Category Archives: Election 2010

Montana campaign finance ruling has no impact here

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Montana’s laws about contributions to state elections has no impact in Washington. That’s the word from Lori Anderson, Washington Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman.

Montana banned corporations from campaign spending. Washington limits how much they can contribute to candidates, but does not limit how much they can spend on independent expenditures.

Where independent expenditures come into play is mostly in advertising that is not sponsored by either candidate, but can be supportive or opposed to them.

I checked PDC records and most of the independent spending done locally in state legislative races seems to have been done in 2006. Still, 2010 had a fair amount.

In the 35th Legislative District Position 1 race Republican Dan Griffey benefitted from $16,399.79 spent on his behalf, with $13,864.70 coming from the committee Main Street Matters. Kathy Haigh, the Democratic incumbent, had $117.42 spent on her behalf by the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund. She also had $4,621.57 spent against her by the same organization that supported Griffey.

Main Street Matters was funded primarily by the Washington Affordable Housing Council, the political action committee for the Building Industry Association of Washington.

In 2010 Main Street Matters targeted seven races in five legislative districts, including the Haigh-Griffey race. In three contests the organization spent $13,864.70 on behalf of the Republican and $4,621.57 opposing the Democrat for ads that went out on Oct. 25, 2010. In three races the spending for Republicans matched the money spent against the Democrats, all at $4,621.57. In one race the Republican was credited with one penny more than the Democrat. Main Street won two races in the 47th Legislative District and lost in the five others.

In September of 2011 we ran a Seattle Times story saying BIAW had reconsidered its political activities. Two months later it named Art Castle, former executive vice president of the Kitsap Homebuilders Association, to the same post, something he had been doing on an interim level since the previous April.

Olsen finds a video

So James Olsen, known for many things political but most recently candidate for the state House of Representatives this year and in 2010, sends out this email with the message:

Friends — I received this link in the email- Democrat Donkey Game. Oh, so true. You will recognize many of the Donkey gamers from around the area.

While his statement that he “received this link in the email” might be technically true, I wouldn’t blame if you suspect he knew it was coming.

In 2010 a guy in Colorado got wind of Olsen and did three anti-Olsen videos. The other two have a robot dancing in underwear. The following one has production problems, but it’s short and you get the point.

Simpson makes the games

Linda Simpson, who ran against Fred Finn for a 35th District legislative seat in 2010, received word this week she will be participating in the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Simpson lost most of her left leg in a traffic accident in September. In January she participated in the Wounded Warrior Training Camp in Ventura, Calif., a sort of tryout for the games. She will be doing the discus and shot put for certain and could participate in other events.

If you read Sunday’s story, besides her athletic abilities (which I’m told are ample), she was a heck of a positive influence on the other athletes in Ventura.

She and her husband, Michael, go to Colorado Springs in late April to acclimate to the high altitude. The games themselves are in early May.

Democrats Voted Here

If you are wondering why Democrats held on so well in Washington while across the nation they did not do well at all, the basic answer appears to be that they voted here. Democrats in Washington, despite the dire predictions for them nationally, mailed in their ballots. A Portland pollster makes that case, as well as the one contending that Washington is getting bluer.

Some of the information is included in a story about the county certifying the Nov. 2 election.

Moore Information of Portland, Ore. sent out an analysis (posted below) suggesting that Dino Rossi, Republican challenger for the U.S. Senate here, did better among Republicans than any other Senate candidate in the country. He also won the vote of independents by big numbers. He lost, according to Moore, because incumbent U.S. Sen. Patty Murray did even better among Democrats, and there are more Democrats than there used to be and they didn’t get too depressed to vote here.

Of course, if you read our story from Nov. 1, this may not surprise you at all. The last two paragraphs said this:

Turnout was markedly higher in 1998 and 2006. Carl Olson, Kitsap County Democratic Party chairman, said his party’s get-out-the-vote effort is tracking as well as it did in 2006, when turnout was 68.2 percent.

“My personal sense tells me there may be some surprises,” he said, meaning Democrats may do better than expected. Whether the party’s tracking of those who are solid or lean Democrat means they voted Democrat again, he said, he doesn’t know.

While Democrats lost ground in Washington, what their voters did by voting was prevent a party disaster. They maintained control of both chambers in the state. Locally every Democrat incumbent had a closer race, but they all won.

My hunch is this also explains why late votes, those counted after those from election night, did not break Republican as they have in past elections. Democratic margins, in fact, grew larger.

Moore’s analysis, co-written with Hans Kaiser, also with Moore Information, follows:

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Company Sued for Campaign Finance Violations Has Had Local Clients

Beverly Woods was the subject in these critical 2006 campaign ads created by Moxie Media. The picture comes from the company's Web site.
In 2006 voters in the 23rd Legislative District received mailers asking the question, “Beverly Woods went to Olympia and what did we get?” Woods, a Republican, was first elected to the seat in 2000, beat Democrat Sherry Appleton by 4 percentage points in 2002 and in 2004 she won handily over a candidate who did not campaign with much intensity.

In 2006, though, she faced off against Democrat Christine Rolfes, a former Bainbridge Island city councilwoman. Rolfes ended up winning by 9 percentage points. A blog post just weeks after the election at the conservative site Sound Politics had in its comment string a conversation blaming Woods’ loss on her vote for a gas tax. Many people have said to me the same thing, that Woods lost her base when she voted for that tax.

However she lost, the mailer is the issue here, because it was created by a firm that finds itself in hot water with the Washington State Attorney General, Rob McKenna. Moxie Media is being sued by McKenna for the company’s under-the-radar efforts to oust a conservative Democrat in the 38th District in 2010. It’s the under-the-radar part that could get them in trouble, because the company allegedly created political action committees to temporarily hide the liberal money (labor, trial lawyers, etc.) that was pitching a conservative Republican who was not running a strong race. The effort helped put the incumbent, state Sen. Jean Berkey, in third place, virtually guaranteeing victory in November for Democrat Nick Harper, who as of Tuesday had received nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Moxie is not the only organization to run afoul of Public Disclosure laws in recent history. The Olympian’s Brad Shannon wrote, “The action against Moxie comes in the same season that the Republican-oriented Building Industry Association of Washington settled charges of concealing funds it later used to promote Dino Rossi’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign.”

