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Saturday, August 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
GOP candidate has long record in jail
By David Postman
After no other Republican filed to run against Sonntag, party officials on Thursday filed Will Baker, well known in his hometown of Tacoma and at the Pierce County Jail but apparently not at GOP headquarters.
Yesterday, the party was trying to get Baker "unfiled," which state election officials say can't be done without court action.
"We are stuck with him," said Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance. "It's somewhat embarrassing. We should have been more thorough in checking him out."
Baker is described by his hometown paper, The News Tribune, as "a roadside flower salesman with a history of annoying elected officials." Since 1992, he's been booked into the Pierce County Jail 19 times, said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Detective Ed Troyer.
Phelps said Baker is a former exotic dancer, an ardent conspiracy theorist and an intelligent person "who has the ability to put a train of thoughts together they're just not real factual."
Baker could not be reached yesterday, but his Web site says he is a follower of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and "an international man of diplomacy."
In his proposed voters-pamphlet statement, he contends his legal troubles are retaliation for his public opposition to city and county policies.
Baker recently was sentenced to six months in jail after being convicted on three counts of "disturbing an official city meeting" for his actions at a Tacoma City Council meeting. After three weeks, he was released on bond pending appeal of the case.
He's due in court in October on a disorderly-conduct charge related to a disruption of a Pierce County Council meeting, said Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Benton.
The News Tribune reported that he has four prior convictions for similar offenses.
Baker was at the secretary of state's office Thursday filing for office.
Washington's initial filing deadline for state offices was last week. In races where a political party is not represented by a candidate, there is an extra week in which the party can file a candidate.
Vance said Baker contacted the party this week and offered to pay the $900 filing fee if Republicans would make him their candidate.
"I talked to him briefly on the phone, my staff talked to him," Vance said. "He seemed normal."
The party "checked just a tiny bit of background" and found he had run for secretary of state as a Republican in 2000.
He's also run for Tacoma mayor, Tacoma City Council member and Pierce County auditor.
The first red flag for Vance came when he saw the statement Baker submitted for publication in the voters pamphlet. In addition to saying he had been arrested several times, Baker's statement alleges an FBI cover-up of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame's suicide and slaying of his wife, Crystal.
Sonntag, the former Pierce County auditor, is in his third term as state auditor. He has won all his elections easily.
"The goal should be to find respectable candidates who run an honorable race," Sonntag said. "Holy cow, this is not what the process is supposed to be about."
He did get a laugh, though, at the thought of a Republican campaign rally headlined by President Bush and GOP candidates for governor and Senate, and "up on the dais Will Baker, maybe in handcuffs, but Will Baker."
David Postman: 360-943-9882 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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