Around 100 people gathered Tuesday evening at the former Clark County Square Dance Center in Brush Prairie for an event that included meet-and-greets with Republican candidates and a hot dog dinner.
The event was hosted by Activate Republicans Clark County, the local branch of the partisan activism organization in Southwest Washington. The Facebook page for the event dictated that “Face mask and social distance will be at personal discretion by guests.”
The event was not associated with any churches that rent the space for weekly services.
Very few people wore face coverings at Tuesday’s gathering, and hugs and handshakes were frequent. Volunteers serving hot dogs to visitors at the event’s entrance did not wear masks or gloves.
David Gellatly, the event’s organizer, did not return The Columbian’s request for comment Wednesday morning.
Gellatly previously served as chairman of the Clark County Republican Party from 2016 to 2018 and is now chairman of the Activate branch.
As attendees milled around the space, a musician sang and played the guitar in front of a cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump. A slide show featuring photos and video clips of local Republican politicians was projected on a screen stationed at the front of the room. Tables with flyers and supporters representing various GOP candidates lined the walls.
Republican candidates looking to represent the region in Olympia were in attendance. Park Llafet, Rey Reynolds and Justin Forsman, all running against incumbent Democrats in Washington’s 49th Legislative District, were among the crowd.
A few Republican candidates seeking statewide offices were billed as part of the event, though The Columbian was asked to leave before their presence could be confirmed.
According to the event’s Facebook page, attendees included attorney general hopeful Matt Larkin, lieutenant governor write-in Josh Freed, state auditor candidate Chris Leyba and potential commissioner of public lands Sue Pederson.
Loren Culp, the Republican looking to unseat Gov. Jay Inslee in the upcoming general election, was initially planning to attend but pulled out the day prior, the Facebook page stated.
According to the written agenda for the evening, after a prayer for the county from faith-based Vancouver nonprofit Flash Love, the event moved from a casual meet-and-greet to more formal candidate introductions.
Washington Republican Party Regional Director Matthew Frohlich was scheduled to close out the night with a half-hour long informational session on the GOP’s get-out-the-vote efforts.
A flyer distributed at the front of the venue included a code of conduct, which encouraged attendees to remain respectful.
“Dialogue about Republican elected officials, candidates or other party members must be positive or neutral; if prompted, people are free to speak their mind constructively or thoughtfully but not in such a way that would be construed as defamatory,” the flyer stated. “Intimidating behavior, physical violence and/or threats of violence will not be tolerated.”
Clark County remains in Phase 2 of COVID-19 recovery under the governor’s Safe Start plan. Phase 2 limits gatherings to no more than five people from the same household. Face coverings are also a requirement in shared indoor spaces, following a statewide order in June.
As of Wednesday, Clark County had diagnosed 2,478 cases of the novel coronavirus. Forty-eight people have died.