The Washington State Wire has an explanation of what went on with Moxie and Berkey, explaining the money gets hidden.

Moxie Media’s anti-Bev Woods piece is one of several the company highlights in a portfolio on its Web site.

Of the campaign the company writes, “After many failed attempts by other Democratic campaigns to define State Representative Beverly Woods as too conservative for her district, Moxie Media ultimately helped defeat the three-term incumbent. We developed a series of five mail pieces that positioned Woods as ineffective and out-of-touch, helping to elect our client, State Representative Christine Rolfes, who has held the seat since 2006.”

The work Moxie did for Rolfes was pretty straightforward. Sure, some of it in 2006 was negative advertising, but there do not appear to be any obvious efforts to hide who was behind the ads. A search of Public Disclosure Records show that over three campaigns Rolfes has spent $61,625 for Moxie Media’s help.

Rolfes said the recent news does have her considering who she will employ in the future. “I had never seen them do anything that wasn’t above board. I’m disappointed to see how that company worked in another race,” she said.

Moxie’s work has showed up in other local races. In 2006 the company promoted Kyle Taylor Lucas, who tried to best state Sen. Tim Sheldon for the Democratic nomination for senator in the 35th District. The company was paid more than $50,000 from three different PACs, all of which had “Have Had Enough” in the name.

In 2006 the Harry Truman Fund, which supports Democrats, spent about $17,000 for ads against Republican Ron Boehme, who ran against Larry Seaquist in the 26th District.

In late October Bremerton Republican Trent England wrote on the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Liberty Live blog, “I happen to know that Moxie works for my own State Senator Derek Kilmer, who pretends to be a Berkey-style moderate, but somehow still gets props from the far left (draw your own conclusions about who is the real Derek Kilmer: the one familiar to his Moxie pals, or the one he presents to voters in his swing district?).”

It is true that Moxie shows more than $200,000 in receipts for Kilmer’s campaign between 2004 and 2006. There were none, however, in 2010.

Kilmer said he worked with John Wyble, who co-founded Moxie, but left in 2008 and formed his own firm, WinPower Strategies.

Kilmer took issue of England’s use of the word “works.” “Once again Trent England hasn’t done his homework,” Kilmer said, adding that the ads he pays for do not mention his opponents. “The way I approach campaigns is like a job interview. “I’ve never gone into a job interview and said ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire the other guy,'” he said.

Democrats generally have condemned what is alleged to have been done in the 38th. Berkey, for her part, is asking that the Legislature not seat Harper, saying the election was tainted, according to a (Everett) Herald story.

Rolfes, who did work with Lisa MacLean, the Moxie founder named in the Attorney General’s suit, said she hopes the discovery of what happened with Moxie is evidence that the system worked. “The whole point of the Public Disclosure Commission is to allow a forum for catching these kind of indiscretions and unethical and possibly illegal acts,” she said.

How the Politically Diverse 26th Votes

Wednesday morning, day after the election: This post started out as a comment on my story about results in the 26th District.

As of this morning, Republican candidate Doug Richards had closed the gap district-wide in the race against incumbent Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor. Richards currently has 48.54 percent to Seaquist’s 51.46 percent.

This is not unexpected, given that Pierce still has poll voting. So the Pierce County results, as of last night when I wrote the story, were more fluid than in Kitsap, which has all-mail voting. Both Seaquist and incumbent Derek Kilmer, D-Gig harbor, who last night was leading his opponent Marty McClendon by nearly 17 percentage points, said they would keep an eye on the results as they continue to come in.

Republican Jan Angel, on Tuesday night, was basking in her lead of more than 21 percentage points over challenger Sumner Schoenike, a “report card” she said on her ability to listen to constituents and work to meet their needs. Angel may have had the political wind at her back, but remember that in 2008, she won against the tide that swept Obama and the Democratic majority into office.

Clearly, the Democrats were in defensive mode this election. In the eclectic 26th, they were taking nothing for granted. Kilmer told me he literally was doorbelling up until the last moment. Seaquist spent Tuesday waving signs and urging on his cadre of volunteers, who were doing likewise and making last minute calls to not-as-yet-committed voters.

I personally wondered why Kilmer wasn’t just calling it a day, but I could understand why Seaquist remains attentive to the results.

During the campaign, Seaquist told me the Pierce County portion of the 26th tends to favor Republicans. The Kitsap portion is an easier sell.

The results reflect that. As of Tuesday morning, the Pierce County results showed Seaquist down to 50.35 percent and Richards nipping at his heels with 49.54 percent. But in Kitsap the numbers were 52.83 percent and 47.17 percent respectively.

This is interesting, considering the story we just ran about how different precincts in Kitsap County vote. The map, based on historical elections data, shows almost a diagonal line dividing the mostly blue northern half of the county from the mostly red southern half (which includes part of the 26th). In South Kitsap, solidly blue Manchester sticks out like an island.

Is it statistically possible Richards could catch Seaquist at this point? Here are some things that could factor in. Last night, we asked Kitsap County elections manager Dolores Gilmore about how to read the results in close races. She said that, based on historical data, races in which candidates held a lead of 4 percentage points or more are unlikely to become upsets. Seaquist was just barely over this marker.

Then you have to factor in the number of votes to be counted. In Kitsap (slightly favoring Democratic candidates in the 26th), there remain an estimated 40,000. In Pierce (leaning Republican), there are 27,000 yet to be counted. And remember that not all those uncounted voters will be part of the 26th District.

