KENNEWICK, Wash -- A city council candidate who advocates the death penalty for illegal immigrants as well as making Kennewick an English-language-only community won enough votes in Tuesday's primary to advance to the November general election.
Loren Nichols won 26 percent of 1,512 votes cast for a seat on the Kennewick City Council, knocking off opponent William Miller, who had declined to discuss his position on any issues publicly until after the primary.
On Nov. 8, Nichols will face incumbent Steve Young, the city's current mayor, who won the support of 62 percent of voters.
Nichols, 56, a former Navy linguistics expert who has put his yard and lawn service on hiatus, said he had no idea what to expect in Tuesday's primary, but now feels confident going forward.
"As extreme as my position is, one in four voters agreed with me," he said. "It shows that people are truly fed up. You just have to live here to understand."
Nichols said he's not affiliated with any political party. He first shared his controversial views about executing illegal immigrants on a radio program last week.
In an area of the state known for its conservatism and a love-hate relationship with undocumented immigrants, the comments drew wide attention and a range of response, including an editorial in the Tri-City Herald denouncing Nichols' remarks as having "the mentality of a bumper sticker" and urging voters to reject him.
Nichols repeated his remarks in an interview Wednesday, saying those crossing the border illegally -- a misdemeanor offense -- should be shot on sight.
As a member of the City Council, he would push to see that illegal immigrants are granted 30 days' notice to leave the city, he said, and those who refuse should be subject to the death penalty.
Nichols also said he would seek to make Kennewick an English-language-only city for all public discourse.
Paul Apostolidis, an associate professor of political science at Whitman College in Walla Walla, leads an ongoing project called the State of the State for Washington Latinos.
He said such a position is extreme even among conservatives.
A big part of the problem, he said, is a lack of Latinos elected to leadership positions -- "an absence of people ... with the stamp of approval of voters behind them, getting out there saying 'You don't represent the people of this community.' "
Dora Morfin, a member of the Latino Civic Alliance, said the statewide advocacy group never imagined Nichols would garner enough votes to move forward.
The organization didn't campaign against him, she said, because it didn't want to call attention to a position it didn't consider legitimate.
Now, she said, the board will sit down to discuss what to do next. "People thought he was just making racist remarks in the way he was talking about people like they were some kind of property or animal," she said.
Washington is home to an estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants, though how many live in Kennewick is unknown.
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