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Tripp starts political action committee to support slate of three candidates for Bainbridge city council
Email activist Gary Tripp has started a political action committee that will work to elect a slate of candidates to the Bainbridge Island City Council in the November election.
The group, called Common Sense Bainbridge, registered as a political action committee last week with the Public Disclosure Commission, the state agency that serves as a watchdog on campaign financing.
"We have a mission to promote candidates which we believe will make Bainbridge work more fairly and meet the goals of the city," Tripp said.
Tripp is a well-known figure on Bainbridge Island. He is the director of the Bainbridge Defense Fund, a property rights group that sends out a continuous stream of anti-government emails to a diverse and large email audience. Messages from the Bainbridge Defense Fund in recent weeks have run the gamut from calling city hall a "Nazi-style government" to accusing Bainbridge city employees of stealing money.
Tripp and the Bainbridge Defense Fund also marshaled opposition against the recent update to the city's Shoreline Master Program, a state-mandated plan that regulates development along state shorelines with the goals of promoting responsible development along the coast while preserving public access to the water and protecting natural habitat and the environment. Tripp has said the update to the Shoreline Master Program was adopted unlawfully and claimed the city council broke the law by not allowing enough public comment on the program before it was sent to the state Department of Ecology for review.
This week, Tripp said it wasn't the Shoreline Master Program or any individual factor that made him decide to form a political action committee. He said he has been thinking about it for months.
"I've been very unsatisfied with the current makeup of the city council and I thought the best way to influence the future city council was to participate in the election, so that's what we are doing."
When reminded how the makeup of the current council will change after the election — three seats on the seven-member council are up for election this November, and none of the three incumbents are running to retain their seats — Tripp said the goal was to create fairness in government.
"We're going to have a new council," he said. "We want to elect people who are going to honor the trust that the citizens have given them."
The political action committee is supporting Arlene Buetow, Richard "Dick" Haugan and Dee McComb.
Tripp said he has long been dissatisfied with the workings at Bainbridge Island City Hall.
"I can't think of anything I have agreed with in the direction of the council has taken over the past several years."
The treatment of citizens has been "deplorable," he said.
Tripp said he will be entirely responsible for the actions of the political action committee.
He said the three candidates that Common Sense Bainbridge selected to support were chosen because of their platforms.
When asked how he judged their platforms, given that council campaigns had just gotten started, he said he got a sense of where candidates stood based on their published statements, letters to the editor and the Internet.
Tripp also said he had not spoken with Buetow, Haugan and McComb in quite some time, but he had told them earlier that he would be setting up a political action committee to support their campaigns.
He said Monday he has not spoken to them since.
When asked if the caustic emails he has sent out in the past will hurt his efforts to sway voters toward his preferred candidates, Tripp said the message from Common Sense Bainbridge "will be always be civil."
"This is not about me, this is about the candidates," Tripp said. "All I'm trying to do is get them elected so they can be the best elected officials they can be."
Tripp has already raised money for his new committee. He declined to say how much.
Tripp recently sent out a fundraising email — with a P.S. note at the bottom that said "please keep this confidential" — asking for donations.
The email said he wanted to elect a council that would pull back the Shoreline Master Program from the Department of Ecology and have it rewritten.
"If we get a couple good city council members, they can get a lot done straightening out the city, fixing the roads and prioritizing the budget," the email message added.
The message also said Tripp had hired an experienced and successful political consultant, Sharon Gilpin of TheGilpinGroup.com, to run the campaign.
"She has gotten very good results in California and Washington and comes highly recommended by the realtors group," the message said.
The message also asked donors to simply list their occupation as "retired" or "executive."
Common Sense Bainbridge filed with the state Wednesday, Sept. 18 as a continuing committee, which means it was not established for a particular election.
Tripp said Monday the group would continue its work in future elections.
Tripp is listed as the campaign manager for the organization, and Glenn Avery is listed as the treasurer of the committee.
Avery, a Seattle resident, is currently serving his third term as chairman of the 36th Legislative District Republicans, according to the website for the King County Republican Party.
Avery was chosen because of his experience in campaign financing and handling disclosure forms, Tripp said.
"It had nothing to do with ideology," Tripp said.