Leonard Christian has wanted state Rep. Larry Crouse's job for years.
But Christian said he was surprised when Spokane County commissioners appointed him to fill the rest of Crouse's term in the 4th District after the longtime state legislator retired at the end of 2013.
"The interviews were sort of fun," Christian said. "I wasn't feeling any pressure. I didn't think I had a chance."
Christian said he expected the vacancy to go to Bob McCaslin Jr., who had the support of Rep. Matt Shea and Sen. Mike Padden.
But Spokane County Republican chair Ben Oakley said he had no doubt Christian would get the job. "For me it was a no-brainer," he said. "He's going to do a great job as a state rep, there's no doubt about that."
Oakley said Christian has impressed him in the four years he has known him. "Leonard is a very honest individual, very straightforward," he said. "He doesn't beat around the bush. You know where Leonard stands on an issue."
Christian said he first explored holding political office eight years ago, when he invited Crouse to lunch. Crouse advised Christian to become a precinct committee officer, and he did so. Since then Christian has been heavily involved in local party politics and has worked on the campaigns of several local Republicans. He ran unsuccessfully against Vicky Dalton for Spokane County auditor in 2010.
Christian started his military career as a jet engine mechanic for the Air Force. That career took him to Arizona, New Mexico and Australia, as well as Kalispell, Mont., where he was a military recruiter. His son also served in the Air Force for six years as a computer programmer.
Christian is an affable man who likes cracking jokes. His reasons for driving a convertible and flying his Piper Cherokee are, he said, to have fun.
It's also why he asked his daughter to pose wearing a wedding dress and holding an SKS rifle and then posted the picture on his Web page.
"It was a riot because it was so completely out of character," he said.
He's serious about politics, however. He calls himself a "conservative with logic" and said he doesn't consider himself a tea party member. "The tea party would like to grab me in because I agree with their values, but I'm not a tea partyer," he said.
He doesn't believe sales tax should be charged on state construction projects and said the state also needs to stop paying prevailing wages on those projects. While those laws may have been appropriate at one time, they no longer make sense, he said.
Christian also doesn't like the practice of increasing gas taxes to pay for road projects and then using a bond to get the money right away. "I'm absolutely averse to new taxes," he added. "It's ridiculous to go there right away."
The state needs to approve reforms so it can work smarter and stop throwing money at problems, he said.
He also plans to support a bill proposed by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich last year that would prohibit an arbitrator from reinstating a law enforcement officer who had been fired for committing a crime or lying. "I would really like to do anything I can do to get that through," he said.
Christian said he will run for re-election in November, though several other people have also indicated they plan to run, too.
"I just feel like this is a service to my community," he said. "I believe they need some logical people that know how to work a calculator over there."