Ultra MAGA Republican gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird is on the verge of being removed from his perch on the Richland School Board, with voters in the Tri-Cities area school district saying yes to a recall effort that was launched against him and two other board members, Audra Byrd and Kari Williams, last year.
56.21% of votes tabulated so far favor the recall of Byrd.
56.4% favor the recall of Bird.
55.34% favor the recall of Williams.
Barring some huge shift in late ballots, these three individuals will soon be removed from office and the Richland School Board will get a big makeover.
Bird, who has attracted scrutiny for threatening a class-action lawsuit over teachers’ personal Facebook posts and fibbing about being court-martialed, had opted not to seek reelection to the school board because he claimed he wanted to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. Bird trekked to NPI’s hometown of Redmond this past weekend to speak at an event hosted by megadonor Brian Heywood.
As he was doing so, voters back in his community were deciding his fate.
And while we won’t know the final verdict for a couple more weeks, it does look like, based on these early returns, that Bird and his pals are all toast.
It’s important to note that this electoral judgment is coming from a place that usually votes for Republicans for statewide office — Benton County. 58.59% of Benton County voted for insurrectionist Donald Trump in 2020. Grifter Loren Culp did even better, pulling in 63.57% of the vote in his gubernatorial bid.
If Bird can’t beat a recall in a community that leans very conservative, he probably isn’t going to have much appeal to a statewide electorate.
Bird was allowed to defend himself with a message on the ballot itself (which is standard procedure for recalls) and he offered the following statement:
I acted in the best interest of student health and welfare. Giving mask choice to students who we suffering and dying was a top priority. I met with the Benton County Director of Health, and was assured that my actions would not cause further stress on our hospital system, but was also informed that the mental health complications caused by the masks needed to be taken into consideration. I did not violate OPMA as decided by Superior Court Judge Norma Rodriguez. I stand for doing what’s right and respecting the United States Constitution. These mandates ruined lives and was a violation of our constitutional rights.
Voters clearly did not find this defense persuasive.
The NPI team has heard at least a couple of political observers suggest that Bird could be a formidable obstacle to Dave Reichert making the general election ballot. The preliminary results of this recall make that view difficult to defend.
Bird received 10% support in NPI’s June 2023 poll of the Washington State electorate. He trailed Raul Garcia, who was running for governor until Dave Reichert got in, and has now switched to running for Senate.
Bird’s atrocious conduct as a school board member led to members of his own community deciding that accountability was sorely needed. Washington State allows for elected officials to be recalled if it can be demonstrated they committed an act of misfeasance or malfeasance in office. That’s what is happening here.
For those who haven’t heard the backstory, here’s a primer from the recall organizers, who have a website explaining their cause. They write:
“On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, Richland School Board Directors Audra Byrd, M. Semi Bird, and Kari Williams participated in a special meeting, held a vote that was not included on the meeting agenda, and took the final action of making masks optional in Richland Schools, effective immediately. In doing so, they broke several Washington State laws and violated their oaths of office.”
The recall charges specifically allege that the three board members:
- Violated the Open Public Meetings Act by voting at a special meeting taking final action on a matter, to wit: masking optional, that had not been included in the published public meeting agenda.
- Voted to make masks at schools optional, in knowing violation of the law and in excess of the powers of a school board, even after warnings from the State and from legal counsel.
- Violated District Policies and Procedures by failing to assure compliance with law and policy.
“There is evidence that the three collaborated before the meeting to plan for taking the vote, which is in violation of RCW 42.30, the Open Public Meetings Act,” the recall organizers go on to say on their website.
“The recall was initiated April 11, 2022. It was reviewed by Benton County Superior Court Judge Norma Rodriguez on May 9, 2022 and allowed to proceed. Directors Byrd, Bird, and Williams appealed her decision. On February 9, 2023, the Washington State Supreme Court concluded that the recall petition was “legally and factually sufficient” and signature gathering could commence. The Supreme Court opinion was published April 27, 2023.”
Results in the August 2023 Top Two election are due to be certified on August 15th. At that time, we’ll have the final numbers from these recalls.