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Friday, June 9, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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David Postman

An Eyman backer with bucks

Seattle Times chief political reporter

Michael Dunmire watched this week as Tim Eyman's future was debated after the failed attempt to force a vote on the state's gay-rights bill.

He heard the talk that Eyman was done, washed up and on a potentially career-ending losing streak now that he fell short of the signatures needed for his drive to repeal the law. Dunmire has bet $1 million that's not true.

That's how much the Woodinville investment adviser has given Eyman's various campaigns in just the past two years. The most recent $75,000 came in April, so Dunmire's support is not a thing of the past.

And he saw nothing in the failure of Referendum 65 to dissuade him from not just backing Eyman, but enthusiastically endorsing him as the once and future initiative king.

"I honestly think he is the only one who gets anything done, and the money could not be better spent," Dunmire said Thursday.

Dunmire, 61, owns Benchmark Plus, an investment firm. He is most passionate about performance audits, and he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Eyman's successful initiative last year to require such audits.

On Thursday, he was scheduled to be in Olympia to talk to people in Gov. Christine Gregoire's office about a recent audit of the Department of Social and Health Services.

He was not involved in R-65. But he's clearly talked to Eyman about the petition drive and about Eyman's position on gay rights.

"People get him wrong when they say he's a bigot or he has these really Darth Vader intentions. He really does not," Dunmire said. Of course, Eyman did show up Monday for a news conference dressed as the "Star Wars" character and accompanied by his initiative partners draped in black robes and hoods.

Dunmire says Eyman doesn't think there should be a "list" of people who can't be discriminated against. "And if there is, fat people are discriminated against 10 times more than gay people. That's where he's coming from. It isn't that he's a homophobe."

The anti-gay-rights drive failed, Dunmire says, not because of Eyman's poor work, as some religious leaders have said this week, but because the churches didn't do their part.

"You're starting out with a cadre of tens of thousands of people," Dunmire said. "If their actions matched their rhetoric they would have passed it."

It was not lost on some of those conservative Christians that Eyman seemed more interested in promoting his initiative to cut car taxes — which has brought him a mostly Dunmire-financed campaign account of more than $250,000 — rather than R-65, which sputtered on a few thousand bucks. At news conferences supposedly about R-65, Eyman partners Jack and Mike Fagan wore T-shirts promoting the tax-cutting initiative.

Dunmire said Eyman's real constituency are those concerned with "financial irresponsibility," and "my guess is if he picks the right issues, he will be successful."

"Don't write him off yet."

David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. His column appears Fridays. Reach him at 360-236-8267 or at dpostman@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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