Like Seaquist (and the “cautiously optimistic” Kilmer) we’ll continue to monitor the results until the election is certified on Nov. 23.

Chris Henry, reporter

Bad Punditry

Actually, I probably didn’t do that badly. But still, I’m pretty sure I won’t win the office pool on tonight’s election.

Yesterday I looked at the huge turnout and figured it really was mostly conservatives causing the uptick. At the same time it seemed to me Democrats were not staying home the way they might have in past down years.

When it came time to make my picks I guessed Republicans would roll. So locally I thought it would mean more conservative measures and candidates doing better. Still, I picked the library levy to win, a glorious miscalculation. Here were my picks, which do not reflect how I voted” The ones in red were the ones I am wrong on so far.

Murry-Rossi=Rossi (Still possible. There is a 1.2 percent difference and Republicans typically do better with later voting. Now, this election that might not play that way out because the political winds were blowing pretty hard to the right, so conservatives may have voted earlier than usual.)
Inslee-Watkins=Inslee (The national pollsters were right to ignore the congressional races.)
Seaquist-Richards=Richards (I actually changed my vote on this one. I had Seaquist originally, then decided to go for a Republican sweep of the races I thought were close.)
Sheldon-Williams=Sheldon (I wouldn’t criticize anyone for voting for Williams. I would, however, think less of them for betting on her to win.)
Haigh-Griffey=Griffey (Still within striking distance, but I think Haigh will hang on.)
Brown-Burlingame=Brown (I was really confident about this one.)
Hauge-Danielson=Hauge (I was less certain here than I was on Brown, but still didn’t struggle much with this one.)
Armstrong-Gabriel=Armstrong (I just figured an incumbent would be tough to beat in a PUD unless there’s some major controversy.)
BI School Levy 1=Pass (It’s Bainbridge. They generally approve these things.)
BI School Levy 2=Pass
1100=Pass (Josh Farley pointed out something fascinating about this measure. It’s losing in conservative areas and winning in the more liberal spots generally. Given where the opposition has come in the Legislature, this is a surprise.)
Ref. 52=Fail
SJ 8225=Fail
HJ 4220=Pass
Prop 1=Pass (Missed that one by a mile.)
Tiebreaker was Republican-Democrat margin in the U.S. House. I had the Republicans holding a 256-179 margin. It’s likely to be something around 243-192.

I don’t know what the exit polls are saying about who voted, but if I were a Democrat I would not be that discouraged tonight. Everyone expected Republicans to roll. It would seem to me that Democratic turnout did enough to save the U.S. Senate. It is not going to be a Republican Congress versus a Democratic President. It is a split Congress. Locally Democrats are winning some close races despite this being a bad year for them.

The New York Times-Fivethirtyeight site opines that, “For a wave, this has been an incredibly orderly one.” Huge Republican upsets didn’t happen. Harry Reid won. Murray is ahead. Democrats Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank and Raul Grijalva won.

The state races, pointed out by our live blog commenter “Daryl,” could have the biggest impact. Republicans are up pretty big in those and that could bode well in the redistricting.

By the way, the next time we have a congressional race Washington is likely to have 10 to vote for. That could mean a lot here as congressional district boundary lines are drawn.

This could be especially important if Jay Inslee, as his opponent James Watkins contends, runs for governor in 2012. Assuming we still had part of the First District (And I can think of a couple of reasons our First District presence would at least be reduced, if not eliminated.) it could mean choosing between two new candidates. In the Sixth District Norm Dicks told me he would not decide on a 2012 candidacy until next year.

What Does High Turnout Mean?

In preparing the Tuesday story on the election, I made late contact with the heads of both county parties and Stuart Elway, who polls in Seattle.

Only Carl Olson, the Democrat, was able to get back in touch with me before the story filed. That had more to do with me getting in touch with these people late than anything else. All three eventually responded.

Olson said Democratic turnout appears to be good. Sandra LaCelle from the GOP side she expects Republicans will do well. Elway hedged.

My overriding question was what does the high turnout mean? There are two schools of thought on it. One is that high turnout favors Democrats. The other is high turnout favors the direction of the political winds. We will likely get our first whiff of what will happen here in Washington when polls start closing out east. Namely, look for which way the surprises are going. If Democrats in the east are doing better than expected, that bodes well for Patty Murray. If Republicans are doing better than expected, Rossi’s chances start to look better.

In the recent past higher turnout has favored Democrats in Washington. In 1998 and 2006 turnout was higher than 68 percent in Kitsap. Democrats did well. In 1994 turnout was 61 percent in Kitsap and 60 percent in the state. Republicans won just about everywhere. In 2002 turnout in Kitsap was 63 percent and about 66 percent in the state. The party mix was just that; a mix.

By the way, as I write polls are closing in parts of Kentucky and Indiana.

So what to expect tonight? I’ve laid down my bets in the office pool, and this was the toughest election I’ve ever tried to predict. I expect to lose my $2. After 8 p.m. I’ll let on what my picks were.

As for Elway’s hedging, I mean no disrespect. He reflected the reason I had such a hard time filling out my projections.

I don’t know that there is a definitive answer. Both arguments are credible. The first is the “lazy Democrat” model which holds that the “surge voters” from 2008 are not engaged this year. The second supports the “enthusiasm gap” model, which holds that there are a large number of angry voters heading for the polls this time who have not voted (regularly) in the past. I tend to think that larger turnout mostly accelerates the direction of the overall vote. I tend to think that a larger than normal turnout accelerates the trend – which stands to reason, because a larger turnout would partially create a trend.

Long non-answer. It is one of the questions that will be easier to answer in retrospect.

Hey You! Did You Vote Already?

I could just call the county and find out about each and every one of you who is registered to vote about whether you have cast a ballot. The parties are doing that and it determines who gets the calls and texts reminding them to send in their ballots.

If you want that to stop, give early voting a whirl.

On the right I’ve got the question out there asking if you already voted. Should you care to, elaborate here.

Me? I still haven’t voted. Maybe when the kids get to bed tonight, if nothing good is on.

Democrats Posing as Republicans Could Result in a New Election

Austin Jenkins wrote a piece on his own blog and later republished on Crosscut about an election elsewhere in the state that could be overturned.

A Democratic organization set up an organization that looked Republican in order to get a conservative Democrat legislator out of office. Apparently it worked, but the Public Disclosure Commission is not taking kindly to how the group shuffled campaign donations to hide the backers.

Go to Crosscut to read the whole thing.

Jay Inslee and James Watkins on Lies and Political Point Scoring

During the congressional debate between incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican James Watkins last week Inslee made the case there in the American Legion Hall on Bainbridge Island that he had sponsored the bill that renamed the post office in Rolling Bay after John “Bud” Hawk.

Watkins criticized Inslee for not being at the actual dedication. Inslee asked if that wasn’t a low blow, given that he was fulfilling his constitutional duty voting in D.C. Watkins said no it wasn’t a low blow, that if he, Watkins, had passed that bill, he “damn sure would have been there when they were dedicating it, too.”

Later, Watkins posted a press release saying that Inslee at the debate was “exposed as a liar,” because the same day as the post office dedication, Inslee was in Seattle speaking to “corporate CEOs.” On, Watkins’ campaign wrote, “What a dishonor to Bud Hawk!”

Several blogs have taken the information and called Inslee a liar for his comments. I’ve had people e-mailing and calling me on the phone asking about it.

Inslee did come to Seattle that same day to speak to the Prosperity Partnership, which does have “corporate CEOs” as members, probably many of them. On the organization’s board are an official from Boeing, Microsoft and Uwajimaya.

On that board there is also someone from the Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO, the University of Washington, Washington State University, Seattle Community Colleges, the mayor of Everett and the YWCA. Additionally, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, four members of Congress and Washington’s two senators, Dick’s Drive-In, El Centro de la Raza, Kitsap County and the Group Health Community Foundation count themselves as a small portion of organizations listed as partners.

The group focuses on economic development for the region.

In addition to the press release, Watkins’ campaign published a video on YouTube with Inslee and Watkins going back and forth on the Hawk dedication. Both appear below.

In writing the House story this weekend, I noted that Inslee said he was voting, that he had spoken to the Prosperity Partnership that day. That was true. I did not write, as Watkins did, that Inslee was lying, because I was allowing for the idea that Inslee either didn’t recall what he was doing, or that voting had actually gotten in the way. I didn’t watch the Prosperity Partnership video of Inslee speaking at the luncheon until Tuesday.

What Inslee said at the debate sounded like during the Bud Hawk event he was on the floor voting in D.C., which was not true. It was true, however, that voting the night before went late enough that he would have missed his scheduled flight home. Had he made that flight, he would have had time to attend the Bud Hawk event, then get on a ferry to get to the Prosperity Partnership luncheon. So, the message that voting got in the way of him attending the Hawk ceremony was correct and not a lie.

Joby Shimomura with Inslee’s campaign said voting the day before, Feb. 25, went later than expected. The last vote was taken at 7:46 p.m. and congressional records show Inslee voted. The last flights out of Ronald Reagan or Dulles to Seattle leave around 5:30 p.m. Inslee was too late for those, so he boarded a flight the next morning that got into Seattle around 11 a.m. The Bud Hawk event started at 10 a.m. “For Watkins to suggest that Jay lied about that is incredibly infuriating,” Shimomura said.

The luncheon was, surprisingly enough, at lunchtime. Inslee made the lunch, not the dedication. If you watch the Prosperity Partnership video, it is clear that he flew into Seattle that morning. Inslee makes specific reference to the weather flying in. “I saw this fog and cloud bank,” he said.

For his part, Hawk said he wasn’t bothered by Inslee not being there. “People do what they can. If they can’t be there they can’t . . . I’d like to have shared the occasion with him, (but) it didn’t bother me,” he said.

Watkins, hearing Inslee’s explanation, ceded no ground. He said there are red-eye flights from DC to Los Angeles that can get someone to Seattle earlier than when Inslee arrived. “He could have been there had he wanted to, but he chose not to,” Watkins said. “He chose other things instead of going to the ceremony for Bud Hawk.”

Assuming the planes were not full on Feb. 25, Inslee could have flown to Atlanta, then caught a flight to Seattle and arrived early in the morning, spending the night in airports and on planes. Chances are it also would have cost more to make that kind of change in plans. Since I am not the regular traveler I once was, I don’t know. If it does cost more, it comes out of the congressman’s travel allowance, provided by you and me in our taxes.

Instead, Shimomura said, Inslee called Hawk the day before to let him know it was unlikely he would make it, and that Hawk was fine with it. I asked Hawk, a World War II hero, but he didn’t recall too many details about the event, blaming it on age. He’s 86. “I’ve got my name written down here somewhere,” he joked. Someone somewhere threw postponement into the conversation, but invitations had been sent, Shimomura said.

Besides, “This whole thing was about Bud Hawk, not Jay Inslee,” Shimomura said. “He (Hawk) should be bothered that James Watkins is using it as a political issue.”

In Inslee’s official statement, he said much the same:

“When I called Bud to tell him that I couldn’t be there he appreciated that I got this bill passed to honor him.  What I don’t appreciate is anyone using this war hero to prop up their failed campaign. I couldn’t attend the opening because of votes and I was on a plane during the event, not at a lunch. The event was about Bud Hawk, not Jay Inslee or James Watkins.”

On Tuesday I received an e-mail that read in part: “If you will review the tapes of the night that were posted on Watkins’ website and forwarded to me, Inslee lied to the crowd. If the facts are born out he was at a luncheon with Mullaly and some others in Seattle at the time of the dedication. I have no problem with him not being there but I do have a real problem with his moral outrage when, if the facts are correct, he lied outright.”

