County Republicans Condemn Russ Hauge on Rifle Club Suit

Sandra LaCelle, Kitsap County Republican Party Chairwoman, sent this to us:

On September 13, 2010, at the Executive Board Meeting of the Kitsap County Republican Party, the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, that the Kitsap County Republican Party hereby condemns the actions of Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hague and his office for the continual harassment and frivolous legal attacks upon the officers and members of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

It is a bold statement for reasons I will provide further down.

Rifle club members were out in force at Monday’s county commissioner meeting addressing County Prosecutor Russ Hauge’s lawsuit against the club. Some of their comments will be included in a story Josh Farley is working on. Their basic points were:

  • The club is all about safety.
  • The county commissioners need to reign in Hauge and the Department of Community Development.
  • They asked why this had to be filed in Pierce County.
  • If the club is closed people will go shoot in the hills.
  • They questioned the qualifications of the prosecutor’s key witness.
  • They think this is a vendetta Russ Hauge is launching against Marcus Carter. (The two have faced off in court before.)

James Sommerhauser, a regular at these meetings and a fixture in the local Democratic party, said he belonged to the club for a couple of years. He thought it was safe, but said if it wasn’t he probably wouldn’t have recognized how. He said if the club didn’t get permits it was required to, then the club would be wrong in that case. He also pointed out that the prosecutor is a separately elected official, so county commissioner control over what the prosecutor does is almost non-existent. Josh Brown, county commissioner, said that the primary interaction between the commissioners and the prosecutor is over the prosecutor’s budget.

That does not necessarily mean the commissioners have to remain silent, but they’re not clear right now what authority they have to do or say anything.

Jim Coutu of Gig Harbor made a point that may speak to why some people who have no dog in the fight would have strong feelings about the suit. “Lawsuits come about because people cannot come to terms any other way,” he said. “This doesn’t feel like something that wanted to get resolved in a proper manner.” Where that matters is that the public knows of no problems between the county and the rifle club. And then there is a pretty big lawsuit.

You may recall there is also friction between the county and the city of Bremerton over the city’s financial participation, or lack of it, in the restructuring of the loan for the Harborside Condominium complex. We’ve been reporting it for months. It may result in a lawsuit, but because we have been reporting the conflict for some time that news won’t come out of the blue like the rifle club suit did.

The Central Kitsap Reporter had a story in May when neighbors of the range wanted the county to take action. It was kind of a “he said, she said” moment.

From a political standpoint, addressed in Farley’s story posted Saturday, there is so much to consider. I think Hauge was absolutely correct when he said the suit “could not have come at a worse time” politically.

In the Aug. 17 primary Hauge won what was a de facto straw poll by 12 percentage points. While that doesn’t officially fall into “landslide” territory, it is a pretty comfortable lead. Now this issue is out there, less than two months from election day. The only way this is a political win for him is if overwhelming evidence comes to light between now and the day ballot are mailed out. Courts do not move that quickly. And people mad at Hauge for taking this action will not wait until election day to mark their ballots.

What if it turns out that Hauge is right? I know many people will not consider that possibility, but I am not at liberty to rush to judgment here. I have not read his filing and even from what I little I have heard I have a lot of questions on both sides. But again, what if it turns out Hauge is right?

Would Republicans then still have cause to claim that this lawsuit is a “frivolous legal attack” and part of the “continual harassment?” Though the party’s statement doesn’t specifically name this most recent suit, in tone it seems pretty clear that the county Republican Party has already judged this case before the process plays out.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
old Time is still a-flying.
And this same flower that smiles today,
tomorrow will be dying.”
– Robert Herrick

13 thoughts on “County Republicans Condemn Russ Hauge on Rifle Club Suit

  1. I’m thinking that the only way this issue could be more favorable to Mr. Hauge would be if you could get some interviews with the club’s Executive Director.

    I’m also thinking that rank and file Kitsap voters aren’t going to be with the Republican Party on this one in November.

