By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]
Guests arrived early and waited for the man of the hour, but the similarities between Monday night’s Lewis County Republican meeting and a surprise party ended there.
People gathered outside Chehalis Eagles Hall in Chehalis, starting before 5 p.m. for the special 6.30 p.m. meeting, which was called by four board members with the intention of voting on a recall from the chairman of the Brandon Svenson party.
But Svenson, who is also the mayor of Winlock, instead chaired a regular meeting of the Winlock town council. The Republican meeting in Chehalis began about half an hour after Winlock’s meeting. Svenson told The Chronicle he had never missed a party meeting before, but “this one was important for me to be (present) at the city level” due to an executive session.
The vote was called due to alleged violations of certain regulations, “among other transgressions”, according to a letter signed by all members of the board of directors in addition to the vice president and the president himself.
Before calling for a recall vote, those same members and a few others sent a letter to Svenson asking for his resignation, citing bad behavior, including during a meeting where he wore a campaign t-shirt from the Sheriff Rob Snaza and threw away a wad of paper. to another sheriff candidate, Tracy Murphy.
In a letter obtained by The Chronicle on July 1 addressed to Svenson, five reasons are listed behind the call for his resignation and subsequent potential recall vote. Svenson told The Chronicle this week that the letter was not sent to him, so a reporter reviewed parts of the five sections in an interview.
Some of the five are divided into sections with highlights of Svenson’s responses and other information obtained by The Chronicle about the incidents. His responses ranged from being offended at the accusations he deemed false to regretting some of the behaviors listed.
First, the letter discusses the “obvious and unprofessional treatment of a Republican candidate”. Svenson said it was in reference to Murphy.
The letter said a party leader had no role in “choosing sides,” before detailing some of his behaviors at that meeting, then going on to say he “further alienated Republican candidates in the election. at the Egg Day Parade in Winlock, refusing to allow them to put up their signs on a float that appeared under the Lewis County Republican Party banner.
When asked about it, Svenson said in retrospect that he wouldn’t have done the same with the piece of paper. He said he “did not throw away” the paper, but threw it away in a way he said was like throwing a wad of paper “in the trash”.
He did not say his actions were wrong, but that he felt he was standing up for the people of Lewis County by showing them that Murphy had been supported by Lewis County Democrats and other organizations on what Svenson called it “the left.”
Regarding the parade float, after hearing about this incident, The Chronicle contacted all Lewis County Republican candidates for District 3 County Commission and Sheriff. Whether their placards were affixed to the float or not, all of the commissioner candidates said they did not know what happened.
Harry Bhagwandin, a commissioner candidate, said in his response that the local political culture has become “so toxic in recent years that the Apple Harvest Festival announced this year that it will not allow candidates to participate in the parade and is even considering not to allow politics”. vendor stalls at the festival.
He added that if asked, he would have “willingly” provided campaign materials to the organizers of the float.
Snaza, who is running for re-election, told The Chronicle that Republicans who organized the float contacted him ahead of time to ask for campaign signs.
“Our campaign has never received such notice,” said Lindsey Murphy, wife of Tracy Murphy and campaign host, before saying that at the time of the parade, a member of the campaign team tried to to put signs on the tank but was refused by an organizer.
Svenson said he was not involved in the planning or execution of the tank.
Second, the letter quotes Svenson “disparaging” elected Republicans. The first example claimed that Svenson publicly lambasted Lewis County commissioners in July 2021. Svenson said in response that he worked on Commissioner Lindsey Pollock’s campaign and assured voters she was going to be a strong Republican. However, he now opined that she did not follow Republican values.
During the incident last year, Svenson held a sign to the commissioners reading “RINO” in reference to a term meaning “Republican in name only”.
The following example indicates that in September 2021, Svenson used Facebook to ridicule and attack local elected Republicans.
“I made another comment on Facebook addressed to Rep. Peter Abbarno, Chad Taylor and Richard DeBolt and apologized for that comment to everyone involved. And I really regret that one. That one is unfortunate, I shouldn’t have done that,” Svenson said in response.
