Kitsap Caucus

A blog about politics and government in Kitsap County as well as Washington state political news as it relates to Kitsap County.
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LD 26-2 puts on a side show, unless this is the main event we can expect from here on out

September 12th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, and his Republican challenger, Michelle Caldier of Port Orchard, engaged in two robust debates last week on the issues. One of the debates was in Bremerton on Tuesday. The other was in Gig Harbor on Thursday. They have at least three more forums scheduled before the election.

Before that they sat in the same room for an Aug. 29 meeting with the Kitsap Sun editorial board. In all those meetings they focused on issues one of them will try to tackle as a legislator in Olympia in 2015.

An incident after the editorial board meeting launched a side show that has picked up steam. Caldier said Seaquist is trying to intimidate her. Seaquist said Caldier’s allegations are false and that he is consulting with an attorney. Both say they want the escalation to stop.

For the Kitsap Sun meeting both candidates had driven their cars, with Caldier parking directly in front of Seaquist. After the meeting they separated to their cars and Seaquist took at least a couple of photos. Caldier said he did it as she was getting into her car. He said that is not true, that she was in the car when he snapped the shots.

This is the photo Seaquist provided. He said there is one other, but that it would look just like this one because the two shots he took were one right after the other.

This is the photo Seaquist provided. He said there is one other, but that it would look just like this one because the two shots he took were one right after the other.

Seaquist said he was checking messages on his phone when he saw the the trunk open on Caldier’s car and the hard top slide into the trunk. He said he hadn’t seen a hard-top convertible in some time and wanted to snap a quick photo to discuss the car with someone he knows. The model of the car was prominent on the car’s tail section and he said he knew he would never remember it. So he took a shot.

Caldier confronted him about the photo and both agree he acknowledged snapping a picture. Her recollection of the conversation afterward was a little fuzzy this week, but he said she complained that she had been photographed at her house. He said he told her it wasn’t anyone doing it on his behalf.

On Sept. 2, four days later, Caldier posted a Facebook entry reading: “I came out of a candidate interview and saw Rep. Larry Seaquest, my opponent, taking pictures of me as I got into my car. Wow…. I felt like I was being stalked!” Some of her Facebook friends described that as “creepy” or “gross,” and some suggested it was an act of desperation.

On Sept. 5, three days after the Facebook post and a week after Seaquist took the photo, she filed a report with the Bremerton Police Department. The report includes a couple of statements Caldier said do not reflect what she told police. The report said Caldier told police Seaquist had taken other photos of Caldier in the past and that he just laughed at her when she asked him why he was snapping more pictures. On Friday she said she told police other people had snapped pictures, that Aug. 29 was the first time Seaquist himself had done it. Also, she said Seaquist did talk to her about the photos when she confronted him.

Both candidates question the other’s motives in the incident. Caldier said she doesn’t believe his story that he was impressed with the car because she believes he has seen it before. She said it’s another chapter in a long history of the opposition trying to intimidate her. Seaquist said he hadn’t seen her car before and that he did nothing wrong, that his sole interest was the car and that Caldier is falsifying what happened to turn it into a campaign issue.

CONTEXT

Candidates can expect to have their photos taken in odd places, to be followed. One of the comments on Caldier’s Facebook post came from state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, who wrote: “They pulled that on me all last run. I was followed frequently and many other weird things. What a journey.”

Keith Schipper, Angel’s communications director in the 2013 campaign, said he was tasked by the state Republican party to track Angel’s opponent, Nathan Schlicher, for part of that campaign. A tracker’s job is primarily to go to all the opponent’s events possible and to film, seeing if a candidate can be caught saying one thing to one group and something else to another. Or, if the tracking yields real gold, the candidate has a “Macaca” moment, a reference to the 2006 Virginia Senate race when Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen referred to a Democratic operative as “Macaca,” which he said was gibberish, but Democrats said was an intentional racial slur. Allen lost the election.

Schipper, who also tracked Jay Inslee in 2012 when he ran for governor and is working on Republican legislative campaigns again this year, said officials from the candidate and the party are mostly polite to the opposition tracker. It’s the people hosting the events who can get hostile. So parties’ and candidates’ campaigns in larger races typically know better than to hassle the tracker.

The 2013 26th District Senate race was unique, though, in how high profile it was for a legislative race. That each side employed trackers was because it was so high stakes. It was the most expensive legislative race in state history. It was the only Republican-Democrat race in the state and affected the balance of power in Olympia. Both candidates said they were followed.

That race was a legislative exception. The Seaquist-Caldier race, while close, is unlikely to draw so much attention that the state party would employ operatives. And even if the state party did, taking pictures at a candidate’s house is unlikely.

Nonetheless, Caldier said that when she was living in a home she rented before she bought her current home she saw people taking pictures of her at her house. She said some were also taking pictures of her sister. And one day a neighbor caught people going through her mail. Since Caldier recently returned to Kitsap County after years living in Kenmore, it’s possible someone supporting Seaquist was trying to investigate whether she deserved a residency challenge.

You might remember the private investigation that went into former County Commissioner Josh Brown’s residency during his first run. When Lary Coppola ran for mayor he found matches stuck in his door, presumably a tactic to see whether he lived where he claimed his residence.

If the Caldier mail incident was campaign related, Schipper and Fred Finn, who represented the 35th Legislative District as a Democrat for four years, said it was unlikely it was ordered by the party or Seaquist’s campaign. Schipper likened it to supporters who go out and vandalize campaign signs, adding it would more likely be a supporter going rogue. Finn agreed. “Sometimes supporters have more energy and enthusiasm than common sense,” Finn said. “I can’t imagine it’s anything organized.”

