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Published: Sunday, August 23, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

Tea Party activist runs for seat in Legislature

  • Elizabeth Scott

    Elizabeth Scott

EDMONDS — On Independence Day, before a throng of people outside the Snohomish County Courthouse, Elizabeth Scott railed against government leaders for spending too much and intruding too deeply into lives of Americans.
As she wrapped up that speech at the Tea Party Patriots Rally, she declared her candidacy for state office and ignited the crowd to cheers with a fist pump and a chant of “Life, Liberty, Property.”
On Monday night, Scott will kick off her campaign as a Republican challenger to Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, in the 2010 race for the 21st District. She hopes tea partyers will show up.
She is the first local candidate to emerge from their ranks and hopes they will join home-schoolers and churchgoers in providing a base of support for her campaign.
Generally, tea partyers assert their independence of partisan campaigns. Sustaining their involvement will test Scott’s mettle as a leader and could reveal a political potential for tea partyers beyond a demonstrated success in organizing massive online campaigns and street-corner rallies.
“These people feel like they’re being pushed too far and they want to push back,” she said last week. “They are paying attention and they are buzzing about what’s going on.”
Tea Party franchises sprouted quickly around the country after CNBC’s Rick Santelli in February blasted President Barack Obama’s plan to spend billions of dollars helping homeowners keep their houses and called for a Boston Tea Party-like response to what he considered a wasteful and unfair use of tax dollars.
Tea Party groups formed in communities and online and became a national phenomenon. Those attending rallies spent the spring deriding the federal stimulus plan and the summer opposing much of the health care reform under consideration in Congress.
How they will figure in elections is an unknown.
Scott figures she’ll benefit, though Snohomish County Republican Party Chairman Paul Elvig advised caution against over-reliance on them.
“Tea Party movements, initiative movements, referendum movements, they all become recruiting grounds for campaign workers,” he said. “If she thinks the Tea Party is going to do it for her, they’ve already thrown their tea bags in the water.”
People are generally drawn into movements because of a polarizing issue, not a personality, Elvig said. Without one, people will slowly lose interest in a campaign.
Something like health care will spark division into next year and may be an issue she can use to keep her supporters from drifting away, he said.
Tea Party chapters did not form in order to elect candidates, so they may not want to endorse individuals.
“We haven’t taken on the matter of endorsements yet. We are interested in getting like-minded people as much exposure as we can,” said Kelly Emerson of Camano Island, who coordinates Tea Party activities in Snohomish and Island counties.
“In the future we may be involved more deeply with electoral matters,” said Emerson, who operates the Renew Liberty Web site, where she is known as “Jane Citizen.”
Scott isn’t banking on tea partyers alone to beat Liias. She’s campaigning as if the vote is weeks from now — though it’s a year away — to get her name known and scare off other would-be Republican hopefuls.
Liias voiced little concern at this stage, noting that he’s not in “campaign mode” and won’t gear up until the 2010 legislative session ends next March.
“I’ll tell my story and she’ll tell hers,” he said. “I’m not sure our district is as much anti-government as she appears to be.”
They are starkly different philosophically.
Liias entered state office in January 2008 following a stint on the Mukilteo City Council. A former small-business owner, he’s a liberal on social issues and supported the Democratic majority that passed the current state budget.
Scott, 43, a staunch fiscal and social conservative who belongs to the National Rifle Association, is making her first run for office.
She said government “is naturally invasive, and it needs to be cut back from time to time.”
She supports Tim Eyman’s initiative targeting revenue growth in government that will appear on the November ballot. She also signed a petition for Referendum 71 that aims to repeal the new law giving gay domestic partnerships the same rights as married couples. It is not yet known if that will make the ballot.
Liias opposes the initiative and co-sponsored the law she wants repealed.
She grew up on a farm in Illinois, earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics at Seattle Pacific University and a master’s in teaching English as a second language.
She taught English to university students in China for two years, arriving in that country shortly after the riots in Tiananmen Square. She also taught in the United Arab Emirates.
She moved to Washington in 2000, where she’s had several education-related jobs, including on the founding faculty of Cascadia Community College in Bothell. These days she’s a stay-at-home mom raising three children.
She said living under military rule in China made her appreciate the freedoms in this country, including the ability to criticize government — and be part of it.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623, jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Campaign kickoff event

Elizabeth Scott’s campaign kickoff starts at 6 p.m. Monday at the Edmonds Yacht Club. For information, call 206-330-1066.

Elizabeth Scott: www.elizabeth4state.com

Rep. Marko Liias: www.markoliias.com

Story tags » BothellEdmondsMukilteoLegislatureLocalElections

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