Home USA News Semi Bird will contest the 2024 WA gubernatorial election

Semi Bird will contest the 2024 WA gubernatorial election

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Richland School Board member Sammy Bird has announced his bid for governor in 2024.  If elected, he would be Washington's first black governor.

Richland School Board member Sammy Bird has announced his bid for governor in 2024. If elected, he would be the first black governor in Washington.

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The Richland School Board is calling off the effort

A high-profile group of voters has filed to recall board members Sammy Byrd, Audrey Byrd and Kari Williams after their controversial vote to make face masks optional.

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A controversial school board member from Richland announced his 2024 bid for Washington governor Friday to a crowd of supporters on Veterans Day at the Legislature Building in Olympia.

Missipati “Peacock” bird told the crowd of about 60 people that he would run as a Republican during the state race in two years.

“Our service to this great nation has no expiration date, and we must continue to honor our oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America, because this is a great nation,” Byrd said. “I am once again in a position to answer the call to serve, and I have to say that the call is to join in the service of my fellow Washingtonians as I decide to run for governor.”

He added that his mother, his spirituality and his military service prepared him for life’s challenges like public service.

A bird came under fire earlier this year for violating statewide mask mandates by making masks optional in Richland schools. The district was forced to cancel some classes after the decision as they tried to find a way to accommodate the move.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTkbO9GgPEk

A lawsuit to recall Byrd and two other school board members was later filed by others who claimed the trio violated the Open Public Meetings Act. All three denied any wrongdoing on the charges, which also included violating the code of ethics, violating district policy and failing to comply with the COVID mask order.

In May, a Benton County Superior Court judge approved the recall motions, but the trio appealed the court’s decision, halting distribution of the motions until the appeal is heard by the Washington Supreme Court.

If elected, Byrd — who describes himself as a “constitutional Christian conservative” — would be the state’s first black governor and the first Republican elected to the post since 1981.

Others, including former 4th Congressional candidate Cory Gibson, Tom Dittmar, Yakima County Republican vice chairman, and 14-year Turning Point USA Ambassador Kellyanne Brooking spoke at a campaign event that focused heavily on veterans. Gibson will serve as Bird’s communications director throughout the gubernatorial campaign.

“United we can stand, together we can and we can,” Gibson told the crowd.

Friday’s event was sponsored by the America First Pact and Contract with Washington, two conservative organizations that sponsor and support Republican candidates. The contract with Washington is also supportive conspiracies to falsify elections according to their website.

Gibson also created the America First PACT, he told the crowd.

Military roots

Byrd is a U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Special Forces Green Beret veteran who received leadership awards and honors during his service, including the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. He also previously served as the federal director of training and leadership development at the US Department of Energy.

He is the founder and current CEO of Team Concepts Training and Consulting, which offers business-to-business leadership development and coaching.

He is also a public speaker who has been the keynote speaker at several recent military, veteran and conservative events.

In speeches, he emphasizes his military background and touts his achievements, touching on his childhood in the “inner-city ghetto” of East Oakland. He was a single parent of seven children and says he worked to overcome obstacles to find the “American Dream.”

During his time in the Marine Corps, Byrd was apparently court-martialed for assaulting a superior noncommissioned officer. According to newspaper records, he was sentenced to one month in prison and demoted from corporal to private.

In public comments on FacebookByrd described the incident as a “racially charged event” when the sergeant used a racial slur and assaulted him.

“I was defending myself,” he wrote about the incident that happened 40 years ago. “I’ve always learned from my mistakes and grown from them.”

School board experience

Byrd was elected to the Richland School Board last year amid a wave of conservative candidates who rose to power over the COVID mask and vaccine demands. He is new to politics and had no public service experience before running for council.

He has called critical race theory a “Marxist, anti-American initiative” aimed at “dividing our nation” and expressed displeasure with face masks and state-mandated comprehensive sex education.

On the school board he and colleague Audra Byrd clashed with two of the most prominent members outside of local school control in Richland classrooms.

Earlier this year, two tried to oust board president Jill Oldson from his leadership position just days after passing and later reversing a measure in name only that made face masks optional.

There were rich schools closed by the boss for two days in February after Byrd, Byrd and Kari Williams passed a mask-optional resolution. The board ultimately backed off, opting instead to stick with the state’s plan to phase out masks in public schools in a month and not risk millions in state handouts.

The decision shocked the community. Final contentious and openly hostile board meetings led the district to hire security to keep the peace.

The board also faced allegations that their decision not to wear a mask at a special meeting in February violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act. While state law does not restrict governments from adding agenda items to regular meetings, it is more finicky about what happens at special meetings.

The lawsuit, which was later settled by a $5,000 payment from the school district, alleged that the board and Richland County failed to adequately notify the public, as required by state law, of the masked vote and that the resulting vote did not comply with the Open Meetings Act.

The board didn’t include any wording on the meeting agenda to indicate a vote was being held, and the listed resolution was vague and its meaning changed in the weeks it was considered.

Community leaders ultimately sued to recall the three board members. The judge found four out of five charges enough to move on to gathering signatures, but the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on the appeal.

This story was originally published November 11, 2022 at 7:39 p.m.

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Shauna Sowersby freelanced for several local and national publications before joining McClatchy’s Northwest Newspapers covering the legislature.

Eric Rosen is a civil liability reporter who joined the Tri-City Herald in February 2022. He previously worked for the Daily Chronicle in Lewis County, covering education, county government and the Legislature. In 2018, he graduated from Central Washington University.

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