MOTIVES

Whatever motive Seaquist had in taking the picture, it is unusual for a candidate to be taking a photo of another candidate. “You don’t ever see candidates doing that to each other,” Schipper said. “You don’t see their staff members doing it.”

Caldier again looked at the incident in context of the whole campaign. “I’ll take a lot, but this one was kind of the last straw. This is moving forward to November and it feels like the behavior is escalating,” she said. “I want the behavior to stop. I would never take pictures of him without asking his permission. For him to be sitting in his car taking photos of me without asking my permission is wrong.”

Seaquist makes no apologies and said he has no interest in meeting with Caldier to resolve the issue. “Everything here has been created and invented by Dr. Caldier. Nothing here was started by me,” he said. “This is not a misunderstanding on my part. This is entirely a creation of hers. I have done nothing intimidating.”

Particularly galling to Seaquist was another single assertion in the police report. Caldier, when told Seaquist had not committed any crime, said his action concerned her because “she has been told that Seaquist had been violent in the past with people.”

On Friday Caldier said that comment referred to what she heard from Marlyn Jensen, a Gig Harbor Republican who ran against Seaquist in 2008. Jensen, also contacted Friday, said her relationship with Seaquist was fine during the 2008 campaign, but repeated a charge she made in newspapers in 2009, that when she went to Olympia to lobby on a couple of issues he yelled at her in his office. She was lobbying on a property rights issue and neither he nor his legislative assistant were there when she went by, so she and others left bags of dirt from their properties with a handwritten note urging Seaquist to vote for property owners.

A few days later Jensen returned to Olympia to lobby on another issue and said she went back to his office and was told by his receptionist to go in. She said Seaquist berated her for leaving the dirt. On Friday she repeated what she said five years ago, that she feared for her safety.

In 2009 Seaquist denied he did anything to make her fear for her safety. He said he can be firm, but invited anyone to call any legislator or member of a Navy crew he was ever affiliated with and that they will confirm that he is “famous for being calm and cool under pressure.”

Caldier said she filed the police report to end the escalation of intimidation. Seaquist doesn’t believe that, because the final statement in the report is, “Caldier does not want Seaquist contacted.” He said he thinks that’s evidence she plans to use the police report to escalate her own personal campaign against him.

Seaquist said he is “prepared to launch a lawsuit. The very essence of my character is being challenged.”

NOSTALGIA

At their core you have two candidates who have fundamentally different ideas about how state government should operate. That might be the focus of the remaining campaign.

In 2013, during the most expensive legislative race in history the campaign became particularly nasty. Angel accused Schlicher of taking the low road with his ad that said she would cut mammograms. Schlicher took exception to campaigns targeting him for voting for budgets he said she voted for, too.

Schlicher’s backers put out ads saying Angel supported tax breaks first for A. deceased millionaires and B. big oil companies over education for kids. Angel’s supporters advertised that Schlicher was against early reading intervention for children because a contributor didn’t like it and that he opposed a 2/3 majority for tax increases.

All of those arguments mischaracterized the opponents’ positions, but anyone willing to make a concerted study at least could look at those claims and make a calculation as to where the candidate stood on issues that would face the Legislature. A resident of the 26th might not have appreciated the inundation of advertising that blanketed the district, but do you think that same resident might not prefer that to what we’re seeing in the 26th Legislative District Position 2 race this year?


Campaign contributions from anonymous

September 9th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Amidst all the talk of campaign contribution transparency, as many call for the upending of rules and rulings that allow people to donate to political causes without fear of exposure, there is a renewed call for more anonymity.

In the Washington Post last week Bertram Levine and Michael Johnston made that case.

“The problem is not just how much money we allow into the system, or even how few individuals provide it. An equally serious, and somewhat ironic, issue is that transparency makes the appearances problem worse. If incumbents could not know the sources of contributions to their war chests, they could not “thank” their benefactors with policy “favors,” nor could they extract contributions through intimidation. Donors wanting to support challengers — who are routinely out-spent by solid margins under the current system — would not need to worry about reprisals from incumbents.”

If this solution seems ridiculous, consider this quote from a previous Post story.

Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees.

So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said.

Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly.

You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”

Two years ago This American Life, a show you can hear on Saturdays on KUOW, did one of the best treatments on politics and money that I have ever heard. Andrea Seabrook asked Barney Frank if money influenced politics:

Barney Frank: People say, “Oh, it doesn’t have any effect on me.” Look, if that were the case, we would be the only human beings in the history of the world who, on a regular basis, took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and made sure that it had no effect on our behavior. That is not human nature.

Andrea Seabrook: On the other hand, he says, there are things that influence a politician besides money.

Barney Frank: If the voters have a position, the votes will kick money’s rear end any time. I’ve never met a politician– I’ve been in the legislative bodies for 40 years now– who, choosing between a significant opinion in his or her district and a number of campaign contributors, doesn’t go with the district.

And I have had people tell me– and we talk honestly to each other, we don’t lie to each other very often. You don’t survive if you do. As chairman of a committee, I’d be lobbying for votes. I have had members say to me, Mr. Chairman, I love you. Barney, you’re right. But I can’t do that politically because I’ll get killed in my district. No one has ever said to me, I’m sorry, but I got a big contributor I can’t offend.


Keep those campaign ads and claims coming

August 26th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

During last year’s legislative race between Nathan Schlicher and Jan Angel we attempted to get to the truth or truthiness of the campaign ads sent by the candidates and their supporters. We also looked at claims made in debates and letters to the editor.

I hesitated for a few years to even embark on the task, because I feared fact-checking work would be an extremely challenging effort netting fuzzy results. I might have been right, but I believe the effort is worthwhile anyway. If nothing else, we provide context for the claims, and context is abundantly absent in campaign advertising.

