Paul Akers was the fifth, out of this year’s Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, to be vetted by We The People – Southwest Washington (WTP). I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised with the “top-flight” performance that Akers delivered at this event.
The reasons behind my being “pleasantly surprised” on this occasion are two-fold: (1) Up to now, I probably have had less exposure to Paul Akers than any of the other U.S. Senate candidates vetted by WTP. (2) The majority of what I knew about this candidate came from a recent article by former candidate Chris Widener, entitled “The Skinny on the U.S. Senate Race in WA, from a Former Candidate”. Frankly, I came away from reading this article not expecting to like Akers as a candidate and that accounts for the “pleasantly” part of my “pleasantly surprised” … based on what I saw at his WTP Vetting, I did like Paul Akers, as a candidate. No doubt, as a former fellow-candidate, Chris Widener has had a closer look at Paul Akers than I’m likely to ever get so I don’t want to, in any way, dismiss his views. However, I think it may be worthwhile to offer my views, from “The Peanut Gallery”, versus Chris’ views, as one who shared the dais.
The “Skinny” article comments on Akers’ interest in running for Governor of Washington State, in addition to his interest in running for U.S. Senate. That sounds like a Career Politician to me and I’m not a fan of anyone who fits that description. However, at his WTP Vetting, Akers came off as a guy whose business efforts were blessed enough that he was able to become a significant Donor for causes aimed at guarding the America he was blessed to grow up in. As he did this, he developed the sense that he is as equipped (or better equipped) to serve in this regard than most candidates he found himself supporting. So, he looked for the best fit for where he could serve. For me, this addressed one issue I always try to cover in reporting these vetting events – i.e. “The candidate’s motives for running?” and it seemed OK to me that he would consider more than one possibility for where he could serve. Widener’s article, also, includes remarks about Akers’ endorsement by Clinton-hater-in-chief, Dick Morris. Here too, I’m not a fan of old-style-politics tactics like getting the endorsement of every political hack you can find. In Akers’ vetting session, though, this came off as just a bit of background rather than an “I’ve been anointed by” sort of statement. The fact that Akers’ campaign website clearly states his commitment on Term Limits also helps me to not view him as a Career Politician.
Uncertainty about Akers’ beliefs and the lack of campaign visibility to his having been a Christian Minister are also issues that the “Skinny” article questioned. Of course, it’s possible that Akers, also, read Chris Widener’s article prior to this vetting event and that resulted in my experiencing a different Paul Akers. Regardless of the reason, that was the result. In fact, Akers let it be known that (like me) he had moved to Washington State from Southern California, that he graduated from BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) and that he had served as a Minister before becoming a general contractor and then developing his entrepreneurial business. Adding to my perception of Akers’ willingness to share his views was the fact that, following his vetting session; he was engaged in continuous discussion with numerous attendees in the entryway of the vetting venue until the entire event was concluded. On a break, I got to join in that conversation and that included getting to discuss Southern California ministry experiences that Paul and I have in common. Here, again, finding Akers’ clear beliefs stated on his campaign website, about issues like Marriage and Abortion, don’t strike me as someone who is trying to hide their beliefs, as a Christian Fundamentalist.
Akers’ wealth and his campaign-fund-raising are, in sequence, the next topics addressed by the “Skinny” article. I really had mixed feelings after I read that part. I’m not a fan of people who present themselves as somehow superior because of the wealth they’ve been blessed with and I’m certainly not in favor of wealthy people “buying their way” into office. On the other hand, while I fully appreciate the need for candidates to do well with fund-raising, the old-style-politics use of this, as a gauge for selecting candidates, is a mechanism that I think should be diminished in importance. At least at his WTP vetting session, I have to say that Paul Akers came off as a man who is truly humble about the wealth he’s been blessed with and that he sees making use of that wealth to benefit his fellow-man as his responsibility, in being a good steward of that wealth. Incidentally, my use of the term “top-flight” in the title of this article is my sophomoric attempt at a pun, alluding to the fact that Akers is a pilot who flies his own plane. When I first learned about this, it was another indicator for me that Akers might be one of those people of means who view themselves as superior because of their wealthy status. I met a guy who seemed thankful to be in a position to make smart use of his aeronautical blessing to be more effective in a campaign that requires him to be all over Washington State’s great expanse.
The one observation that Chris Widener’s article makes that I’m more in agreement with is that Paul Akers does seem a bit “politically naive”. With me, though, that’s not all bad. For me, as long as a candidate seems willing and able to learn what they need to learn about serving as a politician, if they’re otherwise well equipped to be a citizen-servant, I can support that sort of candidate. Paul Akers struck me as being that sort.
So, that’s a lot more than I usually give on a candidate’s background, going into their WTP vetting but it seemed worthwhile to me. I hope it’s helpful to you.
As far as Paul Akers’ “ability to connect with the grassroots”, if my perception of the audience reaction at this WTP vetting is any gauge, I think he did quite well. My perception was that he received more frequent and more enthusiastic applause than any of the U.S. Senate candidates who have been vetted so far. Though he is certainly an excellent public speaker, he came off as down-to-earth and very genuine.
Finally, on the question of “How well equipped is the candidate to serve?”, I thought Akers presented himself as being very well equipped. Furthermore, his responses to the Q&A portion of his vetting showed him to be well aligned with the general views of WTP. I, particularly, appreciated his willingness to address “root issues” as well as responding to the more apparent “surface characteristics” of topics that were raised. In my opinion, one of the best examples here was Akers’ recommendation for putting a better system for “legal immigration” into place, as well as addressing the matter of “illegal immigration.”
From my perspective, Paul Akers seemed to be just what he says he is … a Citizen-Servant-Leader. I think he is well deserving of your consideration for support but, as always, I want to encourage you to continue to examine his candidacy for yourself.