It was the best-covered non-event in Olympia Monday.
Tim Eyman, who'd announced in an email last week that he'd be "bringing down petitions" to the Secretary of State's office Monday, showed up Monday as promised. Reporters figured "bringing down" petitions meaned "turning in" petitions, as did the Secretary of State's office, which had seven staffers on hand, ready to count the thousands of petitions they expected. (Two were temps, hired at $12-$14 an hour just for this.)
As it turned out, all Eyman had was a thin sheaf of petitions for Referendum 65, which would veto a new state law making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The deadline for turning in the required 112,440 signatures is 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Eyman was dressed as Star Wars villain Darth Vader, complete with helmet, red light saber, knee boots and, yes, a plastic codpiece.
TV crews and print photogs angled for shots as Eyman strode down the street, followed by assistants wheeling a cart with four big document boxes. After a swing through the Secretary of State's office, where clerks stood ready to tally signatures*, Eyman stepped outside to a face-ful of microphones.
He peeled off the mask, unfolded a copy of his speech, and announced...
That he'd be back tomorrow.
He wasn't turning any petitions in. In fact, he said he doesn't know how many signatures have been gathered.
"We're processing the mail right now," he said. "Frankly, we have no idea." (He did, however, know that he has 142,613 signatures for a tax initiative he's also running this year.) "...We get waves of petitions at the end of every signature drive."
"Feel like you've been duped this morning?" Eyman supporter Mike Fagan of Spokane told the crowd of reporters. "Well, you have."
"We're willing to do whatever's necessary," Eyman said. "...There's no such thing as bad press. That's just the reality."
*Strangest moment of a strange morning: When Eyman, still clad in his Darth Vader suit, silently pointed his light saber at a startled elderly state worker sitting at a table, ready to count the petitions he was supposedly going to turn in. She stared up at him. One of Eyman's assistants silently handed her a child's greeting card -- it had a racing car on it. Inside was a note thanking the state workers for their hard work.