  2. Well, Monty, since you are an avowed Democrat no one should be surprised at your forecast. To me the real issue here is why Hauge chose NOW to act? It’s well known that Hauge is anti-gun. His continued losing harassment of Carter is testimony enough for that. He seems hell bent on prosecuting victimless crimes while plea-bargaining away instead of putting away dangerous criminals. If you don’t mind me saying so, that’s bass ackwards. This idea that his lawsuit is “coincidental” smells like a month dead fish. It isn’t credible.

    My view is that Hauge has not been a good prosecutor for us. he betrays too many agendas. I suggest we vote Danielson in, and if he does not pan out, replace him, too.

    One of the biggest problems I believe we have is career politicians. It’s always the same old folks, even the same families of the Political Class, trying to run our lives the way they see fit.

  3. Seriously? You wrote about this without reading the filings? And your only question is what if Mr. Hauge is right? Well, could you take a moment out of your clearly busy schedule and actually do some investigating about what you write about? Is that asking to much? You are seeming to appear biased. I am continually shocked about the Sun’s reporting on this one. You print letters to the Editor by people who made statements in this lawsuit without making that discloser to your readers, you don’t read the filings and you say absolutely NOTHING about the witnesses being in a group trying to close the range. I am amazed and not in a good way. Clean up your act and do your job!

  4. Good to see the republicans do something. Most people have gotten the opinion that Hauge is doing this out of spite. Good point Steve that perhaps what leads to this view is because the lawsuit came out of the blue. I don’t own any guns so I am out of the loop.

    Interesting to see only emotional responses so far defending this suit. The only two republican county office holders in this county have endorsed Hauge for office. From a political blog I would be more interested in what those guys are saying now then giving a prosecutor his day in court before the trial starts . Besides its the RifleClub on trial here .

  5. Ms. Coutu;

    Actually, if you read the post again you will see I have questions for both sides on this. The question I pulled out was aimed at Kitsap County Republicans.

    This is the only thing I have written about the rifle club dispute, and it was more or less to report what the Republicans did and what was said at the county meeting.

    I haven’t come to any conclusions on this, because I don’t know near enough. As I said, I have a lot of questions. Even if I do come up with an opinion, I certainly won’t tell anyone what it is.

    Another reporter is working on a story for the weekend. On the letter to the editor you have a fair point that it would have been good to disclose that the writer is a witness.

    As for cleaning up my act, I’ll get right on that.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Caucus not a doctor

  6. Steve,
    All I ask you to do is read the complaint before you start taking a position. Asking “what if Mr. Hauge is right?” becomes your position when you don’t flip that coin and ask what if he is wrong? I fail to see your impartiality in your question. I am a Democrat, by the way. This is not a patrician issue to me it is about the Prosecutor doing his job and what appears to be a clear bias. It’s your job to remain on level ground and to write about what is happening in our communities, not to deal in hypotheticals.. You ask a question and then do nothing to answer it? You are trying to sway opinion with your complete lack of the facts of this case. That is not journalism. By the way your sarcasm belies your true opinion. Nice job Steve!

  7. Ms. Coutu,

    You’re missing the point, which is not necessarily your fault. Let me be clear: I’m not weighing in on the rifle club lawsuit. I am, though, asking about the Republican Party’s declaration on the matter before it has reached a conclusion. That it involves the rifle club is secondary.

    One might argue that I’m revealing a bias in favor of Democrats in doing so, but I will point out that I try to play it both ways. If you go back a little bit you’ll see something I wrote about Sen. Murray’s campaign being critical of Republican Dino Rossi, trying to link him to foreclosure predators when in fact that was not what he was doing.

    Nonetheless, asking what if Hauge is wrong might have been a good thing to do.

    So, if Hauge is wrong, then the Republican move here does them little harm politically in the long run, I suppose. I’m not sure that there will be any political damage for Republicans either way.

    The point is that what is happening here is what happens so often in political arguments. Political pundits and parties don’t wait for conclusions, such as court verdicts. I see the county Republican party acting on the assumption that Hauge is wrong.

    I don’t know that he is or is not. I’m pointing out that Republicans are saying he is and they’re doing it pretty early in the process. I find that noteworthy, because “What if Hauge is right?”

    Technically, this wasn’t even a poltical issue, except that Hauge does happen to be running for re-election and now the Republicans have weighed in. I see this issue hurting Hauge politically, though. Mr. Mahan seems to differ with me on that. I think it energizes people who might not have otherwise been energized, and not in Hauge’s favor.

