In addition to how much regulation they might insist on for warehouses, other outside forces seem to be the key difference in this race for city council in a district where the homeless issue is front and center, and where a fellow council member not up for election is looking for control.
This is a clash between an independent incumbent leading the fight against warehouses, and the Republican Party’s challenger with FOP ties and passing his party’s recruitment litmus tests: changing Puyallup’s form of government, and acting tough on homeless despite expensive legal losses.
In a district most affected by warehouse traffic, for a seat vacated by the councilman who cast a 4-3 deciding vote in 2013 to allow the Van Lierop warehouse now being built, it’s a republican developer hand-picked by his party, facing a proven independent favoring oversight and infrastructure.
Puyallup City Council, District 1
Incumbent: Robin Farris
Challenger: Curtis Thiel
Robin Farris was a lieutenant commander in the Navy, is endorsed by the police and firefighter unions, has over a century of family history in Puyallup, and first entered the fray of politics as organizer of the effort to recall a disgraced former Pierce County assessor-treasurer. She faces opposition from forces including 1) a large Facebook group with leaders outside Puyallup who use the classist, if not racist, name and mission “Clean Up Puyallup” against homelessness, 2) a former state senator who, with his popular local name (Kastama), took the other District 1 seat on council two years ago, and 3) a couple of former mayors (Knutson and Turner) working against her, with one of them still considered the main backroom playmaker in city politics.
Farris seems to be a David vs. Goliath character in this race that’s more against big opposing political forces than it is against her opponent. She did better in the August primary than expected, so clearly remains popular in her district. This despite her fellow District 1 council member, the former state senator, endorsing a Clean Up Puyallup candidate who came in last place, edged out by Curtis Thiel who has since also received endorsements and money from erstwhile mayors Knutson and Turner. Considering these factors, in combination with the new effort by outside developers to promote Thiel and other candidates they feel will be friendly to warehouses on farmland, we’ll see if voters nonetheless chose “David” in this race.
Farris has been the council member considered most deeply involved in grappling with the homeless issue. She has done everything over the past four years from getting tough on service providers, to sheltering homeless people herself, to coming up with a plan for a shelter which would allow police to legally relocate homeless people off of public property. Both of the candidates have big hearts for the community and promised positive campaigns, but Thiel is endorsed and being actively promoted by the Friends of Puyallup PAC, probably because of statements on his website like “Business regulations hamper growth…” so these facts, juxtaposed against Farris’ experience with the issues, makes Robin Farris the obvious choice for Real Friends of Puyallup.
Puyallup City Council, District 2
Incumbent: John Palmer
Challenger: Paul Herrera
This race pits a moderate versus a right winger. Incumbent John Palmer has not sought the endorsement of political parties, and seems like an independent centrist with more friends on the Democratic side. Paul Herrera is a veteran and Puyallup Tribal police officer recruited by the Republicans to carry out their agenda: apparently free reign on warehouse development and changing the form of city government. Washington state law allows two forms: the council-manager system, and the mayor-council system. Puyallup, along with a majority of cities in the state, have the council-manager form of government where the council hires a city manager to conduct day-to-day business, so the mayor is a facilitator’s role given to council members in turns. John Palmer is currently the most senior member of the council, and he’s taking his first turn as mayor.
If you look at the FOP Facebook page, the most recent “visitor post” before the PAC took over the page was from the chair of the local Republican Party, promoting a “strong mayor” for the city. His effort to gather 5,000 initiative signatures only garnered a few hundred, but nevertheless three city council members almost rushed his initiative to a spring ballot. One new council member like Herrera would force an expensive election that’s beneficial to Republicans and their deep pockets: a well-funded candidate, especially one with warehouse developer money, would have the biggest advantage in a city-wide mayoral race.
John Palmer has led the city’s insistence on environmental review of warehouses since his time on the planning commission, and then for the last eight years on city council. Herrera is in the pockets of contributors with vested interest in the warehouses, including the Van Lierop family, top Republican power players like the Dammeiers, and the very misleading Affordable Housing Council, which is really the Tacoma-Pierce County Business Alliance PAC. In fact, his campaign treasurer, Tom Perry, is also treasurer of the Friends of Puyallup PAC and the Gimmestad campaign. For these reasons, the obvious choice for Real Friends of Puyallup is John Palmer.
Puyallup City Council, District 3 (Open Seat)
Candidate: Ned Witting
Candidate: Curt Gimmestad
An inigma in politics, Ned Witting describes on his website that he ran for state legislature last year as an Independent in a primary where the Democratic and Republican candidates went on to the general election. He says he sought both party’s endorsement this year, but the Republicans hand-picked Gimmestad as a candidate, and the Democrats responded by endorsing Witting. He’s an active member of what is considered a very conservative church but, when pressed at the door, he says he leans Democratic and opposes many current Republican policies. Witting also co-founded and built Print Northwest into a thriving regional business, retiring last year with a sale to business partners including the person thought to be the architect of recent Republican control of politics in the greater Puyallup area, the current Pierce County Executive, Bruce Dammeier.
There is a description on Amazon of Ned Witting’s book “Political Gridlock: It’s Time for a Reboot!” which describes him as having “a businessman’s perspective. In Political Gridlock, he looks at Congress through the eyes of an efficiency expert and considers why it isn’t working the way it should. He doesn’t concern himself with whether it produces tax reductions or affordable health care; he investigates why it produces so little of either. In Political Gridlock, he explains how our political process has invisibly disenfranchised moderates in favor of MoveOn.org liberals on the left and Tea Party conservatives on the right. The book examines factors that are unrecognized and ignored by political pundits but that empower political extremes, allowing them to block constructive legislation. It is also the how-to manual on how to reboot our government. It evaluates the obstacles to effective governance and suggests solutions for each. In plain language, Political Gridlock outlines the steps necessary to reclaim Congress and get government working again. It is a book Americans have been waiting for.”
Ned Witting has a strong stance on the warehouse issue, favoring infrastructure (roads for traffic mitigation) before development. On the other end of the spectrum, Gimmestad is a developer himself promoted by the FOP PAC. He claims an endorsement from the Affordable Housing Council on his literature when it’s really the Tacoma-Pierce County Business Alliance PAC, something that would start him off under an ethical cloud if elected to council. Further, his campaign treasurer, Tom Perry, is also treasurer of the Friends of Puyallup PAC as well as the Herrera campaign.
Most startling, Gimmestad claims on his Facebook page to be a vice president on the board of directors for the Associated General Contractors of Washington Builders, whose PAC gave FOP $5,000. FOP is turning around and contributing more than $3,000 of direct expenditure to Gimmestad’s campaign, plus an unspecified several thousands of dollars for online advertising and polling. That deep conflict of interest should be enough to disqualify him from consideration for our vote.
It’s surprising and sad that someone who volunteered with good reputation during a dozen years on the planning commission would allow, let alone encourage, these independent expenditures on his behalf, knowing that he would always serve under a cloud of suspicion. Needless to say, the obvious choice for Real Friends of Puyallup is Ned Witting.
Please consider a donation of any amount, and invite your friends to like the Real Friends of Puyallup facebook page. Puyallup Voters for Integrity does not accept contributions at this time outside of Puyallup, Sumner & Orting zip codes whose residents will feel the effects of FOP warehouse traffic. No candidate or party contributes to, authorizes or controls this Political Action Committee which is registered at the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, with first contribution/expenditure filing date of Oct 18, 2019 when website was launched by volunteers. Opinions and subjective characterizations are included in the text, but when facts are presented, we want them to be accurate. If you find any errors, please email us with original-source evidence for correction.