KENNEWICK -- The message among local Republicans at an annual picnic Wednesday in Kennewick was unified and strong -- we must win in 2012.
Congressman Doc Hastings led the charge to motivate the Tri-City GOP base with a speech about goings-on in Washington, D.C., including the recent deal on the nation's debt ceiling.
"There's a lot going on in the country that concerns American citizens," Hastings told the crowd of about 150 members of the Mainstream Republicans of Benton/Franklin Counties.
He said there were parts of the last-minute debt ceiling deal negotiated by Congress and President Obama, but one of the big positives is the requirement that the House and the Senate vote on a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.
And how that vote shakes out could affect the outcome of next year's federal elections.
"We're going to find out this year where all of these members are on a balanced budget amendment," he said. "This is real, and we can stop this process and get our values back. All of this has to be focused in the direction of 2012."
While Hastings wasn't ready to formally announce his 2012 candidacy, he said with everything going on, he couldn't see himself deciding not to run.
He noted that a year ago in August 2010, National Republican Committee members didn't think they would win a majority in the House of Representatives despite strong poll numbers showing they had make gains.
But they did take the majority, and can do it again in 2012, Hastings said.
The most crucial thing Republicans must do is win the White House, he added.
"The 2010 election was nothing more than a referendum on the 2008 election," he said, referring to the election of Obama. "I have to tell you, the 2012 election is very, very critical."
The message was repeated by state Reps. Larry Haler, R-Richland, and Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick.
Klippert worked the crowd like a fire-and-brimstone preacher, shouting his call-and-response message to the enthusiastic audience.
He spun a parable about the American Revolution and the "fence-sitters" who wouldn't pick a side.
"We got any fence-sitters here tonight?" Klippert asked.
"No!" the crowd shouted back.
"We got any patriots here tonight?"
"Arm in arm, we're going to get it done and take this nation back," Klippert roared.
The local Republican group also was visited by King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, who is running as a Republican to replace Rob McKenna as the state's Attorney General.
McKenna is running for governor to replace outgoing Democrat Chris Gregoire.
Dunn, who is the son of former state GOP chairwoman and Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn, said if elected, one of his top priorities will be to enforce the federal government's cleanup obligations at Hanford and to give police agencies the tools they need to combat gangs.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com