    After all this you may think I still have a bias against the gun club, or for Hauge. If so, there is nothing more to assure that I have not formed an opinion and that I refuse to do so until I know more.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Caucus fence sitter

  8. Michael, I was speaking as someone who’s watched Kitsap politics all my life, not as a member of any party.

    I’ve supported R’s before, and voted for many. Probably public knowledge of this fact helped cost me a primary election, among other things.

    I’m just saying the party (R’s that is) is way out of step with the mass of voters in Kitsap on this issue. There’s no huge voter discontent with Mr. Hauge. Mr. Danielson is the underdog in my opinion this race. It’s a mistake to try to fan the flames, if you ask me.

    But then time will tell.

  9. Michelle! Of all the daily newspapers covering Kitsap County, The Kitsap Sun is, by far, the most objective and even-handed.

    I hope my sarcasm bellies my true opinion.

  10. Steve,
    I appreciate your feedback. Thank you for making things clearer and taking the time to respond. You are right about energizing people. This issue certainly got my attention. I can see some points on both sides of this issue. As my Husband stated this is not the best way to handle it. That is our point. Again, thank you for responding.

  11. Monty indeed it is a mistake to fan the flames .

    Bruce Danielson is not running as a republican . The only elected republicans in the county have endorsed Hauge . The Republicans will not endorse Danielson , but that is another story.

    Putting the argument in a neat package of R’s V D’s is interesting but only as a person defending his or just attacking a candidate, not someone looking at the issue at hand. Of course how people vote will show who is out of touch ? “Charles Rangel got more votes then the five out of touch guys who ran against him combined”

    The Republicans , or more like the grass root republicans see Hauge acting against their strong support of the second amendment which is quite popular in their grassroots . There is a history with Hauge and Carter who belongs to the Constitution party . How many times has he been take to court by Hauge ? Loosing to boot. Over a threat to the community ? No of course not . So the possibility of this failed prosecuting attempt”s” indeed make this story a story .
    I would expect it to make the Seattle News, including Television News actually . You seem to protest too much about what is obvious to be questioned by a reporter. Its not the job of a reporter to defend the accusations of those you disagree with . Don’t you watch CNN, CNBC, ABC, CBS, FOX etc . This is a blog .

    Also not long ago we had that story of a felon who had made a good life after jail and was found to have a weapon after reporting his home burglarized. Regardless of Hauge was doing his job or not on that issue, it only fanned the flames of the gun rights issue because of the prosecutors history . I am in a Union and heard people put down this prosecutor as an idealogical vindictive prosecutor . This blog did not cause that among people. Perhaps the belief that you sit on a throne above the rest of us mmakes some think they need not be concerned what the little people think ?

    If you read the story in the Tribune the prosecutors office is using information taken 15 years ago in an incident where a window of a home was shot . There was no follow up by police , no proof of where the bullet came from , just assumption . I am not kidding , 15 years ago and the Rifle club has no record of it ever being told about it , or anyone having a recollection of it that was interviewed by the Tribune . NOW its a big deal to be concerned about safety ?

    I guess , weapons of mass destruction causing us harm once convinced America to vote a certain way , I guess time will tell us if we learned anything .
    Because their is poor showing of republicans in this county regardless proves nothing about integrity, honesty, of an elected official. Nothing . It also does not take away from the Prosecutor anything in this blog .

    But defending someone using information such as making it a republican issue V Democrat is dong hauge no help .

    Good blog Steve, I hope you are biased bringing out information like this , and if your slanted to the right , please talk to me because I got a 1000 suggestions I can offer. Besides I must have figured you were to the right because your about the only reporter on the Sun Staff i could trust . But I always figured you were a leftie who was fair . I got out of politics because indeed I could not trust republicans , and the democrats in this county always appeared so intolerant and even unwilling to allow folks to volunteer on committees and such without a D by their name . Quite sad.

    Good job . Expect to be shot at by the left .. Pun inteneded.