One way 2013 was easier was that there was only one legislative race. And I had coworkers who lived in the 26th Legislative District who religiously delivered the ads that arrived in their mailboxes. One of those coworkers moved away and so far this year I’ve had one campaign ad put onto my desk. This year there promises to be plenty of advertising again in the 26th and maybe even more so in the 35th. The county races could include some ads, as will the congressional race.

So I’m asking for your help. If you receive an ad in the mail I’d love to see it. We then might engage in a fact-checking expedition, delivering our findings to you here on the Kitsap Caucus blog or in the daily paper.

There are a few ways you can deliver what you find.

1. Bring or mail the ad to Steven Gardner, Kitsap Sun, 545 Fifth St., Bremerton, WA 98337.

2. Email a scan of the ad, my preferred method, to sgardner@kitsapsun.com.

3. Email the text of the claim you wish to see vetted. Some ads include a citation (a bill, news story, etc.). Make sure to include those.

4. Call and leave a message with the ad’s content. I’m at 360-792-3343.

Thanks for your help!


Steyer money coming our way again?

August 6th, 2014 by Steven Gardner
The headline and photo from the New York Times story.

I don’t take lightly posting pictures from other publications, but in this case the New York Times story and photo have direct relevance to our area. And I really, really, really want you all to read the story, so click on the link.

For months Republicans have been warning about the “Ramtha money” referenced in our story about the late money into the 35th Legislative District primary. The New York Times focused on our state this week and this is what I took from it: The racist rants (taken out of context or not) of an ancient enlightened one that helped a Yelm woman make a sizeable enough living to fund Democrats can make for campaign indignation, but that money isn’t anywhere near the GOP’s biggest problem this year.

No sir.

The biggest problem for Republicans is this little piece from the Times story about the goals shared between Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and rich guy Thomas Steyer:

Mr. Inslee, who is campaigning for his agenda across the state this summer with oyster farmers in tow, is trying to position himself as America’s leading governor in the climate change fight. But Mr. Inslee does not have the support of the majority of the Washington State Senate, particularly those conservative lawmakers from the rural inland, so Mr. Steyer’s advocacy group, NextGen Climate, is working with the Washington League of Conservation Voters to handpick Democratic, pro-climate policy candidates across the state.

Steyer plans to spend about $100 million across the country to elect politicians who see it his way on climate issues and to oust those who don’t. A fair share of that will come here to Washington, and the Times speculates the candidates he chooses, working through the Washington League of Conservation Voters, will see hundreds of thousands of dollars going either to support them or against their opponents.

While chatting with Tim Sheldon Tuesday night I asked if he thought, assuming Tuesday night’s results stay as they are, any of that money would wind up in his race. He thought not. “Steyer won’t dump money into the race. I would be astounded if he did. What you see so far is 65 percent of the district is voting conservative,” he said, a reference to his vote totals plus those of Travis Couture. “I don’t care how much money he has, he can’t turn that around.”

This gets to another reason I posted the picture. You see Inslee walking the beach with Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms. Dewey, according to Public Disclosure Commission reports, gave Inslee $500 this year toward Jay Inslee for Washington, which we can assume is his 2016 re-election campaign fund. Dewey gave $1,250 for Inslee’s 2012 campaign and Bill Taylor from the same company gave $1,000.

But both have also donated to Sheldon over the years. Dewey gave the senator $500 in for his re-election campaign in 2010 and another $500 in 2013. Taylor gave $250 in 2010 and $500 in 2013.

Most donations coming from the Taylor company, primarily Taylor and Dewey, go to Democrats, and technically Sheldon is one of those. But you know the story; Sheldon caucuses with the Republicans, giving them the majority and lessening Inslee’s chances of getting his climate agenda passed. So Inslee has an agenda designed to benefit Taylor Shellfish, but someone who votes against Inslee’s agenda is their friend, too.

Washington Conservation Voters has already endorsed Bowling in the 35th. Sheldon received a “0″ score from the organization after voting for nine bills the organization considered bad for the environment and against three bills the group said were good for it. Sheldon’s lifetime score is 30. By comparison Christine Rolfes, a 23rd District Democrat, received an 83 for the session. Democrat Nathan Schlicher in the 26th received a 56 for his votes and Republican Jan Angel got a 25.

So will Steyer go after Sheldon?

That might depend on the polling. Someone is going to do some once the primary dust is settled. If Sheldon is not right in fact, in philosophy he is. Steyer will want to put money to races that are winnable, so he and his allies will decide whether to back Democrat Irene Bowling in the 35th and Judy Arbogast in the 26th. Steyer spent a lot of money against Jan Angel in 2013 and lost, but the Times story shows where he won, too, and those were not insignificant wins.

Bowling saw the same numbers Sheldon saw and had a different take about votes for Couture and was not so agreeable to the idea that those votes would now go to Sheldon. “I think that Travis represents people that are fed up with government as it stands and they want change,” she said. Her hope is she can influence Couture voters to vote her way in the general election.


The battle within local Democratic and Republican races

August 4th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

An alert party operative who shall remain nameless told me recently, “The fights between parties are nothing compared to the fights within them.” Here we give you two examples, one from each party.

The first fight is one those in Kitsap are more likely to know about, the one between supporters of Russ Hauge and those of Bob Scales. Hauge is the incumbent Kitsap County prosecutor and is a Democrat. Scales served two terms as a Bainbridge Island city councilman and works as an attorney for the City of Seattle.

