PORT ANGELES — More than 1,000 people filled the grounds at the Extreme Sports Park, many of them decked head to toe in red, white and blue to listen to Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp and several other candidates speak.
Saturday’s event was deemed a protest against Gov. Jay Inslee but had all the earmarks of a political rally with a giant flag supporting President Donald Trump flying over the grounds.
Only a few people wore masks as speakers protested against Inslee’s measures to contain the COVID-19 virus as stifling rural economies and taking away people’s personal choices.
Republican candidates running for state and federal offices used the event to criticize not only Inslee but their political opponents as well.
There were food vendors and country and western music, as well as songs by Queen and Ted Nugent between speakers.
Skies threatened during the 90-minute event, but rain held off until the very end of Culp’s speech. Music and bands continued after the speakers finished as candidates returned to their information booths.
Kelli Morrison, co-owner of the Extreme Sports Park west of Port Angeles, said they estimated 1,335 people attended the event, enjoying the fresh air and clean skies.
“A lot of our vendors sold out of their food,” she said. “It was a lot of people. It was good for people to get out, out and about.”
Culp, a police chief from Republic in Eastern Washington who grew up on a farm in nearby Chimacum, was the main speaker.
Also speaking were state Senate candidate Connie Beauvais of Joyce; Brian Pruiett and Sue Force, candidates who are running for separate positions to represent the 24th Legislative District in the state House; Elizabeth Kreiselmaier, who is running for the 6th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; and James Scarantino of the Port Townsend Free Press website.
Culp said he learned the value of hard work as he grew up on a farm, milking cows early in the morning, and people like him who are used to taking care of themselves and stewarding the land are tired of Inslee making decisions for them when it comes to COVID-19.
“Are we ready to kick Jay Inslee out of office?” Culp asked the crowd. “We’re sick and tired of him dictating what we can do in our lives. Those of us who work daylight to dark don’t need Jay Inslee to take care of us.”
Culp said Inslee has been using dictatorial powers to pick “winners” and “losers,” businesses that could stay open and those that couldn’t. Winners under Inslee’s rules include box stores and pot shops while losers were local businesses, barbershops and gun stores, Culp argued.
Culp said that if becomes governor, he would convene scientists and doctors for their input and then “we will leave it up to free individual citizens to decide what is best for them and their businesses” if another virus like COVID-19 hits the state.
Culp also asked the crowd if they’ve been experiencing a lot of smoke and got a rousing response. He said Inslee called the fires ravaging the West Coast “climate fires,” but Culp said timber-company lands haven’t been burning because they have been managed properly with dead and overgrown trees removed.
“They’re climate fires, according to Jay Inslee,” Culp said. “It’s not got anything to do with climate change. It’s about our piss-poor management of our forests.”
Culp, whose father was a deputy sheriff in Jefferson County, also said he backs law enforcement.
“The left is spewing about defunding the police,” he said. “We need to defend the police, not defund them.”
He accused Inslee of waiting weeks to send in Washington National Guard members to a “dangerous situation” in Seattle, but then he disarmed them. Then Inslee negotiated with the rioters, Culp said.
“When the next riot happens, the National Guard will be spun up,” Culp said. “They will be there in a minute, and they will shut it down and arrest the criminals. You don’t negotiate with criminals.”
Several other people spoke before Culp.
Beauvais likewise criticized Inslee for his actions during the pandemic. She said one thing she would do if elected to the state Senate is introduce a bill “to limit the power of the governor during emergencies. Are you kidding? This is ridiculous.”
“Our rural communities have really suffered because of decisions made by our governor on his own,” Beauvais said.
Kreiselmaier, who said she is “pro-Trump and proud of him” is running against four-term incumbent Democrat Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor. She said that, during the past 3½ years, Congressional Democrats have been throwing a temper tantrum over Trump.
“I do aim to give Derek Kilmer a much-needed timeout,” she said.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached by email at [email protected].