Candidates convene in Issaquah for campaign boot camp

June 25, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 10 a.m. June 25, 2010

Political candidates convened in Issaquah on Thursday afternoon to learn how to be better campaigners and, perhaps someday soon, lawmakers.

The right-of-center Jennifer Dunn Leadership Institute recruits and readies potential candidates for office. The institute, a three-day course held through Saturday at the Issaquah Hilton Garden Inn, includes Republican up-and-comers seeking state Senate and House of Representatives seats.

Think of the session as summer school for candidates, with the first test set for the Aug. 17 primary.

In addition to policy primers, the 23-member class will take in lessons about government institutions, the political process and how to communicate to voters and journalists.

Instructors include state Rep. Kevin Parker, a popular Spokane Republican; staffers from the Washington Policy Center, a Seattle-based think tank; and Troy Nichols, policy director for the House GOP caucus.

Washington Democrats run a similar boot camp for candidates, the Institute for a Democratic Future.

The late Jennifer Dunn, a Republican, represented Issaquah in Congress for 12 years before retiring in 2005.

Reagan Dunn, her son and the leadership institute’s chairman, established the program last year. The younger Dunn represents unincorporated King County south of Issaquah, as well as Newcastle and Bellevue, on the King County Council.

“Just like the inaugural 2009 class, our 2010 class members have been handpicked from across the state from a wide spectrum of applicants,” he said in a news release. “Again they represent the best and brightest from Washington state, and I look forward to watching them progress through our program.”

Reagan Dunn, state Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican; and other board members recruited the class.

“As a public officeholder, I feel a great responsibility to assist the next generation of leaders in our state,” McKenna said in the release. “The JDLI environment takes hands on learning to the next level by exploring the candidate’s interests and challenging them on a wide variety of public policy issues.”

The institute hosted a 14-member class last year. Gregg Bennett, a Bellevue Republican challenging state Sen. Rodney Tom, completed the inaugural course.

Tom, the Senate’s chief budget writer, represents Issaquah’s Greenwood Point and South Cove neighborhoods as part of the 48th Legislative District.

State Rep. Marcie Maxwell, a Renton real estate agent and a Democrat, faces a challenge from a member of the 2010 class: Peter Dunbar, a Mercer Island physician.

Maxwell, a 41st Legislative District lawmaker, represents southwest Issaquah, Talus and other Cougar Mountain communities.

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