Richland Republican Semi Bird takes his position as a political outsider in stride in his campaign. In that position, he’s found a kindred spirit in Joe Kent, with whom he shares more than ideological similarities.
Like Kent, Bird served in the U.S. Army Special Forces. Following his service, Bird also worked in the federal government before becoming a business consultant for his own company.
Now, Bird is looking for the highest office in Washington — the governor.
“Could you imagine having someone with a resume for organizational structure, organizational improvement, leading Washington state?” Bird said.
Both Bird and Kent took part at a meet and greet at a private residence in north Clark County, Oct. 13. Both candidates talked policy and politics with those gathered, as Bird seeks his first shot at governor, while Kent is seeking a second try for Washington’s Third Congressional District.
Bird took shots at career politicians, acknowledging he has an uphill battle to gain a foothold in the crowded governor’s race.
“I had a U.S. congressperson call me to sit down and asked me to step aside, to take another position, to play ball, get on the team,” Bird said. “That right there told me what I need to know.”
Bird also has a challenge in fundraising. According to the state Public Disclosure Commission, Bird has raised about $212,000, behind fellow Republican David Reichert and is trailing far from current funding front-runner Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has raised close to $4.2 million.
Even without the establishment support, Bird said he already has the endorsement of 13 county parties, including Clark County.
Bird said he was “more of a constitutional career American” than an idealogue of any political party. He said he would treat his time in office like he would a consulting job, mentioning he would call for a third-party audit of all state programs and offices on “day one” to gain a baseline understanding of where the state government is at.
“I don’t want to be there anymore than two terms max,” Bird said.
Bird advocated for a return to the rule of law, which he said had weakened with current state leadership.
“Why don’t you hold prosecutors and judges accountable for protecting citizens, for prosecuting criminals fairly, justly, all equal under the law,” Bird said.
He also pushed for the state to “take the shackles off” of police affected by recent laws requiring more scrutiny to engage in operations like vehicle pursuits.
Bird said he would take a mental health-based approach to homelessness. On education, he advocated for a performance-based funding model.
“Could you imagine public schools actually understanding that if they do not perform to a standard, that they are not going to get fully funded the way that they want to?” Bird asked.
Bird addressed his time on the Richland School District Board of Directors. Bird joined fellow board members Audra Byrd and Kari Williams in an early 2022 vote to make masks optional in district schools, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The statewide mask mandate was still in effect at the time. Bird and the other two members were ousted in a recall vote in the August primary.
Bird stood by his decision, stating that the mandate went against higher law than the governor’s authority.
“I am not an extremist at all. I support the rule of law. I stand for the rule of law,” Bird said. “But a mandate that is illegally conceived, to which I would call unconstitutional, that is something that we should all be concerned about.”
Bird said students in his district were suffering due to the mandate.
“When we have a mental health crisis and we have learning issues because of masking, parents are crying out for help, children are protesting and saying ‘I’m not wearing a mask,’ then someone has to take a stance for those parents and for those children,” Bird said.