it would be rude not to. So welcome, Lauren Dake. We mostly like Lauren here, but she doesn’t always cite her sources very well.

In any case, we shouldn’t be surprised to find the Columbian taking Kimsey’s part in their reporting, despite the fact that he won’t talk to them about it (no word on whether Ms. Dake still considers that behavior to be rude). One snippet that caught my interest was toward the end of the article when it takes a strange turn into discussion about the County’s fee waiver program, and Kimsey’s recent audit of it, the results of which have been disputed by a number of other county officials. I am unsure what that has to do with Kimsey’s behavior during the most recent election and the CCRP’s request, but the quote is interesting, nonetheless:

When Stewart asked to be caught up to speed on the fee waiver program and the audit, Madore explained that Kimsey had opposed the program from the outset.

Kimsey has said that the program was investigated based on its merits, not a vested belief that it would fail.

Now Lauren hasn’t been around long, so she may be forgiven for not remembering Kimsey’s public comments regarding the fee waiver program as it was being instituted, which can be found in her own newspaper from May of 2013:

Last Tuesday night, County Auditor Greg Kimsey… advised the commissioners: “Waiving (development and engineering) fees on private schools, churches, restaurants, strip malls and other retail projects does not address Clark County’s unemployment problem. We need another Christensen Shipyard, not another McDonald’s.

So Kimsey, who was willing to make provocative comments in public on the fee waiver program before any results could be observed, doesn’t have a vested interest in being right? You don’t find that just a little bit curious, Lauren?

Over and over we are seeing our county auditor forgetting that he is supposed to be the voice of impartiality. He is supposed to stick to the facts as they happen, rather than steering them to suit his own political goals. His role is actually defined by statute. This is why he is under investigation, not because Republicans woke up one day and decided to purge one of their own elected officials. This auditor appears to believe he is running the county, rather than scrutinizing those who are elected to do so.

On Monday, the Clark County Republican Party submitted to the County Prosecutor a more comprehensive list of possible violations of election law and other statutes relating to Greg Kimsey’s promotion of the home rule charter, which passed in the November elections.

Letter2_Thumbnail

Click to read full CCRP letter

The 11-page request, which is signed by CCRP Chairman Kenny Smith, adds four additional possible RCW infractions to the original letter, sent on November 4th. The document cites Kimsey’s involvement in 2013 in the formation and fundraising for the overtly pro-Charter group ClarkForward, whose purpose, according to the letter, was to encourage legislation from the board of county commissioners to create a board of freeholders. If true, this would seem to be a violation of RCW 36.22.110, which specifically prohibits the auditor from representing others “seeking to procure any legislative or other action by the board of county commissioners.”

The letter also describes Kimsey’s publication (and possible authorship) of a two-page explanation of the background of the charter and ‘frequently asked questions’ in the voter’s pamphlet on pages 58-59, and his use of that voter’s pamphlet explanation as pro-charter campaign material. It further makes mention of a minority report that was signed and submitted in June by three of the elected freeholders to rebut the information and opinions presented in the charter explanation that was posted prominently on the Clark County Elections website. Among the questionable items that can still be read on that page, is this nugget:

“if the charter includes the initiative option, citizens could propose charter amendments through the initiative process.”

As the CCRP letter demonstrates (page 7), the initiative process is prevented by state law from either amending or repealing the charter. So, whenever anyone looked up ‘charter’ on the county elections website, this false information was the first link that came up (Oops!). The request from the authors of the minority report, Peter Silliman,Tracy Wilson, and Liz Pike to be allowed to post their response on the county website was ignored. Kimsey was the gatekeeper for content to be presented to the public, and apparently, he decided to only allow access to those freeholders who were in favor of the final charter. Ironically, the majority report, which did get posted on the county website, states that “members were nearly unanimous about what issues should be addressed in the charter”, despite three votes against and one abstention by Ann Rivers. While 11 out of 15 is a strong majority, it is only considered ‘nearly unanimous’ if the others are never allowed to speak. (Sound familiar?)

The letter (see link) asks some important questions about just how far an auditor can go to promote his political agenda while still performing his office in a purportedly impartial manner, as outlined by Washington State law. These questions need answers, and one would hope that Mr. Golik does his due diligence and pursues these answers in a thorough and unbiased manner.