Citizens of Republic reflect on Loren Culp running for governor

RaeLynn Ricarte

It isn’t everyday that a tiny city in remote Northeastern Washington can boast of being home to a gubernatorial candidate, but Republic is now enjoying that bragging right. 

“Sometimes even people in big cities need small town values and Loren represents those,” said Dorothy Dansel, whose son, Brian, served as a state senator and now works in the Trump administration.

She said standing strong for the values that have made America great — values embedded in the U.S. Constitution — is just a way of life in Republic. She believes Police Chief Loren Culp’s outspoken support for those values helped him emerge from a pack of 35 contenders in the Aug. 4 primary, almost half Republican, to challenge incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, in the Nov. 3 general election.

In Eastern Washington, Culp maintained a strong lead over Inslee in the primary, but those numbers were reversed when votes from the heavily populated western side of the state were tallied.

“Loren represents us well and I think people in big cities could benefit from the values he will bring to office,” said Dansel. “This is a new ballgame now and we are very proud of Loren.”

Of course, Republic Mayor Elbert Koontz and other residents are quick to say that they know Culp in a way that other Washington residents never will.

Koontz, who has served in the elected office off and on since 1999, remembers Culp’s grief at unexpectedly losing his first canine officer, Isko, a few years ago.

“Isko was an amazing drug dog and he never missed one test,” recalls Koontz. “Loren was taking him home on that day and Isko just fell over. He had some kind of a genetic defect and ended up dying in Loren’s arms, and that was tough because Isko had become his buddy — they were together all of the time.”

Koontz said Culp’s friend, rocker Ted Nugent, posted about Republic’s loss of the dog on Facebook. Phoenix Protective Corporation out of Spokane responded to the post and paid for the town to get another dog, this one named Karma. They also paid for Culp to receive specialized training for dog handlers in California and provided equipment that Karma would need.

Not everyone in Republic is thankful for the drug-sniffing dog. Like every town in America, there are addicts committing crimes to support their habits, or otherwise not being good citizens.

“I knew Loren when I was an addict and he’s a good guy. He helped me get clean and sober,” says Jennifer Rivera, who just graduated from drug court after losing pretty much everything in her life. She is now gainfully employed and rebuilding a new life with healthy patterns.

She said Culp got her out of an abusive relationship and went the extra mile to help her succeed.

“He’s just a good guy,” said Rivera.

Xzavious Reinbold is another local who has fought addiction for years — and he hasn’t always had positive interactions with Culp. However, he says the cop has helped him get the treatment he needs to overcome addiction.

“He has always treated me with respect,” said Reinbold. “Chief Culp talks about getting more resources in place to help people who need treatment and, if he will follow through on that, he’s not only got my vote but me and my friends will help.”

Resident Lois Price and others say that Culp is skilled at helping people realize that they don’t have to be stuck in harmful lifestyles, and he will help them find resources when they are ready for change.

In the meantime, Price said no one gets a “get out of jail free card” when they break the law, but he treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Jorena Smith recalls playing her music too loud late one night and having neighbors complain to Culp. She got a phone call from him that made her turn the volume down, but also chuckle in the process.

“He said, ‘If I have to get dressed and come over there, someone’s getting arrested.’ I knew he was joking — at least I think he was — but I turned it down,” she said.

“I like everything about him, he’s a good guy —and Inslee’s not a option. I don’t agree with his mandate that we all wear marks, I am not a sheep.”

Price said thousands of people across the state are praying for Culp’s victory.. She said having a governor from a rural area of the state will finally give all citizens a voice.

It is important that policy decisions made in Olympia focus not only on what large metropolitan areas need, but also rural areas, she said. “Ferry County is one of the poorest counties in the state and Inslee has given us very little help.”

In fact, the common name for Inslee in Republic is “Job-Killing Jay,” due to his business shutdowns to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus that has further hurt the economy in an already struggling area.

Ferry County had an unemployment rate topping 15% before Inslee ordered the closure or partial closure of businesses last spring. In July, the governor said a full reopening of the economy will not take place until there is a vaccine or a cure for the coronavirus.

Culp has been labeled as “insubordinate” by Inslee due to his strong criticism of “dictatorial” mandates. Culp has accused Inslee of abusing his emergency powers to unconstitutionally strip away the rights of free citizens.

Rob Adams owns an auto repair business in town and is the partner of Debbie Andreas, owner of the Knotty Pine restaurant and pub, where he is frequently working as well.

He said Culp’s willingness to stand firm against “tyranny” is one of the reasons that he forged ahead of “establishment Republicans.”

