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A week after raucous WA GOP convention, gubernatorial candidates share thoughts

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(The Center Square) – “Remarkable and historic” or a “chaotic clown show”?

There were dramatically different takes from the two Republican candidates for governor on how last weekend’s state party convention in Spokane went down.

Ultimately, Semi Bird received the endorsement of the Washington State Republican Party, but not before a series of raucous events and shout-downs from delegates.

Now, a week after leaving Spokane without ever stepping foot inside the Spokane Convention Center, the other Republican candidate, Dave Reichert – former King County Sheriff and congressman – told The Center Square he’s not happy about how things transpired.

“It was no shock to us when we arrived, but what we were hoping for was that there would be someone who could take the reigns and bring some sort of order to the process and some fairness, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “It broke down into total chaos, and some have called it a political clown show and others have had even more descriptive adjectives,” said Reichert.

Reichert says he was in town, ready to attend the convention and give a speech to delegates. It became clear to him on the first day of the convention, with the party’s candidate committee discussing disqualifying both candidates, that something was up.

“A day or two before the convention, Bird admitted to identity theft and so they had an admission of guilt and with that they had the disqualification based on that admission,” he said, a reference to Bird’s conviction 31 years ago for bank larceny involving the theft of his father’s identity.

Bird told The Center Square he has owned that mistake from more than three decades ago.

“Here’s the truth of it: I did wrong 31 years ago,” he said. “I don’t make excuses for it and take full responsibility for it. My father forgave me and knew it came from a place of bitterness.”

Bird shared that his father was abusive and an alcoholic who years later found the Lord and got sober.

“He changed, and he came back into my life a couple decades later, and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, and I was at his death bed,” Bird recalled.

Reichert has been critical of Bird for not disclosing his run-in with the law before it was reported in The Seattle Times.

“A guy who’s going to steal from his own father and commit identity theft, and that’s the guy you want to nominate to be the governor of Washington state?” Reichert asked. “I mean in the old days you wouldn’t even be able to get a job at Walmart. I really struggled with the juxtaposition of the cop versus the crook.”

In response to that comment, Bird said, “I would say to Dave and anyone out there who would sit in judgement, everyone has the right to better their life and choose right and to do better. But to sit in judgement and disparage instead of lifting one another up, that is not the kind of leadership that I want leading my state.”

Party Chair Jim Walsh took issue with Reichert’s “clown show” remark.

“In fact, the Washington GOP convention was never ‘chaos,"” said Aberdeen’s Walsh, who also serves as a state representative in Olympia. “As I’ve said repeatedly, the convention was not scripted or stage-managed. It was real, authentic and passionate. The Washington GOP will harness that passion to fix what’s broken in our beautiful state.”

Republican voters will choose between Reichert and Bird in the August 6 primary. Democrats will choose their candidate between state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah.

The general election is Nov. 5.