When the Tea Party of Spokane holds its first-anniversary celebration and rally at the Spokane Convention Center on Thursday – tax day – its lead speaker will be Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.
The Gem State’s chief executive, who’s been drawing national attention for filing suit against national health care reform and who’s currently in a six-way GOP primary contest in his re-election bid, jumped at the chance, organizers said.
“He was happy as a clam – he was just absolutely stoked,” said Kirk Smith, vice president and spokesman for Tea Party of Spokane.
Otter has a history of speaking to groups that express distrust in the federal government, including a U.S. Militia Association meeting in Boise he addressed in 1995 a month and a half before the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Otter’s primary election opponents had varying responses to his tea party top billing. Rex Rammell, who’s been on national TV twice in the last three weeks talking about his support for the militia movement, accused Otter of trying to steal his platform. “Now that he’s up for re-election, he’s Mr. States’ Rights,” Rammell said.
Sharon Ullman, an Ada County commissioner, said, “He’s certainly welcome to go do whatever he wants,” adding with a laugh that the speaking gig means Otter won’t be campaigning in Idaho that afternoon.
Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary, said an invitation for Otter to speak at a Boise tea party rally last year came just a week before the event, so the governor couldn’t do it. Smith said he contacted the governor about a month and a half ago to extend the invitation to Spokane.
Hanian said Otter likely will talk about “concerns about the exponential growth of our federal deficit, the overreach of federal authority in areas everywhere from wolves to health care, and … express his concern and support of citizens who are raising these concerns.”
Smith said the group reached out to Otter because of the stands he’s taken, from voting against the Patriot Act as a congressman to suing over health care reform as governor.
“The other issue is we like what he’s doing with the competition between the other Northwest states of Oregon and Washington, looking to pick up businesses that may be a little bit disgruntled over the increased taxes,” Smith said.
He added, “We’re losing a lot of our freedoms and our liberties. … We can learn from what they’ve done, and by getting that out to everybody, it gets everybody thinking about what we can do in our state.”
The rally starts at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Floating Stage through the Spokane Convention Center breezeway; it’s free and open to the public. A similar rally last year featuring U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and other speakers drew several thousand people.