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April 15, 2011 at 1:53 PM

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McKenna defends health-care lawsuit at Bellevue tea party rally

Posted by Jim Brunner

Attorney General Rob McKenna stopped by a tax day tea party rally in front of Bellevue City Hall Friday morning and delivered another fiery defense of the lawsuit to overturn the Obama administration's health-care overhaul.

Addressing more than 100 tea party activists, McKenna gestured forcefully as he quoted Sam Adams, who helped organize the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

Adams had warned of America's freedoms being stolen away "by the artifices of false and designing men" - a danger McKenna said was present today.

McKenna said elected leaders can't choose the parts of the Constitution they defend, and said that's why he filed the lawsuit challenging the health-care overhaul's mandate that everyone purchase health insurance.

"Your rights matter and they deserve to be protected," he said.

McKenna mocked those who dismissed the health-care challenge when it was filed.

"Now, when we signed onto that suit some law school professors and political pundits said 'this lawsuit is frivolous' -- frivolous they said!" McKenna said. "They're not saying that any more."

He noted that five federal judges have ruled on various lawsuits challenging the law - three have upheld it and two have said it is unconstitutional.

"Not one of them has dismissed the challenge as being frivolous," he said. "Every one of those judges found that this is a serious matter for the courts to consider."

The short speech was well-received by the crowd, who waved signs warning of socialism and protesting taxes.

Though he's sounding more and more like a candidate for governor in 2012, McKenna said he has not made a decision and likely won't until after the Legislature adjourns.

In an interview with reporters after his speech, McKenna said his speech was "about the Constitution and my role as Attorney General."

While Democrats have attacked his appearances at tea party events as evidence he's not a moderate, McKenna defended the tea party gatherings.

"The tea party is a very diverse group," McKenna said. "What unites them are fiscal issues."

On another topic, McKenna also made it clear he opposes current moves toward legalization of marijuana in the state.

Asked about recent warnings by top federal prosecutors over the Legislature's efforts to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries, McKenna said he agrees with the feds.

McKenna said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan of Seattle, a Democratic appointee and close friend of Gov. Chris Gregoire, is "doing her job" in warning that the state risks running afoul of federal drug laws.

Regarding proposals to legalize and tax marijuana, McKenna said the social costs could outweigh the benefits, though he was not specific about what those costs would be.

Asked whether he'd ever tried marijuana himself, McKenna paused, then acknowledged he tried it once in college. Someone offered him a toke at a party, McKenna said, and he accepted.

So did he inhale? "I might have," McKenna said, as he left the Bellevue event.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.