EVERETT HERALD: Republican candidate for governor faces an uphill battle
After 32 consecutive years of one party controlling the governor’s office, a change in leadership, and electing a new governor from another political party, would be healthy for Washington State. This recent article from the Everett Herald highlights Bill’s background, his path to victory, and Inslee’s problems managing the state. We can win this. It’s time.
Meet the man
The silver-haired 55-year-old Bryant is not a flashy guy. He doesn't speak loudly or with excessive bravado, but with a confident tone in which sentences are seemingly measured twice and cut once as the saying goes…
..Born in Morton, a timber town in Lewis County, Bill Lee Bryant grew up in Hoodsport until his family moved to Olympia, where he attended Capital High School.
He spent one year in Brazil as a Rotary exchange student, an experience inspiring him to study international trade and diplomacy at Georgetown University.
Following college, he landed work on the staff of the governor's council on international trade under what's turned out to be the last Republican governor, John Spellman. He continued working briefly under Booth Gardner, a Democrat who unseated Spellman.
“It was an incredibly important learning period for me in terms of learning state policy,” Bryant said.
A lot of the work centered boosting exports of Washington apples. His efforts drew the attention of other growers and led to a career for Bryant in the private sector helping growers find new markets for their pears, cherries and other products.
In 1992, he and his wife, Barbara, moved from Yakima to Seattle, where Bryant teamed with James Christie to form BCI. The firm, which Bryant said started in his basement with a phone and fax machine, helps Washington farmers increase exports of their agricultural products.
Bryant entered politics in 2007 when he ran for the nonpartisan Port of Seattle Commission and beat the incumbent, Alec Fisken.
In that race, Bryant secured endorsements from prominent Democrats such as David Dicks, ex-leader of the Puget Sound Partnership and son of retired congressman Norm Dicks, and Alex Alben, who Inslee hired last year to be the state's chief privacy officer.
Voters re-elected Bryant in 2011. It's no secret since then Bryant wanted to run for governor and flirted with the idea in 2012 until Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna entered the race.
This time around, Bryant got in first with an announcement a year ago. In those early months, as Bryant struggled to raise money and excite GOP leaders, other well-known Republicans, such as Congressman Dave Reichert, state Sen. Andy Hill, of Redmond, and McKenna, considered entering the race but didn't.
Why not Inslee?
Bryant's goal is to make the race a referendum on Inslee's record since taking office in January 2013.He's sharply criticized Inslee's management skills and leadership style, echoing the lines of attack pursued by GOP state lawmakers.
He faults Inslee for the failure of the Department of Corrections to halt the mistaken early release of prisoners for three years after the error was discovered. In 2015, two people died allegedly at the hands of individuals who should have been locked up.
Inslee, who learned of the problem in December 2015, ordered an investigation into why a fix was repeatedly delayed. The findings led to a handful of employees losing their jobs, getting demoted or receiving written reprimands.
Bryant said the incident is an “indictment of his leadership” because either there were bad managers who failed to react or they created an environment in which people at the lower ranks were afraid to bring the problem to the governor.
He's used similar language to critique Inslee's management of Western State Hospital, which faces a loss of federal funding for its operations because of concerns about the safety and security of patients and staff.
Bryant said Inslee operates like he's still a congressman, is “incapable of pulling people together” and agreements are reached among lawmakers in spite of the governor's
And when it comes to issues, taxes are what Bryant likes to bring up.
Inslee, as a candidate in 2012, said he'd reject any new general taxes that might slow the recovery of the state's post-recession economy. But in the course of his term, Inslee has proposed a capital gains tax and raising revenue by closing a variety of different tax breaks.
Bryant likes to bring up that 2012 pledge.
“His hand was barely off the Bible after his swearing in when he ran back to his office and began proposing new taxes,” Bryant said in a speech at the Snohomish County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in April. “We do not have an absence of revenue. We have an absence of leadership.”
Nothing Bryant is saying on the campaign trail is surprising the Inslee camp.
“These are standard Republican talking points. We're not worried about it,” said Jamal Raad, a spokesman for the campaign.
The Bryant touch
If Bill Bryant is elected, he insists Washington residents will see an immediate change in how state government is run.
On the first day, he vows to “clean house” to make way for appointment of new leaders of key agencies and impose a moratorium on new state regulations. He also plans to implement an approach to budgeting known as zero-based. This essentially means department budgets will start from scratch and agency leaders will need to justify every dollar they seek…
…“I think we have gotten too focused on how much we're spending and not enough focus on how we're spending it,” he said. “I will spend four years working to fix our schools to meet the needs of all kids. I'm willing to jeopardize my second term to get it.”…
The path to victory
In the past 12 years, two much better-known and better-funded Republican candidates for governor — Dino Rossi and Rob McKenna — could not win. So how does Bryant think he can pull it off?
By riding the wave of success Republicans are enjoying in legislative races. The GOP holds an outright majority in the Senate and needs to pick up two seats to control the House of Representatives.
Bryant said he is organizing his campaign by legislative districts and figures if he can do better than McKenna did in 2012 in a handful of bellwether districts, he will collect enough votes to win.
“This victory is within our grasp,” he declared at the Lincoln Day dinner. “If we pull together and we work just a little bit harder that we did four years ago we will provide new leadership to Washington state.”
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