Tag Archives: Larry Seaquist

Two local House races watched by state for potential recount

The Washington Secretary of State’s office sent out notice it is tracking four elections for possible automatic recount. Two of them are local races, the House contest between Democrat Larry Seaquist and Republican Michelle Caldier in the 26th District. Seaquist is the incumbent, but late Tuesday Caldier led by 78 votes.

Democratic incumbent Kathy Haigh led Republican Dan Griffey in a 35th District House race by 223 votes.

To generate an automatic recount the margin must be less than 2,000 votes and less than a half-percentage point. The Seaquist-Caldier race fits well within than range. Caldier leads Seaquist with a 0.26 percentage point margin. The contest in the 35th does not, with Haigh holding a 0.68 percentage point edge.

The other races the state is watching is Initiative 1351 and a state House race in the 28th District. They are also keeping tabs on a race in the 17th and 44th District.

In county races the prosecutor contest is worth watching as well. Democrat Russ Hauge leads Republican Tina Robinson by 0.4 percentage points.

A manual recount could be ordered if the margin is any less than a 0.25 percentage point.

What to watch, then, will be how the late votes swing the contests. In the early years of all-mail-in voting late ballots favored Republicans decidedly. Those results have come close to evening out in the most recent years, however, and Kitsap Democrats expressed confidence Tuesday night that late votes will go their way. We’ll know a lot more around 5 p.m. when the county and state release the first day’s results of late-ballot counting.

LD 26-2 puts on a side show, unless this is the main event we can expect from here on out

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?

Fearing an October surprise, we discover a candidate lives here

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.

 

Linking teacher pay to legislator pay to boost science instruction and overall teacher pay – updated

A bill that would link elementary school science teacher pay to what Washington legislators earn got a Tweet from the News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader and a short mention in Crosscut, but nothing more. Why? One reason is because there is no way the bill will pass, and the bill’s author acknowledges as much.

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, introduced House Bill 2655, “Setting the salaries for members of the legislature,” on Jan. 23. The bill would require the Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials to set legislator pay at the same level as the “average elementary school science teacher.”

Right away, there is one problem with the language of the bill. Technically there is no such thing as an “elementary school science teacher.” Patty Glaser, Bremerton School District spokeswoman, said elementary school teachers certify as generalists. There is another issue that Central Kitsap School District spokesman David Beil pointed out, that because of declining enrollment the district hasn’t been hiring any teachers in any discipline.

All that aside, Seaquist introduced the bill to make a point. He said there has been an impetus to “start kids sooner in science.” So he is looking at, for example, a Central Washington University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education, but then a master’s degree in something like biology, as a good fit in an elementary school. “We want to go in the direction of highly qualified technical teachers, bringing real science to schools,” he said. “We all know we want to go there.”

One problem, he said, is the pay the state and local districts offer teachers.

The average pay for a fresh-out-of college teacher with just a bachelor’s degree is $34,188, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Add that master’s degree and the average starting pay jumps to $41,716. That’s not far from what legislators receive, $42,106 for what is technically a part-time job. But Seaquist points out that a legislator who lives more than 35 miles away from the capitol is also entitled to a $90 day per diem to handle living-away-from-home expenses.

Seaquist makes the additional point that even the near $42,000 starting teachers with master’s degree make does not compare with what they would make in the private sector. I used an automated salary calculator on payscale.com to come up with an estimate that a brand new research scientist would be paid $55,000 annually right out of college. That same program estimated the pay would be around $80,000 after five years.

When I first talked to Seaquist he was clear his bill wouldn’t pass, but that it would get a hearing. And that’s what he wants most, for legislators to be compelled to talk about teachers’ salaries.

“What I’m trying to do is add to the weight of the argument that we have to be fully funding our schools, as the court says,” Seaquist said. “I’m really concerned that the Legislature is not standing up to fully respond to the court’s order.”

That order comes from the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which declared that the state was not fully funding education as it was constitutionally required to do. The court gave the Legislature until 2018 to reach full funding and in mid-January determined that the Legislature’s first attempt to get there in 2013 was too small a step.

Seaquist would not limit the pay discussion to science teachers, but did so in this bill to illustrate how people with skills that are in high demand are underpaid in Washington schools. “I’m using the example of these high-demand, much-in-need teachers to point out that all of our teachers are underpaid,” he said.

UPDATE: Seaquist wrote to say he has asked the committee chairman to not schedule a hearing on the bill. He said he was mindful of the “rapidly growing workload” of the committee and asked it to be pulled.

Nonetheless, there are still two points he would make, and I’ll quote, “… a) our teachers are underpaid and b) we are having a hard time recruiting elementary school teachers with subject matter expertise, especially in the science and math areas. Although the school district gave you the technical answer “we don’t have elementary science teachers” the fact is that we are rapidly moving to STEM education in our elementary schools and these hands-on, research Master’s degree teachers are very valuable. I visited last summer at CWU’s ed school where they are developing new approaches to developing these teachers.”

So while the current reality is that elementary school teachers are generalists, Seaquist believes there will be a call for more elementary school teachers with a science background of some kind. This bill was designed to get legislators discussing that, even if he never expected it to pass.

And to answer one question, this is not the first time I’ve seen a legislator propose a bill knowing full well it would not pass. Talking about things is some of what legislators are paid to do. A bill can be akin to an idea in a brainstorming session, something that doesn’t get accepted on its face, but can be the spark for the ultimate solution.

Kitsap legislators (re)assume leadership posts.

Kitsap legislators have received their leadership assignments for what’s supposed to be the short legislative session that began this week.

State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, was named Senate Democratic floor leader. According to a Senate Democrats statement the floor leader’s role is to “help manage the action on the Senate floor, and to work across the aisle to ensure the debate runs smoothly. The floor leader is also the caucus point person on parliamentary procedure.” Rolfes is also the assistant ranking member on the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

Potlatch state Sen. Tim Sheldon, one of two Democrats in the Senate Majority Coalition, returns as Senate president pro tempore, which means he runs the Senate floor from up front, wielding the big gavel whenever Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is not there. Sheldon is also vice chairman of two committees, Rules and Energy, Environment & Telecommunications.

New Sen. Jan Angel, elected in November, is vice chairwoman of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee.

Three Democrats in the House will chair committees this session. State Rep. Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo chairs the Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee. Kathy Haigh of Shelton is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Gig Harbor’s Larry Seaquist will chair the Higher Education Committee. Bainbridge Island’s Drew Hansen is vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Republican Drew MacEwen of Union is the assistant ranking minority member on two committees, the Capital Budget Committee and the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

GET good to go, says Seaquist

It’s a bad year all around for the state’s guaranteed tuition savings program, as Thursday’s story points out. But state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, thinks he has the votes on moves that would save the program for the long term.

The first piece of bad news is high college tuition has elevated the price for college units parents can buy now to save for their children’s future college education cost. The second is that some with a philosophical problem with the Guaranteed Education Tuition program generally have greater power this legislative session and would love o see the program killed.

Seaquist, speaking by phone from Olympia following a committee hearing that spent 75 minutes discussing the program, thinks the philosophical challenges come for two reasons. Some are questioning whether the program pencils. The second reason comes because there are “some people who question, ‘Is this something the government ought to be doing?'”

On the first question Seaquist said he thinks what he heard Thursday should quiet any notion that program is financially troubled. As an earlier story pointed out, the program has liabilities $631 million greater than assets. The Legislature would have to come up with that money only if every person enrolled in GET decided to go to college now. That means everyone from high schoolers on down to babies.

Jim McIntire, state treasurer, said actuarial models reveal a well funded program. It’s not 100 percent, where the state would like to be. But being at 100 percent is rare, he said.

The state actuary estimates there is only a 0.6 percent chance the state would have to pay out of the general fund to cover liabilities in the GET program. This brings up an important point. The state administers the program, but it’s funded by people participating.

McIntire said the fixes needed for the program have already been put in place. The threats, other than a Legislature and governor agreeing that the program should be discontinued, are ongoing tuition hikes and implementation of a differential tuition program.

Seaquist has a proposal to get higher education funding back to a 50/50 split between tuition and state contribution. He also wants to kill off differential tuition, which would allow colleges to charge more for classes that cost more. For example, a chemistry class might cost more than a journalism class. GET investment rates are based on the cost to attend the most expensive state university in the state, either UW or WSU. If the universities started charging more for different classes, the effect would be “catastrophic” to GET, McIntire said.

So Seaquist has a bill to kill off differential tuition. Instead, he favors financial incentives outside of tuition rates for students taking classes in fields the state would like to see filled. He said Thursday he thinks he has the votes. He’s not promising, but he is optimistic.

“If we do the basic job of no tuition increase and we cancel the differential tuition feature, we’ve got a solid program,” Seaquist said. “So to me the GET controversy is over.”

Democrat makes bid for Angel’s seat

A Gig Harbor teacher announced she is running for the Legislature in the 26th District and will challenge Jan Angel for her seat. Karin Ashabraner, a Democrat who teaches U.S. History to 8th graders, made the announcement Wednesday.

The Position Two race is expected to be a rematch between Larry Seaquist, the Democratic incumbent, and Doug Richards, a South Kitsap fire captain.

Ashabraner’s press release follows.

Continue reading

Seaquist Richards to make another run for 26th District representative seat

Note: My apologies to both Doug Richards and Larry Seaquist. The headline on an earlier version of this blog post was inaccurate (see above).

Doug Richards, a battalion chief with South Kitsap Fire and Rescue, announced Thursday he will run in 2012 for the 26th Legislative District seat held by Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor.
Richards, an Olalla resident, ran against Seaquist in 2010, earning 47 percent of the vote to Seaquist’s 53 percent.
“I was honored to receive so much support and help during the last election cycle that saw us come within 2,400 votes of a victory,” Richards said.
He vowed to be a strong advocate for jobs, education and fiscal discipline.
Seaquist, now in his third term, has not indicated his intentions for the 2012 election announced in January he will run for re-election.
The 26th District takes in parts of north Pierce County, including Gig Harbor, and south-central Kitsap County, including Port Orchard and parts of Bremerton. Other legislators representing the district are Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, and Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor.

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.

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

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.

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.

Going to the Candidates’ Debate

This evening, I’ll be covering a candidates’ forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap County from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Norm Dicks Government Center, featuring candidates for house and senate races in the 26th and 35th Legislative Districts.

Post questions you’d like to ask the candidates, and I’ll see what I can do.

Visits the Kitsap Sun’s Election Guide for video coverage of editorial board interviews with candidates in most of these races.

At today’s forum:
26th Legislative District:
Senate – Derek Kilmer & Marty McClendon
Rep. Pos. 1 – Jan Angel and Sumner Schoenike
Rep. Pos. 2 – Doug Richards and Larry Seaquist

35th Legislative District:
Senate – Tim Sheldon and Nancy Williams
Rep. Pos. 1 – Daniel Griffey and Kathy Haigh
Rep. Pos. 2 – Fred Finn and Linda Simpson

Seaquist and Richards’ Service Records

Later this evening, the Kitsap Sun will post a story about 26th Legislative District candidate Doug Richards’ rebuttal to critics of his campaign materials. As you may have already noticed, Richards is heading ‘em off at the pass by having posted on July 14 disclosure of a domestic violence charge he incurred in 1989 in an incident involving his wife, Whitney. The charge was dismissed.

Richards’ service record has also come under question from another quarter. As part of my research, I asked him for a copy of his Navy discharge papers, which he willingly provided to me. I gave his opponent Larry Seaquist, a Navy veteran with a 32-year career, the same opportunity.

***The service documents have been removed temporarily to remove personal information that should not have been made public. They will be reposted Monday Aug. 9. ***

Aug. 12: The documents have been reposted below. Apologies for my tardiness. Chris Henry, reporter

richardsDD214

Seaquist DD214