Three words mean the world to Ron Ewart and Mike Tanksley. Tanksley was one of the leaders of a small group of rural King County residents...

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Three words mean the world to Ron Ewart and Mike Tanksley.

Tanksley was one of the leaders of a small group of rural King County residents who announced the creation of a new political group, The Rural Majority, in June. Their aim was to counter what they said is the “angry” opposition to King County government and its new environmental regulations from some rural residents.

Ewart, one of the most vocal opponents of the regulations, did not appreciate the new group’s choice of words. So last month, he and another rural resident, Preston Drew, registered the name “The Rural Majority” with the Secretary of State’s Office and are now threatening a lawsuit if the other group doesn’t find a new label.

Ewart and Drew call their group The “Real” Rural Majority.

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“We were insulted by these people who came out with a name that was anything but descriptive of who they were,” Ewart said. “Their goals are absolutely diametrically opposed to ours, and we don’t want the confusion.”

Tanksley’s group has consulted with an attorney, and he says it still has a right to use the name. Just in case, the group this month registered the logo on its Web site with the secretary of state, which could give it some leverage in a legal fight over the name.

But Tanksley would rather the whole name fight just go away.

On the Web

The Rural Majority: www.ruralmajority.org

The “Real” Rural Majority: www.theruralmajority.org

Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights: proprights.org

“We’re going to focus on our core issues and not be distracted by such antics. For someone to take the low road to try to steal someone’s name, it really boggles the mind,” he said.

Recent target

Rural residents have mobilized over the years for various political causes. Their latest target is the county’s strict Critical Areas Ordinances (CAO), which was passed by the King County Council last year and limits land use.

Over more than a year of hearings and meetings, some rural residents packed gymnasiums and auditoriums to tell county officials how the ordinances would hurt their ability to build on or alter their land. Ewart, a real-estate consultant from Fall City, was one of the most vocal opponents.

CAO opponents gathered signatures from 18,000 people to try to force the issue to the ballot, but a Superior Court judge ruled the referendum could not go forward. Opponents now are waiting to see whether the state Supreme Court will rule on the case.

Tanksley, an airline pilot from the Woodinville area, and his group do not want to overturn the CAO, but instead are pushing for small changes to county policy, such as better tax incentives for residents who protect their land and a quicker permit process. They also want better communication with county officials, who may have been turned off by the more “radical element” of the CAO opponents, Tanksley said.

“They don’t represent me; they don’t represent my neighbors. They don’t represent the many people I’ve worked with in rural King County,” Tanksley said.

Blurry edges

Neither Ewart’s nor Tanksley’s group comes close to a “rural majority” in numbers. Ewart’s group is just him and Drew, though he says he’s recruiting more members. Tanksley says his group has “several dozen” people so far.

Both say their groups represent the views of most of the county’s 137,000 rural, unincorporated residents. And they say the name matters.

“It’s an appropriate name, and it’s a common-sense name as well,” Tanksley said.

Mike Ricchio, the corporations director for the secretary of state, said such name disputes aren’t common, but sometimes pop up between estranged business partners.

The fight between the rural groups will probably end up in court because both appear resolute, and the “edges of the law of the two [names] and how these two overlap are kind of blurry,” Ricchio said.

The county’s largest rural group, the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights, with about 900 members, is staying out of the dispute and says both groups have a voice that should be heard.

“We’re not a part of it,” group President Rodney McFarland said. “[We’ve] just been watching from the sidelines.”

Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or abach@seattletimes.com