King County Councilmember Jane Hague's arrest on suspicion of drunken driving two days before she filed for re-election is clearly no way...
King County Councilmember Jane Hague’s arrest on suspicion of drunken driving two days before she filed for re-election is clearly no way to energize a campaign.
Nor was the Eastside Republican’s silence about the incident for the next 2-½ months a textbook example of how to manage public relations over an embarrassing incident.
Still, Hague may win yet another easy electoral victory, at least in part because Democrats failed to recruit a first-tier candidate to run against her, political observers say.
Hague, who was first elected to the Metropolitan King County Council in 1993 and re-elected three times without opposition, said in a statement Wednesday, “I am very sorry that this incident occurred and I take matters of this sort very seriously.
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“I have always tried to conduct myself in a responsible manner and I am proud of the service I have given to this community over the past 20 years. While there are many questionable aspects to these charges, I respect the court and its processes and under the advice of my attorney I am unable to make any further statements about my case. Like any citizen, I just hope to be treated fairly.”
The statement was a reaction to news reports Tuesday that she had been charged with driving under the influence and that she allegedly made rude and vulgar remarks to a sheriff’s deputy and state troopers.
Hague, who was arrested June 2 under her married name of Jane Hague Springman, has pleaded not guilty.
Public-relations consultants generally urge public officials in trouble to go public promptly with their own account of events so they have some control over the story.
Hague’s decision to stay quiet about her arrest was consistent with her lawyer’s advice that she not discuss the case, said her campaign consultant, Brett Bader.
“Usually, in situations like this, what works best for the public official is to quickly acknowledge the situation, to take steps to get help if that seems appropriate, and to demonstrate some degree of contrition and remorse for what they did,” said John Arthur Wilson, a public-affairs consultant and former chief of staff to County Executive Ron Sims. “The worst thing is to kind of hide it or deny it or think that you’re somehow invincible.”
Former County Councilmember and former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance agreed: “I think it’s best to get it out on your own terms, apologize, tell the truth. Then I think voters will forgive.”
Mike McGavick, the Republican who challenged U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell last year, attempted to do that when he acknowledged a 1993 drunken-driving arrest. But his confession and apology backfired — and he lost the election — after subsequent news stories reported embarrassing details he hadn’t mentioned.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge, by contrast, made a heartfelt apology — “There are not words to describe how deeply remorseful I am. I thank God no one was hurt” — after she sideswiped a parked pickup in a drunken-driving incident in 2003. She acknowledged having a problem with alcohol and agreed to undergo treatment under a deferred-prosecution deal. She stepped down from the court four years later, before facing re-election.
If Hague’s initial silence fell short of the gold standard for crisis management, it may not jeopardize her re-election prospects.
Richard Pope, a perennial candidate and a Republican-turned-Democrat, trounced the Democratic Party recruit, write-in candidate Brad Larssen, for the Democratic District 6 nomination.
Democrats are showing no sign of rallying around Pope, who self-funded his $1,281 primary campaign while Hague raised $240,706.
Some Democrats are saying privately they would rather see Hague re-elected than put Pope, a Bellevue attorney, in office.
That leaves Democrats one option other than despair: recruiting a political powerhouse to run as a write-in against both Hague and Pope. County Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Sheary said the party’s central committee will consider that possibility.
Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said Larssen’s defeat is a reminder that write-in campaigns are dicey at best. For now, Pelz is trying to use Hague’s legal problem to boost the prospects of Democrat Bill Sherman in his race against Republican Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.
“My first question,” Pelz said, “is what did Dan Satterberg know and when did he know it? … His staff had charges filed against a Republican member of the King County Council for maybe 10 weeks and didn’t bother to inform the public. Was this a cover-up or was this incompetence?”
Several deputy prosecutors in the Redmond office said they didn’t recognize Jane Hague Springman as a council member. The county prosecutor has turned the case over to Redmond city prosecutors, citing a possible conflict of interest.
Staff reporter Peyton Whitely contributed to this report. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com