Reichert Island office is target of threats
August 12, 2009 · Updated 9:24 AM
Families sometimes disagree, but they’re still family.
That was the message from U.S. 8th District Representative Dave Reichert, one of several party and elected officials speaking at the King County Republican Party’s annual summer picnic on Saturday at Homestead Park.
Hot dogs on the grill, soda pop and lawn chairs shared time with campaign stump speeches and politics as over 500 attended the event, sponsored by County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. Reichert was among several speakers, including King County Executive candidate Susan Hutchison, Republican Party Chair Lori Sotelo and Bellevue City Council members Conrad Lee and Don Davidson, who sought to drum up support for the primary and general elections.
“It’s a great place to have a picnic,” said Sotelo, who lives on the Island.
The speakers echoed familiar themes and promises that form the modern creed of the Republican Party: reducing public spending, lowering taxes, smaller government and more freedom.
On the surface, the event appeared to be a friendly family-style gathering. But much of the conviviality seemed to dissipate as Reichert stepped forward and ripped the lid off some disagreements he’s had with his party’s base.
“If you have a beef with me,” he said, his voice gradually rising in anger, “then you come to me.”
“Threatening calls and obscene messages are not the way this family should work,” he thundered.
According to Reichert, shortly after he voted in June to support the so-called "cap-and-trade bill" — intended to control carbon emissions — his Mercer Island and Washington, D.C., offices received several threatening calls and e-mails. Some of the messages allegedly questioned his patriotism or called him a “Communist.” He said he was forced to lock down his offices out of concern for his young college age staffers who were often reduced to tears.
Mercer Island police confirmed that they were contacted on July 2 by Reichert’s office for harassing phone calls, but no investigation report was filed.
“Let’s come back together as a family,” Reichert said. “I am here to fight for you.”
Despite years of losses at the national and local level, and the election of Democrat Barack Obama as president last November, an optimistic air was palpable amongst the Republican picnic-goers. They exchanged a variety of ideas on auditing the Federal Reserve, blocking White House plans for a "public option" to reform health care or getting more Republicans elected in 2010. Alex Rion, the state coordinator for the political nonprofit organization Campaign for Liberty, said he was excited to have the opportunity to spread his message and gain support. Wearing a button with the word “bailout” struck through in red, he said he was focused on uncovering how federal money was spent during the recent economic downturn.
“Transparency is what we’re after,” he said.
Amidst a grouping of tents staffed by volunteers supporting the various candidates and causes, a talismanic figure was hunched over boxes of books, signing copies. Lynnwood resident Ed Nixon — the youngest brother of former President Richard Nixon — and author Karen Olson were offering his new book, The Nixons: A Family Portrait for $25 each. Olson, who co-authored the book from interviews and recordings, said she’d been a friend of the Nixon family since 1962, when then former Vice President Nixon visited her Seattle home.
Nixon, a lifelong Republican, said it was nice to be back on Mercer Island and recalled using a child care center here for his children while serving in the Navy Reserve.
“I remember trying to find the address on the Island, getting a little lost and finding our friends who lived here,” he said.
Seattle resident Andrea Torlen seemed to be enjoying the festive atmosphere. She said she drove to the Island to hear what the candidates for elected office — such as Tom Albro for port commissioner or Susan Hutchison for county executive — had to say. Stopping at the Young Republicans tent, Torlen was handed a ball and invited to take a shot at cans pasted with the likenesses of high-ranking Democrats Sen. Patty Murray, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama. After three throws, she managed to topple Pelosi and Murray, but Obama remained standing.
“Looks like I missed him,” she said.
It wasn’t all politics, though. Debbie Hutchinson was hawking wickless candles made by Scentsy, a fragrant votive company based in Meridian, Idaho. She was handing out free samples of the company’s scented wax and clean-burning candles and warmers.
“It’s something everyone could use,” she said. “We conservatives do care about the environment, you know. Always have.”
Conservative radio host David Boze of KTTH 770 AM, who worked the event as host emcee, said the excitement in the air was because he believed the majority of Americans would soon realize that current levels of spending at the local, state and federal levels are unsustainable. Once that happened, he said Republicans could return to a leading role by holding down taxes and spending.
“Someone needs to act like an adult, step up and say, ‘Enough!’,” he said.
Not all went as planned, however. Apart from Reichert’s comments, Boze apologized to the crowd as the microphone repeatedly went dead while candidates and officials tried to speak. After his comments, Reichert was followed by a crowd of about 50 people asking about his votes on the health care reform “public option” (which he opposes) and “cap and trade” (which he supports), pulling attention away from other speakers.
Reichert implored them to contact as many U.S. Senators as they could to stop the proposed health care changes, beginning with Senate Finance Committee members — including Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who favors the White House plan.
“You’ve got to let them know that this healthcare plan won’t work,” he said.
“As the government enters the marketplace, the private sector will crumble.”
Meanwhile, Hutchison’s supporters fumed at the release of sealed court records on Friday that said she was fired with cause from KIRO-TV in 2002, revelations prompted by a lawsuit filed by the Seattle Times and the Associated Press. Even Dunn was waylaid from the event when his expectant wife was taken to the hospital with labor pains.
But all-in-all, the voices at the picnic were looking forward, not back. Speaking on behalf of his son, Reagan, Former King County GOP chair Dennis Dunn said there was plenty of silver lining in today’s dark clouds.
“The political pendulum is always swinging, and the future of our GOP has improved,” he said. “It all starts here, in the grassroots, like today.”