Kennewick candidate won't back down on controversial comments

Kennewick City Council candidate Loren Nichols says he "will not yield" and will continue his campaign to rid the city and country of illegal immigrants despite a wave of outrage about his proposal to use lethal force to secure U.S. borders.

Nichols ignited a firestorm with his public comments this week that anyone entering the U.S. illegally should be shot.

Nichols said in media interviews that illegal immigrants should be ordered out of Kennewick, and "if they value their lives, they would leave."

Nichols said the death penalty would be appropriate for anyone who violated the U.S. borders.

Today he plans to hold a sign at key Kennewick intersections. "It will be to promote my agenda," he told the Herald on Thursday.

"A lot of the attention is on the illegal immigration agenda, but I am not a one-dimension candidate. I am also concerned about the city having too many high-dollar projects going on at the same time," said Nichols, who turned 56 this week.

One sign he plans to wave will say: "It is time to take back Kennewick. Time to take back America."

Another sign will list his top concerns, including illegal immigration and Kennewick being an English-only community.

The self-employed former Navy linguistics expert is on Tuesday's primary ballot, challenging Kennewick Mayor Steve Young and another candidate, William Miller.

The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

Nichols said he spent Wednesday evening reviewing dozens of online comments posted on tricityherald.com about his views, but is unfazed that most commenters characterized him as a bigot who despises Hispanics who don't speak English.

"It might have bothered me a few years ago, but not now. I expected a mixed response," he said. "But some people read more into what I was saying."

The Herald's website received more than 200 online comments and several phone calls within a day of publishing a story about Nichols' stances.

Charlie McAteer, communications director for OneAmerica, the largest immigrant organization in Washington, told the Herald, "It was pretty offensive to us to call for the murder of noncitizens."

The nonprofit group is based in Seattle, but has a satellite office in Kennewick.

Gabriel Retana said in a voice-mail that Nichols' remarks offended him.

"Being born and raised here, it was shocking to have somebody here with so much negativity against people who don't speak English. Hitler sounded the same way," Retana said.

"Shooting people at borders is just cruel. It's Satanism," he added.

But other readers supported Nichols.

"He's a hero in my view. He should be elected," said Jim Warren, a Kennewick resident since 1989.

"Illegals crossing the border are criminals. It is complete insanity to allow illegals to walk among us where there are so many Americans unemployed," he said.

"I was really happy to see someone speak about this the way it should be talked about," Warren said.

Other online commenters agreed. "The issue is what these people are doing is illegal. They are breaking the law. They need to be sent back to where they came from," said one reader.

But another commenter said Nichols is crazy and "should be shut down ... let the guy shoot himself if he's unhappy with his world."

Another called him "scary-looney."

David Ayala, organizing director for OneAmerica, said Nichols' statements were offensive.

"Threatening language like this has no place in public discourse and creates an environment with real and dangerous consequences for immigrants and people of color. (We) demand an immediate apology from Mr. Nichols," he said.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com