Published May 10th, La Conner Weekly News by Sandy Stokes

   Organizers were hoping the annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner put on by the Skagit County Republican Party would draw a good crowd.  As it was, 194 attendees crammed into the Bertelsen Winery Event Centre on Starbird Road Saturday to hear guest speakers, Elaine Willman and Marty McClendon.  Skagit GOP Party Chairman Bill Bruch said the event, advertised at $60 per person, was sold out and then some.

   Willman, a woman of Cherokee ancestry who is loathed on the left side of the political spectrum because she is an outspoken critic of tribal governments and their impacts on the rest of the country, had a very warm reception from the crowd at Saturday's event.  She came from her home on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana with a message tailored for the Skagit County residents, who have experienced higher taxes and diminished property values-situations that some lay at the feet of lawyers working for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

   The root of the problem, she says, is not just the tribal lawyers and tribal governments.  It all stems from the elected officials in the state, county and local governments, who she says have capitulated to tribal demands for decades.  She claims that as tribes have grown richer with casino money and taxpayer dollars, they've influenced governmental policies with what Willman calls, "coin-operated" politicians.  Tribal governments are major contributors in election campaigns, she said.

   This year Skagit County officials started pushing back against the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community for what they consider an effect to expand its jurisdiction to encompass people and property its reservation.  Some county officials have said landowners in the March's Point and Summit Park areas of Anacortes now have clouded titles to their property - which could impact values - because  Swinomish insists that the land is part of their original reservation.

   La Conner area residents have also taken a direct hit to their wallets after taxes after taxes were shifted to them from homes in Shelter Bay after the so-called Great Wolf Lodge federal appellate court ruling in favor of a tribal government.  Willman lambasted not only the Swinomish leadership but the Washington state's elected officials, including U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Governor Jay Inslee - all Democrats - for putting tribal interests ahead of the welfare of the rest of the state's residents.  Her words brought a standing ovation from those at the dinner.

   Marty McClendon, who was defeated by Democrat Cyrus Habib in his November bid for Washington State's Lieutenant Governor addressed the crowd after Willman's speech.  A pastor and conservative talk show host, McClendon told the people at the dinner that though elections in the last 30 years don't show it, he believes there are actually enough conservatives in Washington State to put more Republicans in office.  The key, he said, is getting the conservatives registered to vote.  He said he and his supporters are doing just that, starting with churches.

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