First impressions of James Olsen (R), a hardworking and passionate candidate for Washington’s 23rd Legislative District, can sometimes be a bit misleading. His direct, frank, and honest communications is not usual among politicians, could tend to unwanted controversy, and does not always lend itself to the vague middle ground that hedges a bet (or a vote). James Olsen likes to say what’s on his mind, and oft does so with a military precision learned through 30 years of Coast Guard service. But in this time where conservative resurgence seems more likely than ever, his straight talk was well received among the Bainbridge Island Republican Women, who hosted his keynote at their regular Wing Point Golf & Country Club lunch meeting, September 8th. Overall, it was a superb event, topped off with an unannounced cameo by James Watkins, Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District.
Preaching to the choir, you would think that James Olsen’s standard talking points for driving fiscal accountability and creating job growth in Washington would have been routine, but not so. James demonstrated the energy and passion of a “fighter” on a mission, completely unlike what I’ve seen thus far out of the incumbent and apparent stealth candidate, Christine Rolfes (D). James also took advantage of new media resources to augment his talking points. In a short video, Follow the Money, compiled by his wife and advisor, Mary Dombrowski, Olsen educated the group about the size and origin of financial contributions supporting Rolfes from out of district. He then posits the question about whom Christine Rolfes may really be representing. It was indeed a thought provoking exercise. More campaign videos are available online (intro).
Among the talking points, Olsen described himself as an experienced business person who understands fiscal accountability, describing Rolfes as a “career politician who will never take the steps necessary” to move Washington out of the current economic crisis. He is “outraged at the shredding of I-960” and the subsequent passage of 77 new tax measures costing taxpayers almost $800 million dollars. “Too many taxes and over regulation is a job killer,” he said, precisely the opposite of what government needs to be doing.
The meeting did not go without controversy, however. One luncheon guest asked about Olsen’s position on pro-choice. “I am proud to be pro-life,” he made clear, following equally firm that he did not believe it his role to fight Roe v. Wade, and wanting to stay clearly within the scope of what he can directly influence in Olympia. When questioned about government subsidies for public housing and the arts, Olsen was more direct; “the State has core missions to do,” going on to note that artists need to compete just as businesses and individuals do.
As the meeting started to wind down, James Watkins managed a cameo appearance and addressed the group. In my observation, Watkins has been very skillful to stay consistently on topic but embellished this time with a special anecdote. Describing his observations at a recent Shoreline parade, he recalled an impassioned Democrat supporter who exclaimed it was patriotic to pay more taxes for more government. Watkins looked at the crowd and asked them if they wanted more government or more jobs? To the horror of the Democrat supporter, a crowd ended up chanting “less government, more jobs”. It is good to see the word is getting out.
Know your candidates and vote. November is coming.
Photos: top left, left to right, BIRW President Betsy Greene, James Watkins, James Olsen, and BIRW event coordinator Sunny Day. Left center: James Olsen