Insurgent candidates get enthusiastic reception - GOP delegates in Vancouver cheer Didier, Hedrick, others


By Kathie Durbin
The Columbian

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vancouver, WA - Call them Tea Partiers, patriots or constitutionalists. Whatever their label, candidates identifying with the new Republican insurgency won thundering applause and hoots of approval from the crowd of nearly 1,200 delegates Saturday at the state Republican Convention.

From U.S. Senate candidate Clint Didier, a pro football player turned alfalfa farmer turned politician, to 3rd Congressional District candidate David Hedrick, a Camas financial consultant who became an overnight celebrity after he confronted U.S. Rep. Brian Baird at a health reform town hall last summer, the newcomers hit a chord with delegates.

“It’s time we the people had the courage and fortitude to take our country back,” Didier boomed. “When I get to D.C., there’s going to be hell to pay.”

“I have a game plan,” he said, and ticked off the plays: “Secure our borders, unshackle our industries and get rid of the regulations.”

“For eight years, the establishment had the football,” Didier said, in an apparent reference to the administration of President George W. Bush. “It’s time to put the offense back on the field.”

Didier, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, caused tongues to wag when he took a break from the convention Friday to fly back to the Tri-Cities to meet with the former vice presidential candidate, who is reportedly planning a future trip to Washington. He returned in late afternoon and hosted an overflow crowd at his “tailgate party” at the Hilton Vancouver Washington on Friday night.

Didier peppered his talk with the words of George Washington, Charlton Heston and Mel Gibson as a Scottish warrior in the film Braveheart. It’s time, he said, “to fight our way back to the light, to the truth, to the Lord God Almighty.”

As proof of Didier’s popularity with Tea Partiers, he won 112 of 136 votes cast by members of patriot groups from around the state who met at the Red Lion Inn at the Quay on Friday. Republican Dino Rossi, widely believed to be the front-runner among Republicans seeking to challenge U. S. Sen. Patty Murray, got 12 votes. Both Rossi and Didier took questions from the group.
‘Get out of your way’

Hedrick, a political newcomer, began his remarks by declaring, “I’m from the Tea Party, and I’m proud to be a Republican.”

Some candidates believe the role of a member of Congress is to “bring home the pork,” he said, but he believes it’s “to support and defend the USA, and get out of your way.”

“I feel we’re on a bus, and it’s headed toward tyranny,” Hedrick said. “We need strong conservative Republicans who will go up there and tear that driver out of that seat.”

Holding a pocket-size copy of the U.S. Constitution, he declared: “This is the new face of the Republican Party. I’ve seen the fire, and I’ve seen the passion. If the story of liberty is a book, the Republicans will write the next chapter.”

Third Congressional District candidate David Castillo chose to take on Democratic candidate Denny Heck directly, calling the Olympia entrepreneur and former state representative “nothing more than (U.S. Sen.) Maria Cantwell without the pantsuit.”

Castillo accused Heck of being “a typical big-government candidate” who hides his liberal views.

He also alluded indirectly to state Rep. Jaime Herrera, the third Republican candidate in the race, noting that he filed for the seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Baird a year ago, when it was widely assumed Baird would run for a seventh term.

“We cannot have career politicians who are just looking for the best-paying job they’ve ever had,” he said. “I chose to take on what seemed an impossible task because the alternative was unacceptable.”

Herrera, for her part, touted her record of fighting wasteful government spending in the Legislature and said she has a simple time-tested plan for creating jobs: “Let businesses succeed or fail based on the value of their goods and services.”
Senate seat

Rossi, who entered the U.S. Senate race just two weeks ago and quickly raised $600,000, said he’s running because the country is in trouble. That’s obvious, he quipped, “when our bankers, the Chinese, are telling us we are spending too much money. … We’re going to wake up in a country we don’t even recognize.”

The former state senator and two-time candidate for governor noted that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray “is No.3 in earmarks.” He called the process by which members of Congress fight to win largesse for their states or districts “old-school politics.”

“We need to reform that process and end earmarks, and we need a balanced budget amendment,” he said.

U.S. Senate candidate and Bellingham entrepreneur Paul Akers also spoke, touting his success as a business owner who has managed to save and even create jobs during the economic recession.

If there was a hero of the day, it was Attorney General Rob Mc­Kenna. He was lauded by delegates for his decision to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a mandate in the health reform bill that requires people who lack health insurance to purchase coverage or pay a fine.

McKenna is widely expected to run for governor in 2012. He thanked the Tea Party group “We the People” for mobilizing 2,000 people to rally on the steps of the state Capitol in support of his action after Democratic leaders, including Gov. Chris Gregoire, denounced it. So far, 21 states have joined the lawsuit.

“If anyone thinks the Constitution is some historical artifact,” he said, “We the People and similar groups prove otherwise.

“They are breathing new life into the Constitution,” he said.

“Other elements of the health care bill will have to be repealed through the legislative process,” he said, by electing more Republicans to Congress.


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