By LESLIE MORIARTY
MONROE – June Riggs says her baby boomer children think she’s nuts.
But she says she’s just a "true-blue patriotic American."
And to prove it, she spent Wednesday walking U.S. 2 to let people know she’s thinking about challenging Slade Gorton, R-Wash., for his seat in the U.S. Senate.
"Nobody in politics right now is patriotic enough for me," said the 78-year-old great-grandmother. "Not the Republicans and not the Democrats."
Gorton is an "all right guy," Riggs said. "But he’s not answered all my questions."
A resident of Mountlake Terrace, Riggs said she’s written Gorton to ask why American companies, such as Nike, are allowed to run "sweatshops" in foreign countries.
"Those workers are being paid about 20 cents an hour to put together shoes that American companies are getting rich on," she said. "There’s something really wrong with that."
Press officials in Gorton’s office did not return telephone calls from The Herald to comment on Riggs’ criticisms.
Her concerns about foreign workers, veterans, Social Security widows, farmers and young couples brought her to wear a bright pink hat and a sign that said "June Riggs: Exploring U.S. Senate. Fix the GOP." She started walking about 8:30 a.m.
She made the nine-and-a-half-mile walk along the two-lane highway from east of Everett to Monroe in three hours. Her daughter, Patti Jo Williams, walked with her ,and her grandson, Clint Johnson, drove alongside to offer water when needed.
"I would rather somebody 30 years old do what I’m doing," she said, of her walk and her questioning the state of patriotism today. "But I don’t see them doing it. So I’m asking, ‘What’s going on here?’"
Riggs’ patriotic roots go deep, to the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II. She was 20 years old and in a civil service job in Hawaii. She and other Americans were evacuated. She returned to Seattle to take a Department of Defense job writing certificates for pilots who were in the B-29 school.
She married and had five children. Her husband, Bill, who died in 1997, was a construction worker.
Riggs ran a shop called The Athlete, which sold athletic shoes and gear. It was successful for many years, until chain stores undercut it in prices, and it had to close, she said.
"That gets right at what I’m saying," she said. "It’s small businesses that get hurt by the large companies."
They are one of several categories of victims she calls "tax gapees."
"Small businesses, small farmers and young people just starting out can’t get anywhere because of the high taxes they pay," she said. "The tax system is so expansive that it causes the small operations to die out. We need tax relief."
She also thinks veterans’ benefits should be increased.
"They were promised that they’d be taken care of," she said.
And she thinks Social Security doesn’t treat widows fairly.
"When their husbands die, they are cut off," she said.
Riggs, a grandmother of 12 and a great-grandmother of five, isn’t new to politics. She served on the Edmonds School Board from 1985 to 1993 and ran for Democratic Sen. Warren G. Magnuson’s U.S. Senate seat in the 1970s. There were 10 candidates in that Republican primary, and she got only a minimal showing.
When her walk was completed Wednesday, Riggs said she felt good. She trained by taking on Brier Hill every day for weeks.
"Several people honked" to show support, she said. No one stopped to talk, however. "My sign may have got them thinking."
She’s waiting until the official filing period next week to decide whether to mount a full-fledged campaign for Senate on the Republican ticket.
"We’ll see what’s cooking," she said. "If people say I should and that it’s time for someone like me in Washington (D.C.), then we’ll go for it."
And, she may try another attention-getting walk.
"I’m not retiring my New Balance shoes yet," she said, noting they are American made.
You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436 or send e-mail to