Tim Sheldon, whose name comes up later, doesn’t like it when Democrats say he isn’t one of them. There is no party registration in Washington, he’ll tell you. Even if there were, it isn’t like there is a test you have to pass for either party. But Democrats do have at least a little bit of justification for saying that about Sheldon, especially now that he caucuses with Republicans. “They caucus with me,” he responds. Fine. Same difference. On issues that divide Democrats and Republicans in the state Senate, Sheldon sides more with Republicans than he does with Democrats. It doesn’t make him a Republican, but give the Democrats credit here for arguing with some evidence.

I’m not sure where they’re getting their evidence when it comes to Bob Scales. Debbi Lester says Scales is combative, short-sighted and mean-spirited, based on her experience as fellow member of the Bainbridge Island City Council. That might all be true, but neither party is immune from that kind of behavior. I covered the council for a year or so while Scales was on it his first time and couldn’t tell you based on that where his politics are. There is the bigger question of where that even matters when it comes to serving as prosecutor, but where Lester and others cast doubt on Scales’ cred as a Democrat come from the fact that the Kitsap Patriots Tea Party gave Scales a high ranking as a candidate.

Quick, what does the Kitsap Patriots Tea Party stand for in a prosecutor? Yeah, I don’t know either. Still, I found it curious, so I contacted the organization to see if I could get a copy of the questions they asked and Scales’ answers. I got no reply. So we asked Scales if he would provide them. He did. I’ll post those below, after the other bit about in-party fighting.

That comes from the race Sheldon is in. Sheldon received a $13,800 in-kind contribution for some polling from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. (On Monday night I learned there was a last-minute contribution made to Sheldon by the same group. It’s for $5,126.59 and was given on Thursday.) Remember, he’s a Democrat. There is another Democrat in the race, Irene Bowling, who is not shy about questioning his Dem cred. He has received no other official Republican Party money.

Travis Couture, the Republican in the race, received $2,000 from the Mason County Republican Central Committee, but that’s about it from official sources. Official communications from the state have gone out within the district from the state party backing other 35th District Republicans, but not Couture.

Eventually, apparently that was July 31, Couture had had enough. So he sent a letter to Washington State Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison complaining. The text of that letter follows. After that is the response from the state party and then the one from Kitsap County Republican Party Chairman Chris Tibbs. After that you can we go back to the Democrats, with Bob Scales taking on the “Tea Party” issue.
Read the rest of this entry »


26th LD candidate audio

July 30th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

These are somewhat late because we were having issues with SoundCloud. Not SoundCloud’s fault. Operator error. Nascent effort here. Work in progress. Patience please.


Comprehensive spotlight on 35th LD Senate race

July 30th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Crosscut launched Wednesday a series that will focus on swing districts. The first focus is on the 35th Legislative District Senate race. Knute Berger, Benjamin Anderstone and Robert Mak teamed up to provide a comprehensive look at the district as a whole and the race specifically.

The series offers historical information about the district, including how it has changed. From the Berger story:

Some observers say the politically purple Mason County, once a blue stronghold, is trending redder. This may in part be due to the aging of the population — it has nearly twice the percentage of adults 65 and older as King County. It’s not alone in that. The entire Olympic Peninsula population is aging and has — and will continue to have — the largest concentration of seniors in the state, percentage-wise. These folks trend conservative, live on fixed incomes, are often change- and tax-averse. Mason County voters have been described as socially liberal but fiscally conservative, which seems to track with the drift of 35th district politics.

The package looks at what it will take for each candidate to win and makes that case we have been making here, that for either of the challengers, Democrat Irene Bowling and Republican Travis Couture, to win they have to hope they can knock the incumbent, Democrat Tim Sheldon, out in the primary.

Full disclosure: I make a brief appearance in the Robert Mak piece.


Pulling out the Nazi card in Silverdale on the background checks initiative

July 28th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Horses Ass, the political website for Washington lefties, has audio of a speech delivered Aug. 23 at a “No on I-594″ event in Silverdale that has supporters of the measure outraged.

During his speech (the audio is below.) Brian Judy, A Washington NRA official, criticized one of the measure’s financial backers ($385,000), Nick Hanauer. The initiative, if passed, would require background checks for gun sales at gun shows and for those online. It allows for some exceptions.

Judy draws his criticism from a piece Hanauer wrote in Politico arguing that America needs to raise the wages of lower and middle class Americans, that the working class is what creates rich people, not the other way around. The following section reflects much of Hanauer’s main argument.

… the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.

Judy makes the case that rich people like Hanauer want to take our guns so that poor people will only have pitchforks when they do rise up. They won’t have guns, because Hanauer wants them taken away, apparently.

And then Judy expresses astonishment that any Jewish person could believe that:

And in one of the last paragraphs he talks about his family being run out of Germany by the Nazis. It’s like, How stupid can they, you know? So he’s funding, he’s put a half a million dollars, toward this policy, the same policy that led to his family getting run out of Germany by the Nazis. You know, it’s staggering to me, it’s just, you can’t make this stuff up. That these people, its like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think, “Are you serious? Did you not remember what happened? And why did that happen? Because they registered guns and then they took them. And now you’re supporting gun con, you come to this country and you support gun control? Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place? Hello! Is anybody home here?” Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know.

Cheryl Stumbo, a victim of the 2006 Jewish Federation shooting in Seattle, is a sponsor of Initiative 594 and issued this statement:

“The offensive rhetoric from a senior lobbyist at the National Rifle Association is out-of-touch with what the vast majority of Washingtonians want: a reasonable, productive discussion of solutions to reduce gun violence in our communities. Developing those solutions has been a major part of my life since the attack on my co-workers and me eight years ago, and I am honored to have been joined by other survivors of gun violence, gun owners, hunters, law enforcement, and current and former NRA members. We’ve come together because Washington state needs everyone working together to be part of the solution to making our communities safer – and fringe ideas like Mr. Judy’s are part of the problem.”