The following example indicates that Svenson had “obvious approval of heckling” at a Republican town hall of Sen. John Braun and Reps. Peter Abbarno and Ed Orcutt. Svenson replied that he was not present at this town hall, that he had not sent anyone there and that he had no problem with people exercising their freedom of expression during such events.
Finally, the letter lists Svenson negatively describing Orcutt on Facebook, saying he needed a “wellness checkup.”
Svenson responded by saying that this referred to the fact that Orcutt had not attended a meeting of Lewis County Republicans at the time of his message and that his message was intended to encourage him to get more involved.
“Should I have done it in this forum like I did?” No, I shouldn’t have. Should I have said, ‘Hey, Ed, where are you, man? Can we take you to this meeting? That’s how I should have gone about it. Absolutely,” Svenson said.
Third, the letter declares unnecessary friction between Svenson and the executive committee. While this topic is only relevant to those deeply invested in the inner workings of Lewis County Republicans, Svenson still wanted to respond by saying that in general disagreements between him and the board of directors were often linked to a deep-rooted division within the party. preceding it.
“It’s politics, isn’t it? ” he said.
He also said that as president, he significantly increased attendance at Lewis County Republican meetings and encouraged record turnout by Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs). He called the PCOs the legislative branch of the party while the board of directors was the executive branch, and felt that he was giving the former more of a voice than the party had previously allowed.
The last two sections of the letter detail “rude” behavior that has had a poor image of the party as a whole, including at meetings and public forums.
In meetings, according to the letter, Svenson told a member of the public “shut up, no one cares what you think.”
Svenson in response said, “I’m really offended by that one. And if you look at how I handle things in the City of Winlock, I always let my lawyer do the talking. I go so far as to make sure there is always additional discussion about things. I believe in that.”
He also called questions about his behavior at meetings a “witch hunt” by two party members trying to “manipulate” things and stir the pot.
“I think people sort of see me as trying to be painted into this crazy right-wing extremist corner. And that’s not what’s going on here at all. It’s just not not the case. And I think I’m widely misunderstood, to be perfectly honest with you,” Svenson said in closing.
Without the man in question, the party had little business to attend to. Its bylaws state that if a recall is suggested for the party president, he will be given the opportunity to respond. Thus, the board has scheduled another meeting for a recall vote to be held on August 1 at the same place and at the same time.
If Svenson does not attend this meeting, according to the party statutes, he will have given up his opportunity to defend himself and the vote will take place.
Although no action took place, the air Monday night was fraught with hostility. Comments during the discussion were variations on three main themes: those who felt the board had been wrong to call for a recall, those who felt that Svenson’s actions did not warrant a recall but that he needed better training as president and finally, those who felt that his behavior was unacceptable and a recall was needed.
Before the meeting started, there was a debate among the PCOs about whether or not to let the public into the building. If the recall vote took place, only PCOs would be allowed to vote. Morton PCO Roger Morningstar, who is also the city’s police chief, argued that members of the public should be allowed in, while others including PCO Dave Germain were against the idea, citing the recent hostility at other public meetings.
Germain said that in many recent meetings, people in the back have simply stood up and shouted “Liar!” periodically. He told Morningstar the meeting was being held in Chehalis — rather than Winlock, where most meetings are held — because Svenson “hired the chief (of Winlock’s police). This leader is going to do whatever Brandon wants, and if these people are disrupting the meeting, I think someone needs to stand up and say, “Here’s the door.”
As they walked back and forth on the issue, the people waiting outside were there to support Svenson, they said as a group. One of those supporters was 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent, who said he was there, “supporting his supporters.”
Candy Warren, PCO candidate in Emery District, called it unfair that these people had to wait outside in the heat, especially since many were old people and children, “because they engaged in partisan games inside”.
Eventually, spectators were allowed inside, but were not allowed to participate in discussion during the meeting.
After the meeting, a reporter received a letter from a PCO stating his intention to vote to recall state committee member Ruth Peterson and the rest of the board. Listed transgressions included failing to attend the party’s Lincoln Day dinner, a major annual fundraiser, “promoting division within the party” and for publicly apologizing to Murphy without the ” consent of the executive council or the central committee”.