  12. Please consider this my response to the “narrative” that has been created about recent actions by my office. I am responsible for those actions and it is fair that I be judged on them. However, the basis for that judgment should be fact—not a construct created to further a political agenda.
    Fact One: I am not anti-gun. No one has asked me about this directly. The truth is that I own many firearms, mostly handguns, and have shot them regularly since I was a child. I hunt occasionally and practice with my handguns as often as I can. Usually I use the indoor range at “The Marksman” in Puyallup.
    Fact Two: I have no personal grudge against Marcus Carter. Indeed, before we learned he was manufacturing machine guns I regularly assisted him in his firearm safety classes. I taught the lesson about firearms and the law. In those classes, I tried to make this one point above all: The constitution of the State of Washington unambiguously grants its citizens the right to bear arms in defense of themselves and their homes; however, that right carries with it great responsibilities. The statutes of the State of Washington spell out the rules for the possession and use of firearms. My office will support lawful use and respond immediately and firmly to unlawful use.
    Fact Three: My office has not repeatedly prosecuted Mr. Carter. There is one pending action. Twice Kitsap County Superior Court judges, using different reasons, have prevented us from taking the case to a jury. Twice, the next higher court, the Court of Appeals, has said they were wrong and sent the case back for trial. There is nothing extraordinary about our office appealing a ruling of the superior court. Judges can make mistakes, and an appeal is the mechanism to correct their errors. We are pursuing this not because I hate guns, but because machine guns are inherently dangerous and we think the law is clear. A local judge has blocked the trial yet again on a new theory raised just before trial. We have again appealed and expect the case to be sent back for trial sometime this year. But appellate courts keep their own schedule; that’s why it’s taken so long. We will pursue this prosecution. There is no question that Mr. Carter manufactured and possessed a machine gun. The reports are part of the public record. There is a video tape of the weapon firing on full auto that no news agency has ever asked to see. My office cannot ignore this clear violation of the law. To do so would be to effectively authorize the manufacture and possession of machine guns in our community. If that is to be the rule, it should be established by the legislature or the courts. Thus far, the court that counts, the Court of Appeals, has agreed with us.
    Fact Four: Our goal has never been to close the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club. Our position is set forth in a letter we sent to the club in May of this year. We’ve provided more than one copy of this letter to every local news outlet, but no one has seen fit to print it. It is posted on our portion of the County’s website. It is an attachment to the core document in this suit, the Complaint. In summary our position has been that we have credible information that the Club may have violated variety of permitting, zoning, and environmental laws. It is our job to address those concerns. We have asked the Club’s cooperation in resolving these issues but received no helpful response. Very recently, credible information came to us that there may be significant safety concerns. By all reports, the range officers at the club do an outstanding job. Every shooter is made to follow appropriate procedures. But the day-to-day operation of the ranges is not the issue. The concerns arise from the layout of the ranges themselves. There are standards in the shooting industry to address these issues. They exist to ensure peaceful co-existence of gun clubs with their neighbors. The Club’s facilities have expanded beyond those that existed when it was “grandfathered” into the current zoning code. This expansion makes those industry standards relevant. Like the machine gun case, my office would be giving its approval to what might well be law violations affecting public safety if we ignored this situation.
    Fact Five: The land use action concerning the club did not spring up just in time for me to use it in a political campaign. The dialog between the regulatory agencies, the Club, and the surrounding property owners has been going on for years. It was filed now because the Club leadership has refused to engage in that dialog in any kind of constructive manner. Indeed, it is just as reasonable to assume that the Club orchestrated this crisis to coincide with the upcoming election. As I’ve said before, I certainly recognize that I’m not doing my reelection campaign any good by filing this action now.
    Prosecutors do not—and should not—have the authority pick and choose among the laws they are sworn to enforce. We do indeed have to make choices about how to expend our resources, but those choices should be guided by principle. I have been advised that the politically expedient thing to do would be to look the other way and in effect authorize the manufacture of machine guns and the violation of our community’s environmental and zoning protections. Certainly that’s the consensus in the blogosphere. But that’s not how it works. The prosecutor’s first duty is not to hew to any party line or even to get reelected. The prosecutor’s job is to enforce the law as best they can. That’s all I’m trying to do.
    Russ Hauge

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