The Jewish Federation of Seattle issued a statement, too, part of which said:

“Eight years ago today, the Jewish Federation was the target of a violent attack by an individual harboring dangerous falsehoods about Jews – falsehoods that continue to exist on the fringes of our society. It is deeply offensive for anyone to suggest that Jewish supporters of gun violence prevention have ‘forgotten’ the history of our people. For a representative of the National Rifle Association, or any organization, to repeat the out-of-touch falsehood linking gun violence prevention to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust is not only an ignorant distortion but is exceedingly dangerous.”

This is known in technical terms as “Reductio ad Hitlerum” or “Argumentum ad Nazium.” You can read more about that by going to http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adnazium.html.

The audio of Judy’s comment follows:

Read the rest of this entry »


Checking on check collection

July 28th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

In preparing the story about Kitsap County’s program for collecting on bad checks, I quickly learned that the issue generally isn’t new, even if it is just getting attention here. There were a lot of stories out there, and the primary bone of contention in all of them is that the letter bad-check writers are getting looks like it came from the prosecutor’s office.

That implies prosecution, which even our prosecutor suggests is unlikely.

Given that the referendum on Hauge is hotly contested anyway, it was not surprising it drew out the the prosecutor’s critics. Nor should it be surprising that the program would have its defenders.

Going with that, though, is the concern of business owners burned by hot checks. While the number of people writing checks for regular retail is shrinking, there are still a fair number of them doing it and enough bad checks out there to hurt the businesses that get them.

It’s that concern that has probably sparked the seeming popularity among prosecutors for the program. All of our county neighbors that share land boundaries with us use it. Beth Terrell, attorney for the plaintiffs, said 12 Washington counties use Bounceback for the same operation Kitsap County does. They are Adams, Clallam, Clark, Grant, Jefferson, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Mason, Pierce, Spokane, Thurston, Walla Walla, and Yakima. I couldn’t find the websites for the programs in Adams and Walla Walla.

What we found out is this is not a new issue. Some of the same issues were raised in a lawsuit we referenced in the story, the final opinion you can read here. Attorneys on this case believe they can do a better job arguing against the legality of the program than the case made before.

Crosscut did a comprehensive piece on the program in 2012 and pointed out that King County, at least back then, wasn’t doing anything similar, because the prosecutor there said he doesn’t want to mix public prosecution with private business.

Oregon passed a law prohibiting companies from sending out letters under prosecutor letterhead, which caused some Oregon counties to cancel the program. Counties in Massachusetts bailed on the program, but there are enough stories out there suggesting BounceBack and other companies like it are hurting for customers.

That could change if legislators successfully restrict these kind of operations, or if the Washington suit is successful. The attorneys for the plaintiffs in this case don’t say they want Bounceback to necessarily go out of business, but they want them to follow what they believe is the law, particularly the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That would mean no more prosecutor letterhead and no more threatening prosecution. For those who get the letters it would at least mean they know who is really issuing the threat. And it would likely mean more customers would balk at taking the class and get away with it, which might make the business model unworkable for collectors.


35th LD Senate Audio

July 18th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Still undecided in the 35th Legislative District Senate race? With ballots having arrived to nearly every registered voter’s mailboxes by now, you might want to hear from the three state Senate candidates before mailing it back. Or you just might be enough of a political junky to want to listen to this even if you’re not a 35th LD voter. The candidates agreed to be recorded in a phone conversation. Click on the links below to listen.    

 


Spoilers and underdogs in the 35th

July 11th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Someone who didn’t want to be named said to me within the past few days that Tim Sheldon and Travis Couture should be considered the front-runners in the 35th Legislative District Senate primary race. Someone else said that Tim Sheldon might come in third, that Irene Bowling is the odds on favorite to come in first. Others wonder if there is any way Sheldon could come in third. There is.

We’ve addressed this question before, but it merits repetition, especially in light of the fact that some are speculating that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, or democratic socialist, is pondering whether to run for president in 2016. Should he run it could spell November doom for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Warren or whoever gets the Democratic nomination. I don’t seem him winning as an independent, but I know enough people who appreciate him for his candor. And sometimes candor like that resonates enough with voters that they shed their traditional patterns and make an exception in an election.

You know what else makes me think Sanders plans to run? I just received an emailed newsletter from him, the first time that has ever happened.

Chances are Sanders would be a spoiler for someone else. To see how that works, consider the presidential election of 2000. I’m the first to say that the primary responsibility for Al Gore’s loss that year was Al Gore himself. He disappointed voters in nearly every opportunity he could. But Ralph Nader’s Green Party candidacy was a factor among many. Gore lost by less than 600 votes in Florida, where Nader received more than 97,000. New Hampshire also went for Nader in big enough numbers that it’s conceivable Gore could have won that state’s four electoral college votes had Nader not run. Tough to say. But this provides the definition of a spoiler, someone who doesn’t have much chance to win, but can spoil it for someone else.

Technically, there can be no spoilers in the 35th District primary. It would take four candidates for that. If the fourth-place candidate takes enough votes to cause another candidate to come in third instead of second, that’s a true spoiler. With only three candidates in this primary, the loser in this case just loses without damaging anyone else.

Here are some reasons to consider, though, that someone could in effect fit the spiritual definition of spoiler.

Democrat Tim Sheldon has a long history in Olympia and has added to it as a Mason County commissioner. In 2006 Sheldon received 72.3 percent of the vote in the general election. In 2010 his numbers were down, getting about 62 percent in the primary and general election while running against someone who barely campaigned. That was a down year for Democrats, even for those who often side with Republicans. That’s a tough hurdle to beat, making Bowling and Couture underdogs by default.

