Republican candidates for local and state offices gathered in Aberdeen Saturday for what was billed as the Harbor Freedom Rally.
The event featured multiple GOP candidates speaking to several dozen supporters that braved the rain and wet weather to attend the rally hosted by the Save Our Aberdeen Please group and Rainier Lanes.
The candidates spoke on a variety of hot-button issues at the local, state and national levels, including a local needle-exchange program, potential state income taxes and changing the current political climate in Olympia.
Grays Harbor County Auditor Joe MacLean opened the event by predicting he expects upward of an 80 percent voter turnout, which would be the highest in history at all levels. MacLean then stressed that no matter what a voter’s political leanings are, it’s important to be an educated voter. “People need to get involved and educated on who they are voting for,” he said. “That’s what I am going to promote.”
MacLean said anyone interested in discussing the state’s mail-in voting process can call his office and come see the process firsthand.
Then it was time for the candidates to speak.
First up was Jill Warne and Kevin Pine, who are running for County Commissioner seats District 1 and 2, respectively. Both discussed the local needle-exchange program, which is a hot topic.
“We want to either eliminate (the needle exchange program) or at least make it one for one,” said Warne, garnering cheers and applause from the crowd. “We can’t continue to enabling the addicts.”
Warne then addressed the issue of homelessness in the county and how it affects the local business climate.
“We need to protect private property rights, and the homelessness problem affects private property rights,” she said. “It’s not appealing for business and it’s not appealing to get new businesses to come. It’s all connected and we need to fix it and find a better way to help the addicts get out of that bondage.”
“We do have a homeless problem,” Pine said. “But it is a drug, alcohol and mental health problem. So if we really want to help people, we’ve got to focus on getting people off drugs and getting them good jobs, finding hope, housing and shelter. … If we really care about people we need to take care of that.”
Pine then spoke of creating a better business climate in the county.
“The other main issue we want to take care of, as a team, is bringing business to the Harbor,” he said. “Create a job-friendly climate with less regulation, streamline things and make it easier for businesses to come here.”
“Who is going to wait five years to open a business,” said Warne, referencing the recent withdrawal of BHP Billiton’s bid for a proposed export facility at the Port of Grays Harbor, a $400 million local investment that would have created about 50 permanent jobs. “That’s what the potash plant was about. It’s been five years. (BHP) gave up and I can’t blame them. It’s just not right. We need to make the county friendly for business and need more family-wage jobs.”
“Let’s quit laying more layers of bureaucracy on top of what we already have,” Pine added.
Jeff Wilson, who is running for the 19th District State Senate seat, then spoke to the crowd about climate change, but not the type regarding the environment.
“I’d like to talk about political climate change,” he said. “We are changing the climate of politics. The 19th legislative district is going to turn all red. How is that for climate change?”
Wilson then spoke about the importance of protecting the 2nd Amendment and his staunch position on opposing the addition of a state-income tax.
“Don’t even talk to me about income tax because I’m not going to talk to you,” he said during his speech, drawing roars from the crowd. “The answer is no. There is nothing to discuss.”
Wilson then turned the microphone over to Aberdeen’s Jim Walsh, the incumbent in the 19th District House Position 1 race who garnered 56.21 percent of the vote in a three-way August primary.
Walsh offered his thoughts on Republican Loren Culp’s campaign against incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, stating Culp’s unlikely rise is due to him being “a brave man,” adding that while Culp was Chief of Police for the town of Republic, he declared that gun-control initiative 1639, which was approved by voters in 2018, ran afoul of the state’s constitution.
“Our state’s constitution is clearer than the federal constitution on gun ownership,” Walsh said. “Section 24 of Article 1 (of the state constitution) is about gun rights. … It says the right of an individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall never be impaired. Impaired is a stronger word than infringed. … More importantly, it says clearly that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. … The state constitution is crystal clear. … Loren Culp saw this and knew it and when he saw 1639 he saw there are two or three sections that violate the state constitution.”
Walsh explained that while there may be discussion and disagreement as to a police chief’s role in determining a law’s constitutionality, Article 1, Section 1 of the state’s constitution says right at the start that “All political power is inherent in the people and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Article 1 goes on to say that the role of the state government is to protect individual rights. “That tells you all of us are legislators, all of us are judges and all of us are executives because all political power is inherent in …”
“The people,” the crowd responded.
Walsh later stated he was “shocked still to this day” as to how many elected officials in Olympia “act as though they never read or even heard about the state constitution.”
“They act as though it doesn’t exist and the governor can act unilaterally in the time of emergency. They act as though the Legislature can make decisions about the enforcement of the law. And they act as though the judicial branch can make law that the Legislature makes opinions about” he said. “Well if you remember your civics classes at all, they’ve got it all screwed up as to whom is supposed to do what. … We got it all bollocksed up in Olympia. We’re like a boat that hasn’t been taken out of the water in years and we’ve got barnacles and rust and all kinds of gunk on the bottom of our hull. And we need to pull that boat out of the water and clean that bottom off. And that’s what you can do coming up in November.”
Walsh, who spoke for approximately 25 minutes, endorsing multiple candidates in local and statewide elections and discussing the importance of understanding the candidates in less flashy elections, but for offices that influence key issues.
“How many of you all remember when timber dollars used to fund our schools?” Walsh asked the crowd. “This state used to be the envy of other states in this nation because we had a good setup. … We had K-12 schools in little towns – Cosi, North River, Naselle, Wishkah – that had good facilities and good teachers because they had money from timber sales to fund their schools. … It used to be a strong faucet putting out strong water into the bathtub. But in the last 30 years, we’ve shut off that water. We need to turn that water back on.”
Walsh then addressed the state school superintendent’s office and the recent passage of Senate Bill 5395 that enforces a comprehensive sexual education curriculum starting in kindergarten.
“We have a change this November, on Referendum 90, to reject the comprehensive sex-ed bill,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of chances to change how we do things in Olympia, and please, please do that,” Walsh said.
The final speakers of the day were Sue Forde and Brian Pruiett, both of whom are running for State Representative seats in the 24th District.
Similar to other speakers at the event, Pruiett spoke of “getting rid of the graft” in Olympia.
“We’re going to re-establish good management in Olympia,” he said. “That is my goal and I’m proud to say I’m the guy to stand up and do it.”
Pruiett spoke about the recent civil unrest and said he and Forde will work to re-establish individual rights.
“You can count on us working to re-establish your rights, including the right to defend your home and your family against the insanity we see over there in Seattle,” he said. “Anybody enjoying watching the havoc over there? The burning and looting and pillaging? No, no, no.
“Say yes to good management. Say yes to good government and say yes to getting our economy running again.”
Forde, who flew in with Pruiett from a Culp campaign event to speak in Aberdeen, stated she offers “a clear alternative.”
“That is for lower taxes, less regulation and common-sense government,” she said. “We want to make a change in Olympia, from the top all the way down.”