We The People-Southwest Washington (WTP) departed from their “standard format” in this week’s candidate vetting event. Instead of vetting a candidate for U.S. Senate, followed by a candidate for U.S. Congress, followed by a candidate for State Representative; they vetted three candidates for State Representative, one after another. These were: Brian Peck, Candidate for Position One in the 17th Legislative District; Ann Rivers, Candidate for Position One in the 18th Legislative District; and Paul Harris, Candidate for Position Two in the 17th Legislative District.

Considering that the set of questions WTP has is very similar for each candidate, within their category, I expected that the format of this particular event might lead to an evening that was a bit monotonous. Thanks to the very different personalities of the three candidates, that turned out to not be the case. With that in mind, I’ve decided to depart from my “standard format”, by offering my observations of each vetting session, as it unfolded.

Brian Peck

Brian is a native of the Pacific Northwest who has experience operating small businesses. Presently, he is the Owner of a 76 gas station in Hazel Dell. To offer a completely personal observation, he strikes me as a salt-of-the-earth sort of guy who you’d be happy to have, as a friend or family member. One of the things that has impressed me about Brian is that, though he has no Republican opponent in his race, he seems to work at his campaign as diligently as others who have one or more Primary opponents.

It seemed to me that Brian Peck’s opening remarks for his vetting session revealed something significant about him, as a person and as a candidate. I’ve had enough one-on-one contact with Brian to know that he’s quite comfortable participating in a thoughtful conversation. Although his opening remarks were well thought out, Peck seemed a bit stiff and it was obvious that he was reading the comments he had prepared. I know that seems like a negative but, for me, Brian’s opening remarks netted out as a positive. I have no doubt that he will become more and more comfortable with speaking opportunities. But he is, obviously, not a Career-Politician and though presentations of this sort don’t come easily for him, he remains determined to step up and do his part for the betterment of his community. That was, also, evident in the content of Peck’s opening remarks. I, especially, appreciated his small business owner’s perspective on evidence of the need for improvement in our government when he said, “When a private business fails, it’s gone. When government fails, they raise taxes.”

Generally, Brian Peck’s responses to WTP’s set of questions, as well as to the questions posed by those selected from the audience, showed him as being well aligned with the views of WTP. With that said, when Peck was asked if he would support the repeal of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he said he would not be in favor of that. I, for one, appreciated Peck being unwilling to be career-politician-vague on an issue where his view didn’t match up with the view held by many WTP participants. I felt that Brian was strongest with his observations about cutting middle and upper management in government agencies, as a most likely path for cutting government spending. Also, he made a good case for strengthening Washington State’s Initiative and Referendum process by giving measures passed a four-year-life to inhibit the legislature in circumventing the will of the people.

In closing, Brian reminded the audience that he has been running his campaign for a year, he reminded them of the values he holds that led him to become a candidate and he assured them that they can rely on there being no change to the values he holds if he is elected to office. Based on what I know of Brian Peck, I accept that closing statement.

Ann Rivers

Have you ever had an experience when you were presented with a package that seemed to be nicely wrapped but what you found inside the package was very different from what you thought you might expect to find, based on the packaging? That seems like a good metaphor for my observation of Ann Rivers’ vetting session with WTP. Some of this was the result of the difference between how she said things versus the substance of what she said. And another part of this, for me, was that there was a backdrop of questions about Ann Rivers I’ve heard “floating around” WTP. This was similar to the circumstances I described in my article entitled A Few “Sparks” Fly In Vetting Of Jaime Herrera, Candidate For U.S. Congress. Although I didn’t expect all of the questions related to Ann Rivers to be fully addressed, as they were with Jaime Herrera, I did expect “sparks” to fly over some of these concerns and I was looking forward to hearing Rivers address them. To my complete surprise, none of these questions were raised. So, before going on about the vetting session itself, I think it’s appropriate for me to outline the issues I’ve heard, at least the ones that seem to have been substantiated.