Democrats came relatively close to unseating Sheldon in 2006, but it was in the primary. That’s one key.

That year, 2006, was when Washington voters had to pick a party to vote in during the primary election. That meant Republicans who wanted Sheldon to return to Olympia had to select a Democratic ballot and pick him. The Republican, Mark Shattuck, came in third, but advanced, because thems was the rules. With that, Sheldon received 43.1 percent of the vote to Kyle Taylor Lucas’ 32.5 percent. This year there is no such burden. Sheldon only has to come in second to advance. It’s possible that perception of an easier path could make some of Sheldon’s traditional supporters more relaxed about voting.

Meanwhile, it’s the more passionate voters who take part in primaries. Bowling will certainly get all the support Lucas did, and probably more. Traditional Democrats who pay attention will vote for her. Lucas carried some baggage for being perceived as a carpetbagger, and some people were incensed that Sheldon had to run against anyone. Now that Sheldon has caucused with Republicans for two years, some of those who were outraged in 2006 are not so surprised.

Speaking of passion, Couture describes himself on his website as a “conservative libertarian.” Have you ever seen Ron Paul supporters at a convention? There’s your passion. So while Sheldon has some cred with conservatives, it is not out of this world to think that Couture’s following will represent well in August. Shattuck received 24 percent of the vote in the 2006 primary back when A. It was a pick-a-party primary, and B. Ron Paul had not yet risen to national relevance and C. Sheldon didn’t have the negatives he has now.

Those negatives include his decision to caucus with Republicans and a couple of local issues. I didn’t hear much local fallout from anyone about Sheldon’s decision to caucus in the Senate with Republicans, other than the complaints from those who would never vote for him anyway. There might be a fair contingent out there, though, who were rubbed the wrong way by Sheldon’s decision, people who didn’t yell and scream about it but are moved to believe that the maverick might have gone too far off the ranch for their tastes. They could either vote for someone else, or not vote at all.

The local issues are ones that arise more out of Sheldon’s service as a county commissioner. New Belfair sewer customers don’t like the price they’re paying for service they’re getting in large part because of Sheldon’s insistence. And just last week Sheldon and a fellow commissioner enacted a six-month moratorium on marijuana grow operations. I’m not sure how much angst that is going to inspire, but there is potential.

In 2012 voters in the 35th District picked Democrat Barack Obama for president and Republican Rob McKenna for governor. They split on state House representatives, backed Democrat Derek Kilmer, voted against gay marriage and for legal marijuana. On statewide issues voters in the 35th come in consistently a few points more conservative than the state as a whole. They’re not afraid to elect traditional Democrats, though, and have sent Kathy Haigh to Olympia in the House year after year. It’s a tough district to pigeonhole.

Sheldon likes to appeal to people who don’t make political parties their number one priority. That plays better in a general election, when turnout is high, than it does in a primary, which appeals to more committed voters. Should Bowling and Couture finish 1-2 or 2-1, then one of them, the second place finisher in November, could be seen as the spoiler. The other one will go to Olympia. Should Sheldon come in first or second in the primary, the spoiler factor goes away and we focus on favorites and underdogs.

 


Fearing an October surprise, we discover a candidate lives here

July 4th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

This election, like any other, could see its fill of well-timed surprises. We tried to avoid one recently and might have prevented it all together. In the end it might never have happened, because there doesn’t seem to be much reason to launch a residency challenge of Republican Michelle Caldier.

Caldier is running to unseat state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, in the 26th District.

Looking into candidates is something we should do as a matter of course, but we don’t find everything. We check court records, including the bankruptcy courts. We don’t hire private investigators. A candidate’s opposition sometimes does. They’re free to spend the money.

Part of my motivation goes back to 2004. Sherry Appleton, who has represented the 23rd District since then, was running against two Republicans, back when Washington primaries meant picking one candidate from each party. Frank Mahaffay beat Paulette DeGard for the Republican spot on the ballot. It was in October that I learned of Mahaffay’s court-verified financial issues. Because it was so late in the election season Scott Ware, then the editor, and I debated whether to include the problem in the election profile. In the end we decided we couldn’t leave it out. Appleton won by a large margin, so I don’t think that one piece of information ruined it for the Mahaffay, but I wished I had found it before the primary.

I learned of Mahaffay’s financial issue through a tip. Since then I have found some things ahead of the partisan tipsters, one candidate’s two bankruptcies, for example. Still, political parties are working hard to find any indiscretion they can. No doubt we will get emails from people doing opposition research. It was an email from an oppo researcher that informed me of auditor candidate Kelly Emerson’s recent employment as commissioner in Island County. I don’t mind investigating the stuff sent to me by the studious partisan operatives, but the more we rely on them the bigger the chance that they will sit on an issue waiting for the most opportunistic timing to lob a bomb.

With Michelle Caldier I did wait a while to see if someone would publicly ask the question how a Kenmore dentist came to seek election in a district that is miles from either of the 26th District’s book-end bridges. I gave the operatives some time to speak up. After all, the primary between Seaquist and Caldier will be little more than a straw poll. There are other races with more on the line in August. Eventually, though, I gave in to my question.

Using basic Internet skills I found two addresses for Caldier, one in Kenmore and another in Port Orchard. Searching county records the Kenmore property was still listed in her name. The Port Orchard property was not. Moreover the Kenmore property had four bedrooms while the Port Orchard place had one. I then contacted the Kitsap County Elections office to find out when she had registered to vote here. It was in November. I then found evidence that she had sold her home in Kenmore in May. Pictures of the home on a real estate listing looked to me that the house had been staged to present well for potential buyers, that it was unlikely someone had been living there too recently.

