City awash in politicking as GOP convention hits stride

State Republicans are meeting in Vancouver

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Dino Rossi arrived in Vancouver, Clint Didier flew to the Tri Cities to meet with Sarah Palin, gossip swirled about a rumored Palin appearance, delegates crowded the lobby of the Hilton Vancouver Washington, and a patriot group staged its own event a block away at the Red Lion Inn at the Quay,

Meanwhile, conservative talk show hosts held forth in Esther Short Park, followers of Lyndon LaRouche erected an Impeach Obama/Restore Glass-Steagall sign by the clock tower, a fenced beer garden drew a few thirsty partisans, and the sun came out at last.

Day Two of the state Republican Convention was nearly all about politicking.

Rossi, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, arrived in early afternoon and submitted to three interviews in a row.

But he declined to say exactly what he thought of Arizona’s tough immigration law or whether he favored a woman’s right to choose.

At a gathering sponsored by patriot groups from around the state, the former two-time gubernatorial candidate described his trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Senate Republican leadership when he was still trying to decide whether to enter the race against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

He said he demanded to know whether the party “has enough guts to put the train back on the track.”

Party leaders assured him, he said, “that we need authentic fiscal conservatives back here.”

In the end, he said, he took them at their word.

Rossi bragged that when he entered the race, Murray had 10,000 Facebook friends, “but we passed her in 48 hours.” He repeated his theme that the nation is in deep trouble due to deficit spending by Murray and the rest of the Democratic majority. “Either we’re going to restore it,” he said, “or we’re on our way to becoming France — or even Greece.”

Asked what he thought of Arizona’s immigration law, Rossi said, “What we need is a tall fence and a high gate.”

The U.S. needs a physical barrier along its southern border, he said. But noting that his parents were Italian immigrants, he added, “We need to have people come here legally from all over the world.”

He did not answer a question about whether he favored a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are in the U.S. now, but said he doesn’t favor amnesty.

Questioned about whether he believes in “a right to life from conception,” Rossi said, “My wife and I are both Catholic and believe every soul has value.” He declined to say later whether he supported Roe v. Wade.

Regarding whether he favors continued funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said only, “If I’m going to be voting to send men and women into harms’ way, I want to see an exit strategy.”

Tea Party followers, many of whom support Didier, were eager to vet Rossi.

But Tom Niewulis, a leader of the local group We the People Vancouver, said Rossi’s Friday appearance was no substitute for a serious vetting of his views on constitutional issues. Dressed in his trademark Samuel Adams costume, Niewulis declined to attend the patriot group event. He said he still hoped Rossi would accept the Vancouver group’s invitation.

Didier arrived in Vancouver Thursday night and attended an evening reception at Pearson Air Museum, but he abruptly flew to the Tri Cities Friday to meet with Palin. A sign at his convention table promised a “tailgate party” with “a taste of Eastern Washington” Friday evening at one of the several hospitality rooms hosted by party leaders and candidates after the convention banquet .

GOP Chairman Luke Esser said with a grin that he had heard the rumor of a possible Palin surprise appearance. He said he had not talked to the former vice presidential candidate but understood that she was meeting with Didier to discuss “a future visit” to the state.

Didier returned to Vancouver in the late afternoon and spoke with the same group. He said he had a good meeting with Palin to plan a visit to the Tri Cities area to campaign for him.

Palin stopped in Tri Cities to meet Didier while traveling home to Alaska and did not have plans to visit the convention, he said.

Because Friday was filing deadline for the Aug. 17 primary, a major topic of the day was news of new filings and no-shows.

A last-minute filing by Vancouver City Council member Jeanne Stewart for the Clark County Commission seat held by Steve Stuart came as a big surprise to local Republicans.

Third Congressional District candidate David Castillo said he was gratified by the endorsement of Chris Boyd, a disabled Army veteran who entered the race late but decided at the last minute not to file.

“I couldn’t be happier to have Chris’s support,” he said. ”He and I have become close during this campaign.”

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4512 or kathie.durbin@columbian.com.