Spokane City Council president Ben Stuckart started his town hall meeting Tuesday night by thanking the Spokane County Republican Party for publicizing his event and “getting an active turnout.”
Stuckart, a Democrat, has already announced that he is running against Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the 5th Congressional District. The county GOP made robocalls to residents Monday night about the town hall and put a “Stop Stuckart” page on their web site with information about the meeting and urged its members to attend to stand up against his “Seattle style socialist policies.”
Before the town hall began Stuckart said he hoped Republicans would attend. “I need to talk to everybody,” he said. “I hope to see some of them here.”
At a recent town tall in Walla Walla Stuckart said he had an exchange with a man about the Snake River dams. After the meeting was over, Stuckart said, the man approached him and said he’d never voted for a Democrat but would vote for Stuckart.
“When you meet people you change minds,” he said.
There may have been some Republicans in the standing room only crowd of at least 150 that filled Toad Hall on West Dean Street, but if so they mostly kept quiet. One woman, however, announced that she was angry at Stuckart and thinks he is rude before asking him if he would stick to what he says he will do.
“Are you going to be one of those who switches colors?” she said.
Stuckart apologized for any rudeness and said he had no plans to change what he believes in. “I think I’ve been pretty honest about what my views are.”
The crowd seemed to appreciate his views, cheering and clapping when he spoke in favor of universal health care, climate change and immigration reform.
“Our representative no longer represents us,” he said. “I’m running because I’m angry.”
When he said he wants to get big money out of politics, a man in the crowd asked if he would be in favor of eliminating unions like the National Education Association.
Stuckart said big money needs to go, but unions have a vital role to fill. “I believe in unions and their right to represent people,” he said.
One person asked if he would support all Democratic policies without question as McMorris Rodgers does for Republican initiatives.
Working together is important, Stuckart said, but he wouldn’t be an automatic vote. “No, I won’t be following (house minority leader) Nancy Pelosi like a puppy,” he said.
Running against Rodgers in what has become a reliably Republican 5th District won’t be easy, Stuckart said. He recently spent three days hosting town hall meetings and gatherings in Pomeroy, Dayton, Walla Walla, Clarkston and Pullman and said he was encouraged by the turnout.
“We all have the same concerns about direction,” he said. “If we’re 18 months out and people are that frustrated, it can be done.”
He said he plans to continue to travel the district at least once a month to meet people and learn what their concerns are.
McMorris Rodgers is usually well funded, but Stuckart said that while expects the campaign to be expensive, he will focus on knocking on people’s doors. Still, he did encourage people to donate to his campaign.
“We’re going to beat her with people power,” he said. “We’re going to have to raise a lot of money and my mom can only give once.”
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