That was the information I had when I called Caldier and asked when she moved here. She responded that she would like to meet with me in person. I was a bit frustrated that she wouldn’t just deliver an immediate answer, but after asking again and getting the same response, I agreed. She came in the next morning with Chris Tibbs, Kitsap County Republican Party chairman. He took the blame for her reluctance to speak on the phone, saying he had coached the candidates, the first-time candidates anyway, to request a sit-down meeting.

The meeting itself was valuable and in the end I see no evidence of a residency issue. I’ll provide more details about her story later. She’s providing them, too. In short, she was motivated in large part to consider running by work she did on legislation in 2013. She grew up in Kitsap County, said she always considered it home, but established her dental practice to have enough business to serve the market she sought. For family reasons she and her sisters have moved back here. Her dental practice is a mobile one, stretching from Pierce to Skagit County. What’s more, in May she took ownership of a house in Port Orchard after renting a home or staying with family here since sometime last year.

The question over Caldier’s residency was an easy one to form. It came up for me from the moment she announced her candidacy. Seaquist, for his part, said he hadn’t been too concerned over it. But that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t make an issue of the residency based just on the question, planting doubts late in the game.

If you have a question about any candidate, feel free to email me at sgardner@kitsapsun.com and we might look into the issue that makes you wonder. And do it as soon as you think about it. With Washington’s three-week election window from when ballots go out and when they get returned it’s even more important to avoid October surprises. Let’s keep peace at hand, if you know what I mean.

 


A conversation about the ‘app generation’

May 31st, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Did you ever wonder how life will be different for your children because they never lived in a world without apps? There may be good reason to wonder.

The conversation that follows is one with Katie Davis, assistant professor in the University of Washington’s Information School. She is also co-author of the book, The App Generation, which discusses the challenges and benefits for a generation that is so plugged in.

This conversation was for the story in Sunday’s edition. The audio isn’t great, but her parts are clear enough that I think you’ll come away better educated on the implications of so much technology.


You thought THAT was interesting

May 20th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Sure, the Kelly Emerson story out of Island County is interesting. I’m sure it will come up in her debates with Dolores Gilmore as the run for county auditor.

The more interesting story to me is the one for the county treasurer race over there. This weekend my wife and I stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast on Whidbey Island. At the ferry terminal in Coupeville I caught a glance at the Whidbey News-Times and saw the following:

wnt

I love that the guy in the picture is looking at you like he’s saying, “Can you believe this crap?” He’s not part of the story, though. I think his business is being dumped in favor of a pot shop, which is pretty interesting too.

At any rate, Republican Wanda Grone, Island County’s deputy treasurer (former deputy treasurer as of last week) filed to run for the treasurer job against her boss, Ana Maria Nuñez, county treasurer. Nuñez is a Democrat. Grone filed on Tuesday without telling her boss first, so on Thursday Nuñez fired Grone. I tell you any more and I’m taking money out of the hands of the good folks at the Whidbey News-Times, so I suggest you follow the link I’m giving you. Bottom line: Nuñez felt Grone could no longer be trusted.

In 2006 Jim Rye, ran against Sheriff Steve Boyer for his job. Boyer won with 69 percent of the vote in the primary to Rye’s 31 percent. I was prepared to say that Rye didn’t lose his job for running against Boyer, but a document from a dispute between the union representing Sheriff’s Office deputies and Kitsap County contains the allegation that Rye did have his job threatened, either by someone in the prosecutor’s office or Boyer himself, if he continued to run. I believe Rye was still on the force in 2008, so whatever threat there may have been was not carried out.

I’m interested in your take. This is not something I see often, an underling running to take a boss’s job. Then again, we’re supposed to be ambitious and if an election is the only way to get the top job then is someone wrong for going after it? I’ve set up a poll on the right. Weigh in there and leave your thoughts here.


Candidate filing live blog

May 13th, 2014 by Steven Gardner


Candidacy as an advertisement

May 12th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Someone, I wish I could remember who, said the cost of running for office ends up being a pretty cheap advertisement to establish name recognition.

For the major candidates the filing fee will end up getting paid for by money contributed by the Republican or Democratic parties or by third-party contributors.

That can’t be assumed for candidates who are not part of the funding stream orchestrated by the major parties.

For one candidate who filed Monday, that is exactly why he is running.

“Congress is all messed up and we need some people there who are not bought by the corporations and lobbyists,” said Bill “Greybeard” McPherson, a Port Angeles activist who paid the $1,740 fee to run for Congress. “It’s just an insane amount of money going into these things.”

McPherson, who stated no party preference, also said his real first priority is the environment, but campaign finance rules would have to change before he could even get a real environmental question started. He’s got a website where you can learn more. Derek Kilmer, a Gig Harbor Democrat who grew up in Port Angeles, has raised $1.3 million for this race. Marty McClendon, a Republican, has filed with the Federal Elections Commission his intention to run, but not yet with the state. He does not show any money raised yet.

The other surprise candidate on Monday was Bill Scheidler of Port Orchard. He paid $421.06 to run as a Republican for the 26th Legislative District seat held by Jesse Young, also a Republican. Nathan Schlicher, the former Democratic state senator, is also expected to run. Scheidler’s major issue is judicial reform, not so much the “judicial activist” kind you hear so much about. He’s more concerned about how judges and lawyers act locally and says he has been affected by it personally. Did I mention he has a website, too?

Both candidates hope to win, but recognize the odds are against them. Scheidler explicitly said his primary goal is to inform people of the abuses of the system.