Later I was out stalking neighborhoods for campaign signs when I received a call from the 425 area code. A nice man identified himself as a Watkins volunteer and wanted to address the “lie.” I told him what I knew to that point about late voting, etc. From my impression he still believes that Inslee was “exposed as a liar.”

Recently I have heard people say that this is the worst election season ever for peddling bull and negative ads. I typically don’t believe it anytime someone says something is the worst or best ever, but this time I wonder. The Murray-Rossi ads, the initiative commercials and the stuff we get in the mail all seem to have at least been designed to take kernels of truth and distort them so that we will believe something that is not certifiably true. I have to admit; this election season has made me wearier than I can ever recall.

If you use truth to get me to believe a lie, it’s a lie, and you’re a liar. If you know what you are saying is not true, then you are a liar. If you don’t know, then maybe you’re just wrong. Maybe you are careless, but you are not a liar. If what you are saying is true, you are not a liar, even if I misinterpret what you said.

Inslee and Watkins debated important issues that night: health care, job creation, deficit spending and energy. They have real differences on those issues. Inslee has a voting record and Watkins has made his priorities clear. Their opinions and their actions could have a real impact on you and me.

So given the fact that the candidates are clearly different on the big issues, who are the people who would vote differently based on what was said about the Bud Hawk ceremony? Was anyone leaning toward Inslee, but now will vote for Watkins, because you are so disgusted by Inslee’s inartful explanation for missing it? On the other side, is there anyone who was leaning toward Watkins, but is now disgusted by how he has played up this issue?

The Watkins press release and the video follows.

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About Those 26th District Campaign Ads

From the start of the 2010 campaign season, Doug Richards, candidate for 26th District Representative, position 2, has been a lightning rod for questions about his public and private life.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of his viability as a candidate. His opponent Larry Seaquist, in a recent interview, said, “The first day we got his name and looked at his bio, we said to our campaign team, this is the most serious opponent we’ve had.”

The questions about Richards have not emanated directly from Seaquist or his campaign, but inevitably, they reflected on the campaign. And Seaquist has had to answer prying questions from the opposing camp.

With just a week to go until the election, I thought I’d take a whack at sifting assertions from fact. I’m going to give Richards a chance to address more recent questions surrounding his campaign filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission, his voting record and tax payment history. Speaking of taxes, I’ll also give his Seaquist a chance to more fully explain a federal tax lien filed against him Jan. 21, 2009, with the Pierce County auditor.

Questions about Richards’ voting record were raised in campaign fliers produced by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee and in a related television ad.

The TV ad, which I haven’t seen, was described to me by a co-worker and by Richards himself. The ad and the flier claim Richards has failed to vote in 41 of the last 55 elections, including “7 local fire, rescue and medical or 911 measures (even though he is a firefighter himself!).”

The flier and the ad show a picture of Richards in a suit and pink bow tie, holding a cigar. The picture, Richards told me, is from his Facebook. It was taken at the opening of a friend’s cigar shop in Seattle, he said. And if you could see the big picture, you’d see him with his wife dressed up in 1930s-style garb, which was part of the fun at the event. The impression the cropped picture gives, however, is of a shady character.

On the voting record issue, Richards said that, yes, when he was younger he voted only in presidential elections.
“I don’t remember if I voted for every election and off-year elections. I did vote in every presidential campaign,” he said. “I was in my 20s. It wasn’t at the top of my priorities.”

That changed, Richards said, when he became a small business owner in 2000, building and selling custom homes. Then, he said, “I recognized how every vote counted.” And he became more politically active.

Richards said he does not remember every levy issue he did or did not vote on. If he had known he’d be running for public office, he would have kept a list, he joked.

The flier indicates he missed votes on tax- and budget-related measures, including I-960 in November, 2007, requiring a legislative super-majority to raise taxes.

Although the ad and flier don’t come directly from Seaquist’s campaign, Richards said, they show to what degree Seaquist is running scared. “To try to say this is a character issue is a stretch,” Richards said. “As best this is a campaign that’s struggling, that’s grasping at straws.”

According to Richards, the TV ad also claims he has failed to pay his taxes. True, he missed a payment in 2009. But the story behind the claim is a lot less sensational, he said. With the recession, Richards lost an investment property to foreclosure. Since taxes on the property were taken out of monthly payments to the bank, Richards’ account fell into arrears while he and the bank were negotiating on possible remedies to the foreclosure. He received notice in April that the bank had not paid the tax, and he wrote a check to cover it himself. The foreclosure eventually went through, and he lost the property. The experience helps him sympathize with voters who have faced similar challenges with the recession, he said.

Speaking of taxes, Richards added, “I think it’s hypocritical he (Seaquist) attacks me on taxes, considering he failed to pay his taxes for three years.”

Neither Seaquist nor his campaign made the back tax allegations, but by their very design, attack ads corral the opponent of the attacked and make them part of the process. So, Richards’ statement is perhaps understandable, if technically incorrect.

The assertion that Seaquist “failed to pay taxes” for three years makes it sound like he blew off the IRS entirely. In fact, what happened was in 2005, he had an overpayment of about $2,400, which he advised his tax accountant to apply to 2006 taxes. Due to a bookkeeping error, the amount was not properly credited. The error was not discovered by the IRS until 2008, by which time penalties and interest brought the amount owing to $23,532.83. How could this be? Believe it, said Jackie Chowning, the revenue officer who handled the Seaquist lien.

Chowning, speaking in general and not about Seaquist’s case, said errors often take considerable time to be caught by the automated behemoth that is the IRS. In Seaquist’s case, the notice of federal tax lien (not a lien on his home as I mistakenly reported in an earlier story) was filed Jan. 21, 2009. That would be where the “three years” in arrears apparently comes from (2006, when the payment was due to 2009, when the lien was filed).

