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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s speech in Seattle to exclude reporters

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be in Seattle next week for a campaign event that reporters will not be allowed to attend, according to his staff.

About 2,000 people are expected to see the Republican governor and prominent Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson headline a Washington Policy Center dinner next Thursday. Both speakers have asked that journalists be barred — the first such prohibition for the annual event in recent memory, said Lisa Shin, communications director for the conservative-leaning think tank.

Although reporters will be kept out, attendees at the sold-out event — about 1,400 at the Seattle Sheraton and some 600 watching via projector from Spokane — will likely be allowed to post to social media, Shin said.

A Walker spokeswoman deferred comment to his campaign team. Campaign spokesman Jonathan Wetzel confirmed the event will be closed to media.

“Campaign” refers to Walker’s 2014 re-election bid, although it is unclear how many Wisconsin voters will be in Seattle next week.

Walker is also considered a possible candidate for president in 2016.

Staffers did not return messages asking about the Seattle event’s connection to Walker’s campaign or why media will be not let in.

The 45-year-old Walker gained prominence in 2011 when, weeks after entering office, he proposed a bill to curtail state workers’ collective bargaining rights. The bill set off weeks of protests and prompted Democratic state senators to leave the capital, but it eventually won approval.

Democrats and labor groups tried unsuccessfully to recall Walker in 2012.

On Thursday, Washington state unions plan a protest outside Walker’s speech. The King County Labor Council has received a permit for a protest of up to 1,000 people and is expecting several hundred, said Executive Secretary David Freiboth.

“Our message is ‘not in our state,'” Freiboth said. “We don’t like Gov. Walker’s form of divisive political discourse, and we are finding that there are a lot of folks from diverse groups that agree with us.”

The Washington Policy Center has been capitalizing on the controversy, sending out news releases highlighting the union outrage.

The think tank’s annual dinner has featured several big names in its 16 years, from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2002 to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2007 and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

Last year, pollster Scott Rasmussen spoke in Seattle, while Republican campaign consultant Ed Rollins talked in Spokane.

Comments | More in Federal government, State government | Topics: 2016 presidential election, Ben Carson, closed press

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