And both candidates were featured in the first-day story from filing week and they’re getting a little play from this blog. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get a lot of attention between now and the Aug. 5 primary, but it’s not a bad start. They might even call it a positive return on their investment.


Tim Eyman audio on latest initiative

May 9th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

This is the audio from Tim Eyman’s speech to the Central Kitsap Republican Women, who met for their luncheon at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton on May 8, 2014.

One final note: This is something we might consider doing more of in the future. That might mean posting audio from events like this, but I also could see us recording interviews and doing other kinds of storytelling on a regular podcast.

I’m a fan of the podcast medium itself, but I don’t know how much demand there is for a hyperlocal podcast. Let me know and if there is enough interest I will do my best to make this a regular thing. Comment here, or email me at sgardner@kitsapsun.com.


Angel Endorses Sheldon

May 7th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

State Sen. Jan Angel emailed a campaign letter urging voters to support state Sen. Tim Sheldon in his re-election bid. Angel is a 26th District Republican and Sheldon is a 35th District Democrat and yet this endorsement will be a surprise only to those who have not paid any attention to the Washington Legislature.

Sheldon supported Angel in her bid to unseat the appointed incumbent in the 26th District in 2013, Democrat Nathan Schlicher. The Potlatch state Senator/Mason County commissioner contributed $150 to the Angel 2013 campaign. Angel seems to be returning the favor

“… we need to come together and support the Majority Coalition Caucus members who are up for re-election. We must ensure these pro-business leaders return to Olympia to continue the work we have started.

“Senator Tim Sheldon is a vital part of the Majority Caucus Coalition and he brings balance and years of experience to the Senate.”

Sheldon is running against Irene Bowling, a Democrat and Travis Couture, a Republican. Because of his conservative voting record Sheldon has enjoyed lots of support over the years from voters who identify as Republicans. Bowling will likely get lots of support from Democrats and could very well emerge on top in the primary in August.

Sheldon has to make sure Couture’s presence doesn’t split so many Republicans that he comes in third. The Angel endorsement seems to be aimed at Republicans so that they are not tempted to vote for someone who says he is one of them in favor of someone who pretty much votes with them, even though he considers himself a Democrat.

With Rodney Tom’s decision to not run this year it means Sheldon is the only Democratic member of the this session’s Senate Majority Coalition Caucus who will be back in the Legislature next year.


Traveling rich on your dime

May 6th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Mark Greenblatt, Scripps national correspondent in DC did a nice piece highlighting how federal employees are flying first class on your dime. Come to think of it, that’s on my dime, too. The cost is staggering to me, such as a $16,000 flight that should have cost about $1,000. And that one actually fit within the rules. Another issue is just how bad the record keeping is.

Greenblat’s stories ran a couple of months ago, so I apologize for delivering this a bit late. But for me the real theater in this story comes from the DecodeDC podcast in which Greenblatt plays recordings of his conversations with federal officials. You have GOT to hear this.

Look, I understand wanting to fly first class. In 1992 I cashed in frequent flyer miles and flew first class from Salt Lake City to Raleigh, N.C. to catch a couple of Springsteen shows. When the flight was over I didn’t want to get off the plane, ever.

Contrast that experience with the one I had a few weeks ago. The company sent me to Cincinnati, for which I am grateful to the point of weirdness. I had to fly from Seattle to Chicago. For a man of my dimensions flying coach feels like being wrapped in cellophane. I was in the last row on the plane, so my seat didn’t recline, but the one in front of me did and was a few inches from my face for about four hours. Plus I was next to the window, which I like, but that seat gives you the least wiggle room. To call it “torturous” would be an insult to torture. Let’s say it was significantly unpleasant. Flying isn’t as fun as it used to be.

Deficits are not the fun they once were either, and I’m guessing the bigger issue for most people is why there appears to be such a cavalier attitude about costing the taxpayers so much more money. Anti-government types like to accuse government employees of being careless with American tax dollars and this whole story gives them ammunition. How does anyone not think of that? Maybe it’s the free booze in first class that makes it easy to forget.


Prayer on the agenda

May 5th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 (They all seem to be 5-4 decisions these days.) that a New York town was OK in having prayers before their meetings, even if they are pretty much all Christian. To get more detail about that case you should read the AP story that ran on our site.

Monday afternoon I spoke with Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, because Bremerton is the only local government body I know of that puts prayer on the agenda. That it would appear anywhere in this area might surprise some people, because it wasn’t long ago that a Gallup survey reported our area was the seventh least religious area in the country. That was Kitsap specifically, by the way, not just the entire Seattle area.

Lent was not much familiar with the Supreme Court decision, but in her conversation about why prayer works here she touched on some of the questions the court addressed. One of the problems in the court case was the predominance of Christian prayers. Except for one brief period last decade, prayers or other facsimiles were not heard in the New York town. Lent said in Bremerton an effort is made to spread the task around, to contact different denominations, including non-Christian ones. That’s more than the court decided was necessary.

No other local government that I am aware of opens with prayers. When I covered the Bainbridge Island City Council they didn’t even recite the pledge of allegiance and there was a bit of a dust up when one council member suggested they start. The next election ushered in folks who were not opposed to the pledge and it’s now on the agenda.

This is not to say everyone is thrilled with the prayer in Bremerton, or probably the pledge for that matter. I know several years back I knew of someone who was raising an issue with the council, someone who was as committed to atheism as some are to religion. This person, however, wasn’t interested in letting a refusal to stand for a prayer distract from the main question on this person’s agenda. It’s a case of saving battles for another day, if ever.

Lent said that to her knowledge no one has complained about Bremerton’s regular prayer.


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