“If Loren can get all the people who voted for the other Republican candidates, and sway a few others, he can do this,” said Adams.
“I just think he’s one of the most common sense people I know. People say you have to run as a politician, but I think people are sick of that.”

He said Culp enjoys hunting and fishing, and otherwise doing life like any other citizen, but he has served in the military and takes his oath to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic a little more seriously than many, who hesitate to step into the ideological fray of the times.

Culp spent four years in the Army on active duty and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He was air assault qualified and a rappel master. He was also a drill sergeant and an honor graduate of the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) Academy. He received numerous awards for his service, which included two additional years as a reservist.

Koontz said Culp is a strong supporter of veterans. He is a member of the American Legion and a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“He is soft spoken but firm. He says what he thinks and you never have to wonder where he stands,” said Adams.

He said Culp was mulling over the idea of running for governor and they talked about it while he was working on the chief’s patrol car last year.

“I was stunned,” said Adams. “I knew Loren believed in himself but I was thinking, ‘Why would you want to take that on?’ As we talked, it became clear that he wanted to save the state for his kids and grandkids, and those of other families.”

Koontz said the seeds were laid for Culp to become a candidate for state office in November of 2018, when he gained notoriety by being the first law enforcement officer in the state to refuse compliance with gun control laws approved by the statewide passage of Initiative 1639.

Ferry County weighed in against the initiative by a nearly 73% margin, as did most Eastern Washington counties.
Koontz said city residents largely stood behind Culp’s call that other police agencies join him in refusing to enforce laws that he believed were an infringement of Second Amendment rights.

“We both took the same oath to defend the constitution so I fully supported what he was doing,” said Koontz, who served in the Air Force.

It was no surprise to Koontz that Culp directed his anger at the state’s gun control laws by sitting down and hammering out his book, American Cop: Upholding the Constitution and Defending Your Right to Bear Arms, in a matter of days.

The book was published in the late winter of 2019 as a call to action. Koontz and rocker Nugent wrote the first reviews.

In the 1990s, Culp got to know Nugent through social media conversation that led to a personal meet-up at a concert in Washington.
American Cop fanned the flames of a quiet rebellion against a gun control agenda pushed by Inslee and other Democrats, said Koontz.

Because Culp had demonstrated the ability to stand up to what he termed a “socialist agenda,” he was approached by Republicans about running for governor.

“We discussed his candidacy before he announced and I asked if he had any skeletons that they could pull out of the closet and beat him with,” said Koontz.

He told the chief, who had been on the force for about a decade at that time, that every case he had handled raised the possibility of a “weapon” against him.

Culp was unafraid to run because he stood by his record and his background, which included 20 years as a small business owner in the Olympia area, a 43-year marriage to Joy, raising two sons, and spoiling seven grandchildren, according to Koontz.

The Culps moved to Republic about 13 years ago and have been proactively involved in the community, which has fallen on hard times with the closure of two gold mines and a lumber mill, as well as the reduction of logging jobs due to passage of a series of environmental laws.

It was no surprise to Koontz when some of Culp’s Republican challengers in the primary fed information to the media about a lawsuit that had been filed in 2017 by a woman who claimed Culp and other Ferry County authorities had mishandled her sex abuse complaints five years arlier against her step-father.

The family lived in Curlew when the 17-year-old reported the abuse to a 23-year-old cop from Republic that she was romantically involved with.

“That case was not within Loren’s jurisdiction — the alleged abuse didn’t happen in the city —and he was only called in to observe the complainant being questioned because the deputy didn’t want to be alone with her,” said Koontz.

He declined to comment further on the pending civil suit, except to predict that Culp would emerge unscathed because he had done nothing wrong.

Koontz is also quick to point out that state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber calls Republic home and Rep. Joel Kretz lives about 30 minutes away and comes to town frequently for services.

“We have a few high-profile people here,” he said.

However, Koontz said it is highly unusual for a town with a population of about 1,000 on the east side of the state to produce a candidate for the top office, which has spawned numerous requests for any public record relating to Culp.

“There are a lot of people trying to dig up something bad on him but there’s really only one story,” he said. “Loren is just Loren, what you see is what you get.”

According to Koontz, he and other officials, as well as residents, have become highly cautious about talking to the media because they have already learned that the soundbite used in the news is often taken out of context.

“They put the piece together and it is fake news,” he said.

Koontz believes the stakes couldn’t be higher in the 2020 election, because opposing ideologies are facing off to decide the future of the state and country.

Even if Republic can’t control what happens at the national level, the community can support and cheerlead its most famous resident at the state level. “Loren will make decisions based on what Washington needs, and not his feelings at the time,” Koontz said.