BY BRAD SHANNON
And MAKS GOLDENSHTEYN
As many as 300 protesters stood in rain on the Capitol steps to hear speeches about state rights and what some consider the federal government’s abuse of power Thursday.
The “Sovereignty Winter Fest” event, spurred by “Tea Party” activists, drew a few speeches from Republican lawmakers as well as appearances by at least three hopefuls running for seats in Congress. State troopers estimated the crowd at 250-300 people.
“I believe we’re here today especially because Washington, D.C., isn’t just out of touch with the people, they’re actively working against us,” state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said, hoping to create a showdown with the president and Congress over what he thinks is overstepping.
Shea is one of several Republicans who have sponsored bills sending Congress a message urging, in effect, a broader interpretation of the 10th Amendment, and they back House Joint Memorial 4009 as a message to the federal government on sovereignty.
Shea sponsored eight sovereignty bills this year. They include measures to exempt Washington-made firearms from federal regulation, to exempt the state from federal greenhouse gas regulations, and to require written permission from a county sheriff before federal officials not designated by the state as “peace officers” could arrest a suspect.
“We’re not going to suffer government telling us how to buy our healthcare or how to buy our energy anymore. And Mr. President, we’re Washingtonians. We’re Americans, and that will not stand,” Shea added.
Other lawmakers speaking were Sen. Val Stevens of Arlington and Rep. Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish. Clint Didier and Art Coday, Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, and Republican 3rd congressional district candidates David Castillo and David Hedrick also were on hand, and Hedrick spoke of turning the direction the country was moving.
Democrats looked on skeptically. “It’s their perfect right to be at the Capitol steps and speech their views,” Democratic Rep. Jim Moeller of Vancouver said. “I actually disagree with everything said so far.”
Moeller suggested the activists might want to throw out “Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” and he called the activists’ agenda a “step backward.’’
None of the bills is expected to have a chance in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, but that didn’t seem to faze Tom and Janet Newcomer of Rockport, in Skagit County
Tom Newcomer said he is concerned by legislative efforts that step beyond the Constitution in the areas of free speech, gun rights and property, and they showed up “to take our state back.’’ But he gave no specific examples of what he considered excessive.
Initiative promoter Tim Eyman addressed the crowd in a second, mid-afternoon rally, and his fellow initiative promoter Mike Fagan served as a moderator. Eyman used the opportunity to pitch his latest initiative seeking approval again of a two-thirds vote requirement for legislative tax increases.
Event organizers also hoped for 1,000 people at a related event later in the day with activist Bob Basso at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Eyman said.