Semi Bird wins straw poll, speaks at Lewis County Republican Convention

Local GOP members prefer Bird to Dave Reichert; Trump remains the favorite for president


Touting his work in the private sector and his position as an outsider looking to shake things up, Washington state gubernatorial candidate Misipati “Semi” Bird told a crowd of roughly 100 at Onalaska High School Saturday that he’s best positioned to be elected as the state’s next governor.

“I’m not a career politician. I’m a career American,” Bird said. “We’re going to make Washington state great again, and we’re going to give Olympia the Bird.”

The comments came at the Lewis County Republican Convention, where Bird won the unofficial straw poll of attendees with 63 votes, compared to the 28 votes Dave Reichert received. Three attendees were undecided on who they preferred for governor.

“Brothers and sisters, this is a 1776 moment, right now, in America,” Bird said. “And I’m not a far-right radical. And the interesting thing is that I’m being called that by my mainstream Republicans, and not even the Democrats have started in on me yet.”

Ahead of the March 12 primary, former President Donald Trump continues to receive strong support in a county he won during both of his prior runs for the Oval Office. Trump received 86 votes in the straw poll, compared to seven votes for former South Carolina Governor and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Like the campaign for governor, three attendees remained undecided.


Trying to move forward

During both his speech and in an interview with The Chronicle, Bird attempted to move past issues that have dogged his campaign, including a 1984 court martial while serving as a Marine.

“People have thrown so much dirt at me over the last year. And people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, Semi’s got baggage,’” Bird said during his speech. “Of the people, by the people, for the people. Has anyone out here made a mistake in life? Has any ever fallen and gotten back up? Anybody ever heard that thing, ‘we learn from our mistakes?’”

On Friday, The Tri-City Herald reported the Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office charged Bird in 1996 with a Class B Felony after repeated attempts to retrieve a department-issued firearm failed.

“It was never stolen. You cannot steal something that was issued to you,” Bird said. “It was a delay in return, but that’s not theft.”

According to the Herald, while volunteering as a reserve deputy in the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, Bird left a loaded .357 Smith and Wesson handgun in a personal car when it was repossessed. After leaving the department, the Herald reported it took more than 17 months for officials to retrieve the firearm.

“If you look at it, and I think somebody put out a court document, it said ‘dismissed,’” Bird said. “And so here we are, 30 years in the future, we’re going to make more of the fact that I volunteered to serve in law enforcement. And they went as far as to bring forth a charge, and it was dismissed.”

Bird views himself as “falsely accused” in the incident, and said as governor, he would work for those who are both wrongfully accused or those who made mistakes.

“I was falsely accused and that was verified by documentation, and specifically, because it says ‘exculpatory, evidence of fact,” my statement’s aligned with the testimony that was finally heard,” Bird said. “I moved on, no complaints, no lawsuits, no bitterness. I moved on.”

A Bird administration

As governor, Bird vowed to institute a moratorium on new taxes during his first term in office and said he would conduct a third-party audit of state programs and offices, and pointed to increased state spending.

“Fraud, waste and abuse are rampant in our state government,” Bird said.

Bird said he also plans to bring a compassionate approach to the state’s drug crisis.

“I’ve never been an addict, but I lost my nephew to a fentanyl overdose last year. I felt that sting and that hurt,” Bird said in an interview. “So I could never look at a person struggling with addiction and say, ‘You’re bad or you’re nasty or you’re evil.”

Though his experience in public office consists of less than a year on the Richland School Board — a role that ended when he was recalled — Bird referenced his time in the private sector, including work in project management and as a business consultant.

“You can track every penny. And my clients, if every penny is not tracked, reconciliation, then I have a problem and they have a problem. And we fix the problem,” Bird said. “Could we use that skill set in Olympia? I say yes, we could.”

Bird described his message as “populist” and “common sense” and said it resonates with younger voters and minority voters.


His plan to get elected

Still, Bird must first win in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican governor in 40 years. To do so, Bird said he plans to continue to campaign throughout the state, including in Lewis County, where the county party is among the 15 that have formally endorsed him.

“Rural counties matter, just as much as the bigger counties, and they’re often forgotten,” Bird said in an interview. “So I’m going to do my best to change that.”

In an attempt to let candidates shift focus to the general election, the state GOP will hold its convention in April this year, where the party will endorse candidates for statewide and federal offices in the hopes of narrowing the field before the August primary.

Bird, though, said he envisions staying through the August primary, and said he doesn’t see the party endorsing Reichart.

“In King County, we’ve been winning those legislative districts and all of those straw polls. I’m honored by that,” Bird said in an interview. “So, we’re looking at the victory in the convention and we just know that we will be in the primary.”

According to a poll conducted by Crosscut/Elway in January, around 3% of Washington voters said they planned to vote for Bird, and another 14% said they might. About 36% of respondents said they couldn’t vote for Bird. The poll found that 33% of voters were unfamiliar with Bird, which he sees as a “huge opportunity” to gain support.

“If you look at Dave (Reichert) and Bob (Ferguson) have a high name recognition, but both also have low approval ratings. And it’s not disrespect on either. I don’t disrespect or call names. That’s not my style,” Bird said in an interview. “But (State Senator) Mark Mullet and I, at the same time, aren’t as well known.”

Bird also said that Reichert’s name brand recognition is “respectfully, and in honoring his service, a false flag” and pointed to the length of time since the capture of the Green River Killer, a hallmark accomplishment of Reichert’s time as King County Sheriff.

“You have two generations.  One wasn’t even alive when it happened,” Bird said in an interview. “And then you go to the east side, and the name recognition dissipates like an ice cube in mid-summer.”