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Congressional candidate plans shooting event; underdog Senate challengers speak in Spokane

UPDATED: Thu., April 12, 2018, 9:42 a.m.

Several lesser-known congressional candidates are campaigning in the Spokane area this week.

They include a conservative underdog in the competition for Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ seat in the House, as well as two candidates with vastly different political views who are seeking to replace Democrat Maria Cantwell in the Senate.

For starters, gun enthusiasts who want a smaller federal government might enjoy a session of target shooting with Jered Bonneau, the Bundy-family sympathizer who’s running as a Republican against McMorris Rodgers and Democrat Lisa Brown. Bonneau’s “Shooting with the Candidate” event is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Fishtrap recreation area along Interstate 90.

“Come on out, bring your firearms and your family and let’s talk of freedom and have a blast shooting some targets,” he wrote in Facebook promotion, which features a photo of the bearded 31-year-old posing with a Kalashnikov rifle in a room draped with “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

Also on Saturday, voters can attend a 3 p.m. meet-and-greet at the Spokane Public Library with Steve Hoffman, a Seattle union leader challenging Cantwell as a member of the Freedom Socialist Party.

“We’re a socialist-feminist party,” said Hoffman, a 59-year-old Navy veteran who now maintains the heating, cooling and electrical systems at North Seattle College. “We see the need for socialism to replace capitalism, because socialism will be based on meeting people’s needs instead of making profit for the few. We also see an important role for the leadership of women in the struggle because of their position of being so long discriminated against.”

Hoffman is making a number of appearances in Spokane this week, including a lecture for a Whitworth University class Thursday this evening. On Tuesday, he secured an endorsement from Local 1221, a state employees union in Spokane.

On Sunday, Joey Gibson, a conservative firebrand running against Cantwell as a Republican, will return to Spokane for a “Freedom First” event in Riverfront Park. The Vancouver, Washington, man leads a controversial group called Patriot Prayer, which touts libertarian values but routinely attracts racist groups to its political rallies, many of which have sparked violence and counterprotests.

Gibson hosted a small gathering last month at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley, where he told a crowd of several dozen people that the First Amendment is under attack by the political left.

Gibson’s Sunday event is expected to begin at noon near the Post Street Bridge in Riverfront Park. A Facebook page for the event offers few other details but states, “This is not a rally.”

Carly Cortright, the city of Spokane’s special events coordinator, said officials are aware of Gibson’s planned visit, but the event won’t require a permit unless it involves vendors or a speaker system.

“Anything that would basically trigger a permit being needed isn’t in play here,” she said.

Hoffman, along with two Spokane-based socialist groups, are planning to protest Gibson’s gathering near City Hall. On another Facebook page, the groups said that rallies hosted by Gibson’s organization “are infamous for attracting violent, active and avowed neo-Nazis and fascists of all stripes.”

An email seeking comment from Gibson was not returned Wednesday.