Seaquist found out about the lien, he said, when his wife checked a savings account they had and found the IRS had withdrawn a sizable amount. From Chowning, he found out that the IRS had placed holds on several other accounts. In October, the IRS acknowledged the $2,400 had been applied to his account, adding it could take up to 120 days for the credit to show up on his account. The lien was cleared The couple paid the outstanding amount and cleared the lien in February, 2009.

The PDC complaint about Richards came to the Kitsap Sun from George Robison of Gig Harbor, a Seaquist supporter who also was part of a group that questioned Richards’ service records. Robison did not identify himself as a Seaquist supporter to the Kitsap Sun or the PDC, with whom he raised the following issues, but his name was familiar from numerous e-mails, comments on stories and blogs, and a display ad the group ran in the Kitsap Sun about the service record issue.

Robison accused Richards of:
“1. Double booking of some expenses as a ‘loan’ and as an ‘in-kind contribution’ by Mr. Richards, leading to the appearance of the potential for being reimbursed twice, after having been repaid for an item that is still carried on the books as a loan. No credit entry has been made for any loan reimbursement even though some reimbursements match loans.

2. Reimbursement to Mr. Richards for many items forbidden by the PDC. This includes political conferences, trainings, memberships in the NRA and Chamber of Commerce, charitable gifts, entertainment and personal food and fuel. In the amended C4 for 9/1, about 56 food and fuel expense items totaled about $1997 or about 25% of total campaign expenditures for that period alone. On some reports he was reimbursed over $150 per day for fuel.

3. Overall, a large number of campaign expenses were reported as ‘repayments’ made directly to Mr. Richards. This raises the appearance of campaign funds being mingled with personal expenses.”

Doug Richards told me his wife Whitney, who is acting as his campaign treasurer, has been working with Chip Beatty, a filer assistance specialist with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, to be sure the campaign is in compliance with PDC rules and campaign finances laws.

Beatty, who spoke to Whitney Richards on Oct. 19 as a result of Robison’s e-mail, found some merit in one of Robison’s complaints regarding reimbursements for fuel. Whitney Richards had submitted fuel receipts. Beatty advised that did not accurately reflect personal driving as distinct from campaign-related driving. Beatty asked Richards to reimburse his campaign for the personal use. He was directed to keep a mileage log and have the campaign reimburse him for mileage in the future.

Beatty noted that since Oct. 19, the Richards’ have amended the filings in question. “It appears they were very proactive in making the changes I requested right away,” Beatty said.

Richards’ C3 form, documenting income to the campaign, shows $389.60 on Oct. 19 paid by Richards to the campaign “to refund fuel used for personal use.” There’s another refund on Oct. 25 for $188.

Beatty did say that Richards could have been more specific about items like food and beverages. But he said Richards’ requests for cost reimbursements for these items were not out of line. He advised Whitney Richards to be more descriptive. On a receipt for “wine,” for example, she should have stated what is was for (a primary night event). He also suggested that the word “repayment” be replaced with “reimbursement.”

Beatty had no issues with costs related to “political conferences, trainings, memberships in the NRA and Chamber of Commerce, charitable gifts, entertainment and personal food.” It is acceptable, under PDC rules, he said for candidates to join an organization and attend its meetings, likely paying for meals at these events, as part of the process of networking and seeking support.

Voters aren’t required to like or approve of all expenditures that are technically legal. But at least they can go to the PDC, as Robison did, and see for themselves how much was spent on what. And if, like Robison, they aren’t satisfied with the clarity of the reporting, they can contact the PDC and complain. The PDC has the authority to sanction a candidate and their website has this nifty little page where you can track the status of compliance cases. Apparently Richards’ bookkeeping errors did not rise to the level of egregiousness that would earn him a spot on the list.

Chris Henry, reporter

Is Regence Hiding Behind Health Care Reform to Raise Rates?

The following KING-5 story gives you a pretty good description of the mess that’s brewing with Blue Cross-Regence customers. The company has sent letters explaining what next year’s rates are. From the looks of the video it looks like if you have an above average number of kids you could see quite the spike.

Vanessa Ho at also covered the issue. Regence is raising individual rates by 16 percent. One important point: This is the fourth year in a row Regence has raised rates by double-digit percentage points, according to the story.

We had our own story in September, which Stephanie Marquis from the state insurance commissioner’s office speculating that rates would go up by double-digit percentages in 2011, with about 3 points attributed to the new health care law.

The company also plans to end child-only policies in Washington and a couple other states (Oregon and Utah), which would indicate the company’s problems are with state insurance laws, not national ones.

Lary Coppola Predicts at Least One Local Incumbent Gone

Port Orchard Mayor and publisher of the previously mentioned Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal Lary Coppola, operating as neither, offers his predictions the November election.

On most of the close races he hedges, laying down no public bets. Not, though, in the race in the 35th District between Kathy Haigh and Dan Griffey.

“Republican challenger Dan Griffey will upset longtime incumbent Kathy Haigh in a fairly close matchup.”

Coppola also predicts Hauge will win. As of this posting he has not weighed in the county commissioner race between Josh Brown, the Democratic incumbent, and Abby Burlingame, the Republican challenger. I commented asking if he will.

Remember, if you haven’t voted in the poll on the right hand side of this page (your right), you still can.

Gig Harbor Entrepreneur Launches Political Social Networking Site

Rodika Tollefson, writing for the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, has the story about a Gig Harbor man who is taking the Facebook concept and adapting it specifically for politics. Jim Tisch of Gig Harbor launched saying:

“I was trying to solve my own problem… to make the right voting decision,” he says. “There’s a lot of reasons people disengage and have voter apathy. I wanted to set up a platform to have transparency… and give people the facts.”

Kitsap Caucus now has a profile on the site. Read Rodika’s story for some of the context behind the site.

