NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023

Semi Bird is getting the boot: Voters favor recall of the Republican gubernatorial candidate from the Richland School Board

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation

    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local politics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for money.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy journalism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time donation

  • NPI’s essential research and advocacy is sponsored by: