An Open Letter about Graham Hunt
Graham Hunt, the embattled Republican representative from Washington’s 2nd Legislative district, has been a good and loyal friend of mine for nearly five years. We served together on the Orting City Council for several years, and even after he was appointed a representative in the Washington State legislature we retained a great working relationship. It helps to understand our shared history and success to convey the tragic thesis of this letter.
Almost two years ago Graham sat across from me over coffee and had a heart to heart about his goals and mine, mostly mine.
Flash forward a year from that date and I’m running for re-election as a council-member against an excellent opponent. Someone who knows the city, knows the processes, and has a great group of core supporters including the current and former Mayor. Graham is put in a hard spot between friends and throws his support my way, giving me support when I needed it. Most certainly helping me to have a wildly successful election season – winning big in Orting and defeating a well established Republican for a seat on Pierce County’s Charter Review Commission.
Now we are in January, 2016. Graham has taken the lead on a significant policy issue and something that strikes a nerve for Republicans and non-affiliated voters alike, the issue of gender identity and how that influences human rights, specifically how we pick which restroom or locker room to use. An issue, I think he’s got a great starting point on, if only he can convince a few lawmakers to allow a hearing.
Then.. the Seattle Times releases a piece calling out questions in Graham’s description of his military service. Bringing up fraudulent campaign advertisements, casting doubt on his claims of service, and generally going after many aspects of his claimed service record. Like many, I believe the piece is curiously timed, I’ve personally seen the vitriol of those who disagree with Graham over the transgender issue, even been the target of some of their ad hominem assaults. But as hard hitting as the piece is, and as provocatively timed as it is, the issues it brings up are so much worse than any perceived ill will of the author.
In fact, to me, there can be no worse way to hurt me than what it reveals.
Although I’ve been told by Graham himself that he is a Marine. Although I’ve told others in his presence that he is a Marine. Although others have told me he served in the Marines.. Graham never served in the Marines. Graham is not a Marine.
Why am I focusing on this? Because his proof of service is noticeably absent in demonstrating any connection to being a Marine. And of course, after being cornered on it, he admits it. This hurts.
It hurts because it is through him telling me he served in the Marines that I believe him to be a Marine. It hurts because I have told countless people, in his presence, and elsewhere about him being a Marine. And ultimately it hurts because it re-orients the entirety of our relationship into a situation where he creates false messages and I (unknowingly) broadcast them as a lie.
When you are able to work your friends like this, how can anyone verify truth vs fiction? I see this very same pattern continuing in his silence and it stirs within me great anger and sadness. Through silence Graham is letting others, his friends and long time supporters, make wild and false accusations against anyone who would question the veracity of his outrageous and false claims. He is silently watching and enabling friends to label (rightfully) concerned and angry Veterans things like: leftist, liberal, and mainstreamer – as if these labels are a curse instead of a predilection.
If you have any doubt about any of this, simply look to Graham’s Facebook page, or any number of other pages where supporters, many of them also close friends of mine, are digging deep into faith in their friendship with Graham to find reasons why supporting him is more important than accepting the truth. And there are two truths here..
1) Graham is not a Marine and he lied about it openly. He lied through omission. And he allowed others, including me, to un-knowingly tell the lie for him. There is no defense against this. He lied, simply, to so many of us.
2) Graham’s military service claims don’t add up. It’s clear he served. It’s also clear to anyone who has served and is looking at his evidence objectively, that his claims of service are in areas wildly exaggerated.
To reiterate where we are..Graham lied to me and lied to all of us. And through his continued silence he is allowing his dearest supporters to continue to tell his lies for him.
Penning this letter saddens me more than I can say. I am betraying the trust of a friend in coming out publicly against him. I am betraying shared goals, and purposely causing our mutual supporters to pick sides in a fight with no winners.
I have been beside myself for nearly a week praying that Graham will do the right thing. That things will some how make sense. I am bewildered and beyond mystified by the confluence of events that have us at this point. Yet we are here, at the moment for leadership… I sincerely hope that moment has not passed.
As a public servant, it is my solemn duty to publicly declare my views when I see something that is hurting my constituents. I owe them an honest shake on issues that concern their interests.
This is my statement..
As a friend, constituent, and leader – I can’t trust Graham anymore to fulfill his duty as a State Representative.
He should resign, or be removed from office over this
If you agree…
by Josh Penner // For Immediate Release // January 29, 2016