Local evangelicals endorse presidential candidate Huckabee

Mike Huckabee picked up endorsements in his presidential campaign from local Christian conservatives Thursday — a move he said is being repeated around the country and is a better indicator of evangelical support than the high-profile endorsements his Republican opponents are getting.

Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, was endorsed by Joseph Fuiten, pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, and 29 other evangelical-faith community leaders from the area.

"The governor represents our values," Fuiten said after a small fundraising luncheon at the Harbor Club in Bellevue. "I like that he believes, and I like what he believes. His Christianity is organic; he has been this way all his life."

Within the past week, evangelist Pat Robertson endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the National Right to Life Committee endorsed actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson.

But Huckabee told reporters Thursday evening that Fuiten and the others represent the grass-roots of the conservative Christian movement that can be so helpful to a presidential campaign.

"When the general picks someone else, the soldiers tend to pick me," he said. "And it's also creating for us an amazing sort of positive reaction among the troops."

He said that he has better anti-abortion credential than Thompson, who opposes an anti-abortion plank in the national Republican platform.

"I don't get it," Huckabee said. But he added that members of the National Right to Life Committee around the country don't get it, either.

"It's almost like they did us a favor by calling attention to the contrast between our record and his," he said. "I've got people out there in America fired up."

In addition to the luncheon, Huckabee toured Microsoft and headlined the King County Republican Party's fall fundraising dinner. He arrived in the state as at least two polls showed him suddenly in second place among Republicans campaigning in Iowa.

Robertson said that part of his reason for backing Giuliani was that the former New York mayor is the best person to beat Sen. Hillary Clinton, who he assumes will win the Democratic nomination.

Huckabee, though, says that perception should start to change.

"I think the numbers are beginning to show I'm quite electable," he said.

He told reporters about a piece of history he thinks is important for voters. At this point in 1979, Huckabee said, Ronald Reagan's campaign was out of money and out of favor with the Republican establishment.

Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister, left the campaign trail in Iowa to make appearances in Arizona, California and Washington. Thursday night he spoke at the county GOP dinner in downtown Bellevue.

Huckabee's speech there was easygoing, funny and folksy. He didn't mention his Republican opponents. He spent very little time even talking about the Democrats.

He didn't sound much like the preacher he once was, although he did say that America's founders embraced God "without apology."

"It's not government that gives us our freedoms. It's God," he said. Government's job is to protect the God-given freedoms, he said.

Before his speech, reporters asked Huckabee about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was asked what he would have done differently in Iraq.

"I'd like to think I would have listened more carefully to the generals whose boots were on the ground when they said how many troops they needed at the beginning," he said. "Instead, I think we listened to a lot of guys with silk ties and suits."

About health care, Huckabee said Americans spend too much on treating illnesses and not enough on disease prevention.

He said he wants to launch a "Healthy America" initiative similar to one he started in Arkansas that gave people time off work for being healthy.

David Postman: 206-236-8267 or dpostman@seattletimes.com. Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com