A `New' Ron Taber Aims For Congress -- Ex-Candidate Eyes Seat In 9Th
Seattle Times Olympia Bureau
OLYMPIA - Republican Ron Taber, a 1996 candidate for state schools superintendent, is making the rounds to announce he is running against 9th District U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Kent. At least it looks like the same man.
The Ron Taber talking yesterday about "faith, family, flag and freedom" says he's a different man than the one who ran an expensive, self-financed, landslide-losing and loose-lipped campaign for superintendent of public instruction.
"I enjoyed that campaign," Taber said. "People said, `Ron have fun,' and I probably had too much fun."
In 1996 he talked of people's right "to be ignorant," suggested drug dealers be caned and in talking about his opposition to bilingual education, said, "Spanish is the language of doormen, dishwashers and fruit pickers."
Then, he was one of a dozen candidates. As of now he is the only person in the Republican primary for the 9th District.
"Now there's no reason for me to make those exaggerated statements and rhetoric," Taber said yesterday. "You're going to see a person who is much more sober and restrained in his rhetoric. I'm not just out to grab headlines and get name ID."
Say goodbye to Ron Taber, gadfly; say hello to Ron Taber, big thinker. He's still Ron Taber, millionaire real-estate man who spent nearly $1 million of his own money in the 1996 campaign.
Taber says that as a congressman he would fight to build a new freeway along the Cascade foothills; he'd call it the Pacific Slope Highway and charge truckers $120 tolls to bypass Puget Sound traffic jams. He wants an at-grade tunnel through the Cascades that would also be paid for by tolls.
"I think we have to have a bigger vision," Taber said. Along with changing his personality, Taber has changed his address. So he can live in the 9th District - not that it's required - Taber says he has moved into a rental home he owns just over the creek from his Thurston County ranch. The ranch is in the 3rd District. Over a creek at the edge of the property is the 9th, and his new home.
Days will be spent on the ranch, tending to animals and running the campaign. But at night, Taber said, he will return to his bed in the 9th.
The district comprises South King County and parts of Pierce and Thurston counties. Smith, a Democrat and former state senator, was elected in 1996. He has tried to position himself as an independent, voting with the Republican majority on occasion.
Smith was not available for comment yesterday.
"Adam's message is going to be as consistent as it was last time," said Jeff Bjornstad, Smith's chief of staff. "The voters of the 9th want an independent voice that works with both sides to get things accomplished."
Along with the freeway and the tunnel, Taber said he will campaign on reforming Social Security, building a strong military defense and what he calls school choice. In 1996, he ran an initiative campaign that would have allowed vouchers for taxpayers' money to be used for private-school tuition.
He said he will also point out to voters that as a Republican he has a better chance of "making deals" with the GOP-controlled Congress than Smith.
Congress may be a better place for Taber than the school superintendent's job, said Sam Reed, the Thurston County auditor and a longtime friend of Taber's.
Reed said Taber is passionate and outspoken, which works better in a legislative body than as a chief executive.
"It depends on how outrageous he is, though, whether he can get there," Reed said.
Taber has been outrageous most of his life. As an eighth-grader he went to school with clothes covered in cow manure - to provoke people, he once said - only to be sent home to change. He returned dressed in a suit, again to provoke.
As an adult, he raised champion cows, only to get in a fight with the cow association for allegedly spray-painting his herd to pass off cross-breeds as purebreds.
He's been a college professor, moderate Republican who pushed to legalize marijuana and a conservative Republican who challenged the party's incumbent chairman.
"He certainly couldn't transform into a mild-mannered guy," Reed said. "But the interesting thing about him is he is very capable of changing. It isn't a case of being opportunistic. He genuinely does change."
That's what Taber says he needs to convince voters of.
"I've paid my dues and I've learned," he said. "I am going to show I can be a reflective person."
David Postman's phone message number is 360-943-9882. His e-mail address is: email@example.com
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