Larry Seaquist/Doug Richards Race Mentioned in L.A. Times Story

The race for state legislative House District 26, Position 2, helped provide context for an L.A. Times story that highlights a trend from this election. First, here’s the entire selection dedicated to the Larry Seaquist-Doug Richards race:

In Washington, State Rep. Larry Seaquist hasn’t focused on a foreclosure suffered by his homebuilder opponent.

“I frankly don’t think there’s a lot of mileage to be gained in that,” Seaquist said Thursday.

The story generally focuses on how a candidate’s financial struggles are not necessarily hurting them in the 2010 election. In fact, in some cases it is a sign that the candidate can relate. Again from the story:

In some cases, adversaries point to these problems as examples of poor judgment and highlight perceived ethical lapses. But experts say they would be wise to tread carefully in a time of widespread pain, because voter sympathy may weigh into election day decisions.

First off, homebuilder is not Richards’ day job, but let’s not quibble. In July Chris Henry wrote the story about Richards facing foreclosure on an investment property. The comments on the story are interesting and to some degree do reflect the point of the L.A. Times story.

In the August primary Seaquist and Richards were the only names on the ballot for the race. Seaquist received 51.6 percent of the vote to Richards’ 48.4.

Looking further, I checked the numbers from the 2008 election to see if we could learn anything from it to suggest how things might go in November. Seaquist actually gained three percentage points in 2008 between the primary and the general election, but you could dismiss that as the difference between what was going on in August 2008 compared to November 2008. Democrats gained percentage points in five of the seven legislative races that year. And in the two races they did not the losses were slight.

Speaking more broadly, the general election played out exactly as the primary did when it comes to final results in 2008. Six Democrats and one Republican won. The margins in this year’s primary were much narrower than they were in 2008, so the six wins Democrats saw in the eight races are not as safe in terms of predicting what happens in November. But still, how big a win do you need?

Fred Finn, first-term incumbent Democrat representative in the 35th District received 46.6 percent against two candidates, one a Republican (Linda Simpson) and one who identified himself (Glenn Gaither) as an independent conservative. Democrat Kathy Haigh, representing the other 35th District House seat, had less than a percentage point margin over Republican Dan Griffey. In 2008 Haigh’s total went up more than five percentage points between the primary and the general election and won by 23 percentage points.

If Republicans hope to turn around the 8-1 margin against them in the Legislature, it would appear this would be the year. As mentioned earlier, the margins are closer. On the other hand, there is no solid evidence to wager your house on any change at all from the Kitsap delegation. As much ground as Republicans seem to have made, it may not be enough come November to close the Kitsap legislative gap. A half-point win results in the same thing as a 20-point margin. The winner goes to Olympia.

Feel free to weigh in on the poll on the right.

Party Roots of Patty Murray and Dino Rossi

Jerry Cornfield at the (Everett) Herald gets to the questions of how the candidates ended up in the parties they chose in the race between U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. and Republican Dino Rossi.

Cornfield points out that both had influences in their lives that could have pushed them in different directions. From the story:

Patty Murray, 59, and Dino Rossi, 50, are not party ideologues and neither engaged fully in partisan politics until comfortably in adulthood.

Both come from large, middle-class families. Each has six siblings; Patty and her identical twin, Peggy, are the second and third eldest while Dino is the youngest.

Both grew up in small suburban cities Murray in Bothell and Rossi in Mountlake Terrace. Their fathers are World War II veterans and their families each hit by hardship that tested their will.

While there are parallels in their lives as youngsters, by the time each reached college, their life’s journey was driven by very different political values.

I continue to periodically point out stories worth reading in the block of stories above, but this one deserves special mention. It confirms to me that the embracing of any political philosophy is not exclusively an intellectual exercise or a response to self interest.

County Republicans Condemn Russ Hauge on Rifle Club Suit

Sandra LaCelle, Kitsap County Republican Party Chairwoman, sent this to us:

On September 13, 2010, at the Executive Board Meeting of the Kitsap County Republican Party, the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, that the Kitsap County Republican Party hereby condemns the actions of Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hague and his office for the continual harassment and frivolous legal attacks upon the officers and members of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

It is a bold statement for reasons I will provide further down.

Rifle club members were out in force at Monday’s county commissioner meeting addressing County Prosecutor Russ Hauge’s lawsuit against the club. Some of their comments will be included in a story Josh Farley is working on. Their basic points were:

  • The club is all about safety.
  • The county commissioners need to reign in Hauge and the Department of Community Development.
  • They asked why this had to be filed in Pierce County.
  • If the club is closed people will go shoot in the hills.
  • They questioned the qualifications of the prosecutor’s key witness.
  • They think this is a vendetta Russ Hauge is launching against Marcus Carter. (The two have faced off in court before.)

James Sommerhauser, a regular at these meetings and a fixture in the local Democratic party, said he belonged to the club for a couple of years. He thought it was safe, but said if it wasn’t he probably wouldn’t have recognized how. He said if the club didn’t get permits it was required to, then the club would be wrong in that case. He also pointed out that the prosecutor is a separately elected official, so county commissioner control over what the prosecutor does is almost non-existent. Josh Brown, county commissioner, said that the primary interaction between the commissioners and the prosecutor is over the prosecutor’s budget.

That does not necessarily mean the commissioners have to remain silent, but they’re not clear right now what authority they have to do or say anything.

Jim Coutu of Gig Harbor made a point that may speak to why some people who have no dog in the fight would have strong feelings about the suit. “Lawsuits come about because people cannot come to terms any other way,” he said. “This doesn’t feel like something that wanted to get resolved in a proper manner.” Where that matters is that the public knows of no problems between the county and the rifle club. And then there is a pretty big lawsuit.

You may recall there is also friction between the county and the city of Bremerton over the city’s financial participation, or lack of it, in the restructuring of the loan for the Harborside Condominium complex. We’ve been reporting it for months. It may result in a lawsuit, but because we have been reporting the conflict for some time that news won’t come out of the blue like the rifle club suit did.

