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Benton GOP rethinking backing Richland candidate after personal attacks

The Benton County Republican Party is reconsidering its endorsement of Richland City Council candidate Lloyd Becker after a series of personal attacks on city leaders during council meetings and concerns about some of his social media posts.
The Benton County Republican Party is reconsidering its endorsement of Richland City Council candidate Lloyd Becker after a series of personal attacks on city leaders during council meetings and concerns about some of his social media posts. Tri-City Herald

The Benton County Republican Party is reconsidering its endorsement of a Richland City Council candidate following a series of personal attacks on city leaders and concerns about some of his social media posts.

The party endorsed Lloyd Becker and three other men for nonpartisan council posts after they expressed a desire for the endorsement, declared they affiliate with the Republican Party and said they would uphold the party’s positions if elected.

Becker’s endorsement is under review after he came under scrutiny for concerning reports about his social media posts, said Jerry Martin, chairman of the nominating committee.

“We have heard some things recently that are troubling. We are currently reconsidering that decision,” Martin told the Herald.

Bill Berkman, chairman of the Benton County GOP, confirmed the endorsement is being reviewed in light of Becker’s posts to Twitter and other platforms, including an online blog that hasn’t been updated in about a year. Berkman said he was unfamiliar with reports about Becker’s personal criticisms against city leaders during public council sessions.

“We take this very seriously,” he said.

The party gave its support to Becker over incumbent Councilwoman Sandra Kent as part of a group endorsement that also includes incumbent Bob Thompson and candidates Ryan Lukson and Michael Alvarez.

Thompson is seeking re-election against challenger Rhoda Williams, Lukson is competing against Ginger Wireman for an open seat and Alvarez is challenging incumbent Dori Luzzo Gilmour.

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Lloyd Becker

Becker’s social media posts are under scrutiny along with his seemingly personal attacks on City Manager Cindy Reents and Luzzo Gilmour.

Becker tweets prolifically under the handle @rainier4311. Liberals are a favorite target and he has used Nazi references, such as a year-old tweet referencing the infamous attack on German Jews.

“It is time for KristalNacht zwei,” he wrote more than a year ago, following a terrorist incident in Europe.

More recently, he has directed several tweets to President Trump.

“@realDonald Trump @POTUS when will you hire me and bring me to DC to take care of the problems” is the gist of a tweet he repeated three times in September.

Becker said he was not being menacing. Rather, he said he is attempting to leverage his 20-year Army career, including two tours of Vietnam, to get work.

“I can’t get a job around here working for my community,” he said.

At Richland City Hall, it’s not Becker’s online activities as much as his in-person ones that have generated some concern.

Becker has twice used the council’s public comment session to complain about women in leadership roles, leading some to suspect misogyny, which he denies.

“I don’t go after any one particular sex. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. You have to know that. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” he told the Herald.

On Sept. 5, Becker complained about the city manager, saying Reents should step down since she lives in West Richand. On Oct. 3, he complained at length about Luzzo Gilmour’s well-publicized issues with unpaid property taxes, now partly resolved.

“Since these integrity problems are cropping up, what else is the city council hiding from the residents of the city of Richland?” he said during the Oct. 3 session.

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Luzzo Gilmour

Both complaints were partly based in fact. Reents is currently living outside of the city, and Luzzo Gilmour fell behind on property taxes.

But women describe being unnerved by the personal nature of complaints, in particular Becker’s comments to them after the meetings.

The two meetings can be viewed at bit.ly/RichlandCouncilSept5 and bit.ly/RichlandCouncilOct3. Click on the “public comment” video to observe visitor comments.

The tone and meanness of his attacks are concerning.

Randy Slovic, Richland resident

Reents and Luzzo Gilmour said they felt Becker made the matters too personal.

They weren’t the only ones who noticed.

“The tone and meanness of his attacks are concerning,” agreed Randy Slovic, a Richland resident and dedicated council-watcher who saw both incidents.

Mayor Thompson noticed too.

As he closed the Oct. 3 meeting, Thompson said he was ‘dissatisfied” by Becker’s tone. He didn’t mention Becker by name, but suggested the comments could be driven by misogyny and gender.

This week, Thompson confirmed his remarks were directed at Becker. He said he remained troubled by Becker’s “really old school” style of expression.

Bob Thompson 2017
Bob Thompson

“He is an aggressive individual who wants to be heard. He may pick the wrong way to go about it,” said the mayor.

While Becker has the right to speak as he wishes, Thompson lamented a loss of civility.

“This race has become mean-spirited,” he said.

In both instances, Becker was covering topics that had already been aired.

The city manager has told the council she is living temporarily in West Richland while she and her husband of two years search for a Richland home for their blended family.

They sold her Richland house and consolidated their families while they look for a new place to live in the city.

Reents previously told the council she would be willing to rent a Richland apartment to stay in compliance with the city’s 1958 charter, which can be changed only by a public vote. The council decide that was an impractical solution to a temporary problem.

He is an aggressive individual who wants to be heard. He may pick the wrong way to go about it.

Richland Mayor Bob Thompson

Reents said she approached Becker to introduce herself when the meeting adjourned. She said he became aggressive and demanded she either immediately buy a home or leave her job. She said he waved his hands in her face, prompting Richland Police Chief Chris Skinner to step in and pull her away.

Becker denies being an aggressor.

“I didn’t wave my hands in her face,” he said. The police chief, he said, “pulled her out to quiet her down.” Chief Skinner was not available to discuss the incident.

Becker maintains Reents should be dismissed over the residency issue. He also accused the city council of illegally changing the city charter by accommodating her.

Luzzo Gilmour publicly addressed why her property taxes were almost three years arrears in August, well before Becker walked to the podium.

Her family, she said, faced a difficult financial period and made the decision to keep their children in private school, where they receive partial scholarships.

This week, Luzzo Gilmour said she’s reluctant to draw attention to herself by commenting at length on the incident. Her address and her children’s whereabouts have been heavily publicized on social media. That’s led strangers to arrive at her front door.

She believes Becker is contributing to the issue. Like Reents, she said her encounter was so unnerving that the police chief also stepped in and later escorted her to her car in the City Hall parking lot.

“I’m legitimately afraid now,” she said. “They’re trying to take me down. It is misogyny and it is sexism.”

Becker denies that he’s publicized anyone’s address or that he has a problem with women. He cited his military background of service.

“You serve everyone,” he said.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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