        Organized Labor’s Support for Rivers – During the appointment process to replace former State Representative Richard Curtis (the process that ended up appointing Jaime Herrera), Cowlitz County Commissioner (D) Kathleen Johnson commented that she “has never seen so many members of organized labor come lobby for a Republican candidate” and that they are “confident that Rivers would work across the aisle and represent their interests.” These statements can be heard on the audio archive at the Cowlitz County Courthouse. You can also hear this audio on a “more entertaining” link I was sent – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGW7L0wkLHE.

        Rivers’ Loyalty to Party Affiliation – Magnifying the questions raised by the preceding bullet-point, at a Battle Ground School District Board meeting on May 30th of 2008, Rivers stated that she has “distanced (herself) from the Republican Party” and that she has “taken a middle-ground approach”, when she was asked how she is involved with the Republican party. This is substantiated by the minutes of that meeting.

 

Needless to say, since these concerns weren’t raised at this week’s WTP Vetting event, I’m hoping they will be at some event in the near future. As I said in my article about the questions related to Jaime Herrera that caused “sparks” to fly, these questions need to be addressed. Hopefully, like Herrera, Rivers will acknowledge this and she’ll welcome the opportunity to speak to these issues.

 

When it came to addressing the questions that Rivers was asked in her vetting session, her answers seemed quite polished and aimed at being in alignment with the views of WTP. However, several of her answers, while packaged in a seemingly pleasing way, ended up seeming hollow or not ringing true. When Rivers was asked if she was in favor of Washington State implementing an illegal immigration policy similar to the one being implemented in Arizona, she said she would “look at” that. To me, that seems like a career-politician-vague answer. When she was asked “the purpose of government according to the Constitution”, Rivers said, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Of course, that’s an answer that can make any American feel all warm and fuzzy but that’s from the Declaration of Independence, not our Constitution. Of course, when Rivers was asked about accepting campaign donations from Unions, though she said that she wouldn’t, I had to wonder about Organized Labor’s support of Rivers, according to Kathleen Johnson.

 

Ann Rivers’ closing comments were presented as professionally as were her opening remarks and her responses to all questions. Of course, I’m looking forward to hearing her address the concerns I mentioned above, to complete my impression of her as a candidate.

 

Paul Harris

 

Paul is a longtime resident of Southwest Washington and the 17th Legislative District. He has owned and operated a business here and he, in fact, has run for office on previous occasions. With that said, he strikes me as anything but a Career Politician. Since, like me, he is a Grandfather, maybe he’s a little easier for me to connect with than some. I guess I’d describe him as a WYSIWYG sort of guy and I like that. When he talks about his motives for getting involved, politically, they sound similar to mine. The way I would put it is that it seems we’ve both experienced our own personal “Salad Days”, as our nation did likewise. Now, things are not so good for our nation and we want to restore the opportunity for our children and our grandchildren to have their “Salad Days” too.

 

Since Harris was the third candidate to be vetted at this week’s event, he got to experience the same thing that previous candidates who have gone third experienced – i.e. a significant portion of the attendees had already gone home. But, due to what seems to be Paul’s energetic “can do” attitude, that didn’t seem to detract from his vetting session. His responses to the questions posed, both by the WTP Panel and by those selected from the audience, all seemed to be in alignment with the general views of WTP. I particularly liked the way he drilled down into the topic of State Revenues to illustrate that “our State Legislature just didn’t do the job this year, in terms of taking the steps necessary to live within a Budget.” Later, in response to a question about breaking government employee unions, he pointed out a significant instance of the State Legislature’s fiscal irresponsibility, in honoring union contracts which the State can not fund. And, I had to appreciate his candor on the topic of Washington State’s Initiative and Referendum process when he mentioned the current “Vote the Bums Out on I-960!” movement and he stated that’s exactly what we should do … “Vote the Bums out!”

 

Paul Harris is still in the early stages of his candidacy. He pointed that out in his closing comments. He, also, reiterated something he had said in response to a question from the audience – i.e. he will be a Conservative voice for us in Olympia but, while he will give it his all, he can only be truly effective if we send more Conservatives along with him, to make up a majority in our State Legislature. To that, I say, “Amen Brother!”