The Central Kitsap Reporter had a story in May when neighbors of the range wanted the county to take action. It was kind of a “he said, she said” moment.

From a political standpoint, addressed in Farley’s story posted Saturday, there is so much to consider. I think Hauge was absolutely correct when he said the suit “could not have come at a worse time” politically.

In the Aug. 17 primary Hauge won what was a de facto straw poll by 12 percentage points. While that doesn’t officially fall into “landslide” territory, it is a pretty comfortable lead. Now this issue is out there, less than two months from election day. The only way this is a political win for him is if overwhelming evidence comes to light between now and the day ballot are mailed out. Courts do not move that quickly. And people mad at Hauge for taking this action will not wait until election day to mark their ballots.

What if it turns out that Hauge is right? I know many people will not consider that possibility, but I am not at liberty to rush to judgment here. I have not read his filing and even from what I little I have heard I have a lot of questions on both sides. But again, what if it turns out Hauge is right?

Would Republicans then still have cause to claim that this lawsuit is a “frivolous legal attack” and part of the “continual harassment?” Though the party’s statement doesn’t specifically name this most recent suit, in tone it seems pretty clear that the county Republican Party has already judged this case before the process plays out.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
old Time is still a-flying.
And this same flower that smiles today,
tomorrow will be dying.”
– Robert Herrick

More on Candidates’ Forum: 26th District Races

This is a follow up to a post I made yesterday, giving more details on a candidate forum hosted Monday by the Leagues of Women Voters of Kitsap County. Yesterday, we heard from 35th District candidates. Today, we’ll hear more from contenders for 26th District seats.

Remember, the whole forum will be broadcast on BKAT at 8 p.m. Sept. 16, 10 a.m. Sept. 17, 8 p.m. Sept. 23 and 7 p.m. Oct. 3. You can see video coverage of candidates in most races speaking to the Kitsap Sun’s editorial board at the Kitsap Sun’s Election Guide Web page.

26th District Representative Position 2
Incumbent Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, responded to a question about Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposed across the board cuts by describing a meeting he’d had in Seattle with government and health care representatives. The purpose of the meeting, he said, was to form a network of “hospitals, schools, faith-based organizations” and other community groups to fill in the ranks as the state reduces funding for childrens’ health care. This is the kind of approach that will be needed, Seaquist said, because legislators need to “downsize state government 20 percent.”
Seaquist then blasted fellow legislators for leaving the budget cut question up to the governor to decide. “The legislature should have gone back to work,” Seaquist said. “The legislature should have been down there. Her hands were tied.”
Doug Richards of Olalla, his Republican challenger, was not happy with the proposed across the board cuts. He said the legislature needs to look at “the big picture” and analyze why the state is operating in a deficit. He criticized what he described as Olympia’s dependence on federal stimulus funds and said leadership was lacking in the legislature. “When they were in session, they were basically playing Vegas, hoping the money will come in. … Politics as usual is not working down there. One time money is not sustainable. This has to change.”
On education funding, Seaquist said the state should implement a procedure similar to the BRAC commission, which evaluates Navy bases on their output and makes closures accordingly. Yes, schools need to be amply funded, Seaquist said, “but we’ve got to see output.”
Richards advocates giving local schools more control of state education funds. He advocates increased deregulation of schools.

26th District Representative Position 1
Incumbent Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, decried across the board cuts, saying, “I don’t believe that is the way you balance a budget.”
Angel said the legislature needs to define core services, and to demand more productivity and efficiency, starting with its own offices.
Angel referenced a study of state priorities done under former Gov. Gary Locke, but it’s “still sitting on a shelf in Olympia.”
“Some areas can’t take a massive hit,” said Angel, who is vocally opposed to unfunded mandates.
Sumner Schoenike, a Gig Harbor pediatrician and Democrat, also disagrees with the across-the-board approach, calling it an “abdication of duties.” “We are sent to Olympia to make difficult decisions, and that’s exactly what we must do,” he said. “We did not by chance end up in a budget deficit. This is a national issue, folks.”
Schoenike blamed much of the mess on “the profligate ways on Wall Street.”
He said legislators have to recognize they are dealing with an unprecedented situation and take a whole new approach.
The two candidates did not discuss health care at the forum, but on this topic, they are diametrically opposed. Schoenike is a strong supporter of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. Angel said she is alarmed by the potential for unfunded mandates the act implies. Her quote, from a Kitsap Sun Editorial Board meeting, “Our citizens are totally irate about this. This is a system, which, when citizens say this was shoved down our throat, it is.”

26th District Senate
Incumbent Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and challenger Marty McClendon didn’t find a lot to disagree about at the forum.
On the issue of collective bargaining for state employees, McClendon said that union leaders representing state employees need to recognize the increased burden for health care costs incurred by private sector employees. Union leaders should negotiate in good faith to bring state employee health care contributions more in line with the private sector, McClendon said.
Kilmer said he could see both sides of the issue.
“I do not think we should balance the budget on the backs of our state employees,” he said. “On the flip side, I don’t think our employees should be exempt from budget cuts. … I would rather see a 5 percent pay cut than a 100 percent pay cut.”
Both touted their qualifications for the job.
Kilmer stood on his record of fighting for higher education and ferry service, and keeping tolls down on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, reprising his frequently cited self-assessment in this regard as a “pitbull.” He said he would continue his advocacy on behalf of small business (he opposed a B&O tax increase and helped pass a law reducing regulatory paperwork, he said). “We should reduce the cost of doing business,” said Kilmer, who works with the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.
McClendon is a real estate broker and small business owner with a background in health care. He was able to raise himself up by his bootstraps, but he doesn’t see similar opportunities for his own children, which is why he’s running for office. “I’m not a politician. … I’m a common sense kind of a guy,” he said.

Correction: Derek Kilmer works with the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County. The incorrect board was named in an earlier version of this post.