In the end, Graham Hunt found it was easier to quit public office than prove his military-service claims.
Hunt, an Orting Republican, resigned his position as state representative under pressure. House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish said last week that Hunt should either bring proof of his military record or quit. Among Hunt’s claims was that he was a combat veteran of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the Seattle Times found no evidence of combat experience in military records when it looked into Hunt’s claims. Instead it found Hunt had been in the Arizona National Guard during 1998-2005. His active-duty deployment included time doing security checks in Saudi Arabia at an Air Force base and another deployment to a “classified location,” the paper reported.
The Air Reserve Personnel Center lacked records for three military medals Hunt had listed on his public biographies, according to the Times. He did receive an Air Force Achievement Medal and Expeditionary Medal, and a military spokeswoman told the paper that center records can be incomplete.
These were inexcusable claims for someone who wants the public’s trust — something Hunt clearly didn’t deserve.
Hunt met with House GOP leaders Tuesday before announcing his resignation. Hunt represented the 2nd Legislative District which overlaps southeast Thurston and south Pierce counties.
He previously quit as state chairman for the Ted Cruz presidential campaign.
It now appears that Hunt, who was appointed to his seat in 2014 and won re-election that year, will be remembered for poor judgment and exaggerated, if not false, claims.
He was facing a growing pile of allegations. Former Hunt allies recently said he’d lied about serving in the Marines, which Hunt denied ever saying.
Steven Nielson, the state Libertarian Party chairman, told The News Tribune that Hunt once claimed in a social-media message to him that he was stabbed in Afghanistan and shot in Iraq.
The Times also reported there was a doctored photo on Hunt’s Facebook page two years ago that falsely portrayed Hunt after a mortar attack in Iraq — an error Hunt blamed on a campaign volunteer.
The obvious lesson for any politician is to be accurate about the record. Hunt wasn’t up to that.
The military-records issue marked sort of a trifecta of questionable decisions for Hunt. He’d joined other hard-right lawmakers from Washington, Idaho and Oregon last month on a self-styled “fact-finding” visit to the Malheur refuge in Oregon where armed militants took over federal land.
And he sponsored legislation to turn back the clock in Washington — with a bill to repeal the voter-approved background checks initiative and another bill undoing a Human Rights Commission rule that protects the ability of vulnerable transgender persons to use a restroom and locker room of their chosen genders.
The work to fill Hunt’s vacancy needs to happen quickly, but not so quickly as to gloss over the next appointee’s claims.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated.