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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Old and New Faces at King County GOP Picnic

When my dad told me on Thursday that the King County chapter of the Republican Party was hosting a get-together in Redmond, I initially thought, “We have a chapter here?” At the risk of sounding pessimistic about the state of our… state, I am of the understanding that western Washington is a very liberal area. Exactly what “liberal” means is widely debated and misunderstood, especially by younger persons such as myself, but that’s not the point. The point is that our area is not exactly known for being a hub of conservative activity. Fortunately, a cadre of both new and returning political candidates and other entities are stepping up to stop Washington’s steady descent into liberal-progressive oblivion.

Many of these people and organizations were gathered today together at the King County GOP Picnic. Officially called the “Majority 2014! Summer Festival,” this event was a small gathering taking place earlier today between the hours of eleven and two o’clock. Present were booths representing various conservative organizations such as the Washington Policy Center, the NRA, and Cascade Republican Women, and some more beside. Also present were newcomer Republican political candidates such as Pedro Celis, Bill Stinson, and Michelle Darnell, and other, more established candidates such as Dave Reichert, Andy Hill, and Chad Magendanz. The event was hosted by local radio host Jon Carlson of 570 KVI, which also had a booth present at the picnic, and nationally syndicated radio host Lars Larson, who also can be heard on that station. On a side note, the event was preceded by a prayer from a reverend.

My dear old dad and I had a booth at the event, representing our family business, the Renton Printery. We wished to not only possibly acquire some new business associates among the local GOP candidates, but also to mingle, converse, and meet with some new and old faces. Bill Stinson, for example, was an interesting person to meet. A political science student at the University of Washington, Mr. Stinson is running for State Representative in the 41st District at the tender age of twenty. When asked what distinguishes him from other Republican political candidates, he said, “What makes me unique is the fact that I’m a millennial. I’m a millennial Republican and that means [that] I hold the views of the millennial generation, and so I consider myself fiscally responsible but socially moderate, and I think that’s a little different than a lot of other Republicans.”

Other candidates who stood out at the event were Pedro Celis and Chad Magendanz. Cilis’ campaign cleverly draws from the acclaimed independent film Napoleon Dynamite by adopting the same slogan as the fictional Hispanic politico featured in the film: “Vote for Pedro.” Mr. Celis’ personal story is just as inspiring as his slogan is ingenious. According to his campaign literature, Mr. Celis emigrated from Mexico to the United States “with one suitcase and a box of books.” Jon Carlson later told me of his admiration for Mr. Celis: “I’m a big fan of Pedro Celis, because I’ve known him for so long and he’s always helped good Republican candidates, because he understands the American dream from the ground up because he’s lived it.”

Arriving in 1980, Mr. Celis became a U.S. citizen in 1993, and eventually became a Computer Science Ph.D. and retired as a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft in 2012. Upon viewing his impressive website, I learned that he has more than 15 patents to his name, and has been acclaimed by Hispanic news outlets as one of the most influential Hispanic Americans in the country. Mr. Celis is also a devoted family man who has for 22 years homeschooled his four children with his wife, Laura, also a Computer Science Ph.D.

Chad Magendaz is also a unique candidate. His booth was directly to the left of our Renton Printery booth. Mr. Magendaz was handing out ice cream bars— on the condition that recipients wear a sticker which parodied a certain ice cream brand by substituting a rearranged version of Mr. Magendaz’s name for the brand name. This tongue-in-cheek gesture, however, bellies the considerable experience that Mr. Magendaz has. From a twelve year career as an officer in the Navy to his 2011 election as Issaquah School Board President, this would-be legislator has much skill under his belt. He even carries glowing endorsements from Democratic politicos such as Representative Ross Hunter and Senator Rodney Tom. Along with Mr. Hill and Mr. Reichert, he is up for reelection, and wishes to tackle the various fiscal, economic, and educational issues which plague Washington.

As at any public event where free stuff is provided, there was an innumerable supply of S.W.A.G., an acronym which my dad, Rich Sweeney, says stands for “Stuff We All Get.” Such S.W.A.G. was provided by the organizations and candidates who set up booths at the event, with everything from bumper stickers to booklets to Mr. Magendaz’s aforementioned ice-cream. One booth offered a prize wheel, which I spun and as a result won a free book. Of the books offered, I chose Uncle Sam Can't Count: A History of Failed Government Investments, from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy by Burton and Anita Folsom. I learned about the book while watching a Heritage Foundation video on it and I am now the proud owner of a copy. I also picked up fact sheets from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and from the Washington Policy Center’s booths. The former provided me with a bumper sticker which states, “Yes on 591. No on 594.” In fact, I gathered many bumper stickers, from Pedro Celis’ “Vote for Pedro” sticker to 570 KVI’s “Keep Right” sticker. I hope to add one of these many stickers to my mom’s car.

During the King County GOP Picnic, we listened to speeches from the diverse candidates and organizations, exchanged business cards, ate hotdogs and chips, enjoyed the S.W.A.G., and generally had a good time. It was good to meet Jon Carlson, who, incidentally, went to High School with my dad. As the picnic was ending, Mr. Carlson had an optimistic, even cheerful view of the event, and of the candidates who went there. When I asked him which of candidates seemed to be the most promising, he said, referring to Pedro Celis, “Well, we’ve got a real chance in the 1st Congressional District, because that’s a fifty-fifty district and this is gonna be a Republican-leaning year.” Mr. Carlson also said that “some real all-stars” were present at the picnic, and referred to Representative Andy Hill as one of many “really smart guys… who are running for re-election.” According to Mr. Carlson, “Andy Hill has had more influence on Washington state government than the governor, because Andy Hill’s policies are better, and they’re more taxpayer friendly.” If Mr. Carlson is feeling optimistic about the political situation in western Washington, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be either. Maybe I’ll have a soda at next year’s picnic.

Image courtesy of author's personal collection.