Two Views: Is McKenna hiding from cameras?…… campaigning in the closet?

by Darryl, 07/08/2011, 11:01 AM

The King County Young Republicans met at the North Bellevue Community Center last night to hear Rob McKenna speak. It didn’t go as planned.

The event was held in a public venue, advertised openly, and had a speaker who represents the state as an elected official and is also a high-profile public candidate.

Zach Wurtz, a videographer for the Washington State Democrats, who, I suspect, has been hired to record all of McKenna’s public appearances, showed up to record McKenna.

McKenna stopped and asked the man who he was with. The man gave his name, Zach Wurtz, and said he was with the Washington State Democrats. The Young Republicans club president, Jennifer Fetters, asked him to leave. Nope. McKenna told Wurtz to turn off the camera. Wurtz refused. McKenna’s voice got sharper, “Turn it off. Now!”

After further intimidation didn’t succeed in shutting down Wurtz’s camera, the cops were called. They took a long time to get there.

In the mean time…

McKenna stepped outside by the cupcake table.

Really?!? He escaped the scary video man by seeking safe harbor at the “cupcake table”? That’s simply precious!

One big advantage that McKenna has over Dino Rossi is that he’s far more adorable! I mean, you have to admit, retreating like a frightened boy to the cupcake table is a lot more endearing than, say, putting your goons to work on the videographer. So good call on the cupcake table, Rob.

McKenna apparently realized that he could not prevent the recording of political activity in a public place, because he never gave his speech.

Question: Why the hell couldn’t McKenna give his talk in the presence of “the enemy.” What’s he hiding? Was McKenna prepared to tell the Young Republicans things that he could never say to the general public?

Is McKenna, say, talking like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker behind closed doors, and then goes all smiles and cupcakes before the general public?

And what is this bullshit about not being video tapped? It’s now routine for campaigns to shadow each other. McKenna and Inslee should expect that all of their appearances will be recorded, scrutinized and, if something controversial is said, publicized.

Deal with it, Rob! You won’t always have a cupcake table to fall back on.

The Publicola story points out that Wurtz was forcibly removed from McKenna’s announcement press conference. Goldy was denied admission as well in his role as a reporter for The Stranger.

Knock it the fuck off! The “friendly room” strategy didn’t work for Rossi, and it isn’t likely to work for McKenna, either.

McKenna’s speech to the Young Republicans interrupted by young Democrat

I went to the King County Young Republican’s meeting last night hoping to see Attorney General Rob McKenna speak. Unfortunately it was not to be.

After taking the stage, Rob thanked the YRs for the invitation and then recognized the two other candidates in the room, Patti Mann and Michelle Hilhorst, as well as Josh Feit of Publicola, with whom he was quite amiable. McKenna then asked if there were any other candidates or members of the media he’d overlooked and, seeing none, proceeded to speak, at which point, Zach Wurtz, a ragamuffin lad who’d tramped in after the meeting had started, whipped out a video camera and began filming. When McKenna asked if he was a member of the media he said wasn’t; that he was one of Dwight Pelz’s paid operatives. From there things deteriorated rather quickly. Young Mr. Wurtz was informed that he had not been granted permission to film at this, a private meeting, but that he was welcome to stay. The organizers would even happily provide him with pen and paper if he wished to take notes. In a rather comical response Wurtz then proceeded to argue the finer points of the law with our state’s top law man, at one point stating that McKenna himself had argued for his right to be able to film private meetings.

(As an aside, had this been an open meeting at, say, a public park, Wurtz would have been within his rights to film. However, because the YRs is a dues-paying membership organization with private meetings, regardless of whether or not those meetings are held in a rented room in a public building and, in general, open to anyone who would like to attend provided they follow rules of decorum, including no filming without permission, Wurtz was not, despite what he may have thought, within his rights.)

Surmising that Wurtz was not going to leave, one member left the room to call Bellevue’s finest. Wurtz not posing any immediate physical threat to anyone and the police having, I imagine, more pressing things to do they didn’t arrive for quite a while. During that time, while Wurtz continued to roll tape, McKenna left the room and the YR president made announcements about upcoming events. Unfortunately, because of Wurtz’s refusal to comply with the YRs’ demand to leave and the YRs’ refusal to continue the meeting despite his presence, the Attorney General never retook the stage.

I asked McKenna about his thoughts on what had transpired, pointing out that Republicans have sent paid operatives to film their opponents. McKenna, to his credit, stated that he does not engage in that practice, finding it to be the uglier side of politics. He also stated that he, personally, did not have a problem with being filmed but was more concerned with attendees of the meeting being filmed. After all, while he’s used to being in the public eye and rarely, if ever, makes a damaging gaff, who’s to say that someone in the audience, not having the same experience, might say something damaging, not so much to McKenna, but to himself. He added that while his campaign did not engage in such tactics he doesn’t feel they are wrong so long as, if asked to leave or stop filming, the videographer complies. He pointed out, as well, that Zach Wurtz has a history of belligerent and disruptive behavior, getting in a bit of a scuffle with security at McKenna’s announcement press conference earlier this year. And also, to his credit, he mentioned that he’d have had no problem with someone from the Seattle Times or even Publicola filming him, as they are legitimate news outlets. (And, yes, we can all argue media bias but, unlike a paid party operative they at least have a patina of impartiality.)

McKenna makes a fair point and I’m certainly going to take the word of the Attorney General over a kid with a camera, but I can’t help but think that this whole unfortunate circumstance could have been avoided had the YRs channeled a little of that Reagan mojo and laughed the whole situation off, disarming the small annoyance and any possible viewers of his work with kindness. Instead, now, instead of having a speech outlining what McKenna plans on doing to turn this state around; a speech that may have even persuaded a few Democrats to switch over their votes (I reminded of an anecdote from the Mike! McGavick campaign in which one of these paid Democratic operatives became so enamored by Mike!’s kindness that he ended up voting for him.), all Pelz has is a few minutes of kerfuffle from the YRs and a headline on Publicola implying that McKenna is “camera shy”. And it doesn’t matter that Wurtz was being childish, that the YRs were completely within their rights to ask him to turn off his camera or that McKenna isn’t “camera shy”. Perception is reality.

Sure, as McKenna rightly pointed out, just because “Dwight [Pelz] may say he’s just doing his job, doesn’t mean I have to help him.” And as he also rightly pointed out, Wurtz already has footage of McKenna telling him to turn his camera off. But besides channeling Reagan one must also channel Sun-Tzu and put themselves in their opponent’s shoes. The events of last night aren’t going to sway most voters. (Mostly because most voters are never going to hear about it and, even if they do, they’ll have forgotten about it 16 months from now.) The events of last night will only serve to confirm people’s already formed biases. Republicans will leave thinking that Democrats are all a bunch of slimy weasels that engage in guerilla tactics and disrupt meetings. Democrats will leave thinking that Rob McKenna has something to hide or is, at best, “camera shy” and political discourse will continue to languish in the purview of the unenlightened. And at the very least, thirty or so people who came to see McKenna speak left unfulfilled, only a milkshake at the après-meeting happy hour at Red Robin, to alleviate their disappointment.


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