Voters should remain skeptical of far-fetched campaign claims leading up to the Aug. 7 primary elections — especially in swing districts like the 26th Legislative District, where misinformation is already getting out of hand.
The Aug. 7 primary election is fast approaching, meaning over-the-top attack ads are once again invading mailboxes and TV screens across the state.
As always, voters should take a skeptical view of these hit pieces, particularly in hard-fought swing districts where campaign claims often veer furthest from the truth.
Just look at what’s happening in the 26th Legislative District, a politically moderate swath of Pierce and Kitsap counties that includes Gig Harbor, Bremerton and Port Orchard. There, one mailer sponsored by a Republican-backed political-action committee is targeting an inspiring local resident — a reformed addict turned lawyer — as part of a distasteful attack on Democratic candidate Emily Randall. Randall, of Bremerton, is running against Republican Marty McClendon and independent Bill Scheidler to succeed retiring state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.
Meanwhile in the same district, Republican candidate Randy Boss is trying to smear incumbent state Rep. Michelle Caldier, another Port Orchard Republican, by fixating on a dismissed ethics complaint that a state board has already deemed unfounded.
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The ad against Randall in particular has drawn widespread condemnation — including from Republicans — for how it names and misrepresents Bremerton lawyer Tarra Simmons, who isn’t running for office. Simmons, a former drug addict who previously spent time in prison, has since gotten sober and graduated magna cum laude from Seattle University’s law school. She successfully petitioned the state Supreme Court last year to let her take the bar exam, allowing her to become sworn in as a lawyer last month.
But the recent third-party mailer uses Randall’s social-media support of Simmons to attack the Democratic candidate as “too soft on crime,” unfairly disparaging Simmons in the process. Ignoring Simmons’ six years of sobriety and successes, the mailer calls her a “drug addicted ex-con who was denied admission to the Washington State Bar Association due to multiple felony convictions.”
Yet Simmons is an active member of the bar. The ad ignores the high court’s ruling in Simmons’ case, which spoke of the power of redemption. “We affirm this court’s long history of recognizing that one’s past does not dictate one’s future,” wrote Justice Mary Yu.
Simmons is a shining example of that principle — not a reason, by any stretch, to think ill of Randall.
The political-action committee that paid for the ad is named WA Forward and has ties to state Senate Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and GOP Sen. John Braun, both listed as officers of WA Forward, owe Simmons an apology and should ensure the group doesn’t bankroll similar attacks again. Neither responded to a request for comment.
In Caldier’s race, voters should also ignore an inflammatory allegation flung at her by Boss’ campaign and others: that she violated ethics rules by steering money to her fiancé’s organization, shortchanging kids with disabilities in the process. The state’s Legislative Ethics Board recently dismissed that claim, saying neither Caldier nor her fiancé benefited financially by her submitting a capital budget request on behalf of The Arc of the Peninsulas, a nonprofit that her fiancé leads as CEO.
The $80,555 capital appropriation broke no rules, the board said. It will in fact go toward upgrading facilities that serve children with disabilities.
Still, another third-party group has run a video ad repeating the same unfounded claim against Caldier.
These won’t be the last PAC-backed alternative facts attempting to sway voters between now and the November general election.
Voters should steel themselves against lies and half-truths by doing their own research, so they won’t be fooled.