Voters should be wary of attack ads in the 45th District Senate race. Ads paint Democrat Manka Dhingra as soft on crime and Republican Jinyoung Englund as a major Trump supporter. Don’t believe them.
Third-party ads attacking the candidates running for the 45th Legislative District Senate seat are misleading. Nothing new here, unfortunately. The ferocity of spin in tight campaigns often leaves voters with election vertigo.
The 45th District race is no exception, especially with the result either keeping the Senate in Republican hands or tipping it to Democrats, giving that party a lock on both legislative houses and the governor’s mansion.
Especially disappointing are the downright dishonest ads that claim candidate Manka Dhingra, a King County senior deputy prosecutor, is “not serious about crime” based on 16-year-old plea deals the Democrat didn’t even negotiate.
Voters should ignore these wildly misleading ads that cast aspersions not only on Dhingra but on the whole of the county prosecutor’s office.
“They’re lying, and I guess it’s OK to lie in politics. But it’s not what happened,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Dhingra’s boss and a longtime Republican.
Campaign misbehavior is bipartisan. An independent expenditure ad by the left-leaning Eastside Leadership Council accuses Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund of making the boogey-man-raising statement that President Donald Trump is “magnificent” in 2015. In fact, she said he was “magnificent as an entertainer” — and questioned whether he would represent the United States well as president.
This editorial board strongly endorsed Englund, whose election would continue Republican control of the state Senate and ensure political balance in the Legislature.
Concerns about fairness and informing voters without deception transcend any particular race.
As for the soft-on-crime claims made against Dhingra, they are easy to refute. Paid for by Working Families, a group backed entirely by Senate Republicans’ soft money PAC, one of the TV ads says Dhingra recommended the “minimum sentence” for a “violent drug dealer” who “later killed a victim with three bullets to the head.”
But court records show the man had no history of violent crime at the time of the plea deal, which was made seven years before the murder. And that deal was negotiated not by Dhingra but by a more senior prosecuting attorney. She was only filling in at a sentencing hearing.
Another ad claims Dhingra’s “shockingly light sentences led to more crime,” citing a 2001 case of a drug dealer who was rearrested after being “let off.” The ad omits that the man was sentenced to more than three years in prison, plus three additional years of community supervision and treatment, for selling $20 worth of crack cocaine.
That punishment would be incredibly harsh by today’s standards, though it was routine back then, Satterberg said. He said Dhingra, who joined the prosecutor’s office in 2000, didn’t negotiate the plea deal in that drug case, either.
Another one of Working Families’ TV ads crosses the line in a different way, evoking outdated and offensive stereotypes about people of color. It likens Dhingra, who emigrated from India at age 13, and her husband, who is Sikh and wears a turban, to a pair of gypsy fortunetellers, using images of smoke and red curtains to imply they’re playing magic tricks on the electorate.
Voters should reject these smear tactics. Already, independent groups like Working Families and the Eastside Leadership Council — which don’t coordinate with candidates — wield too much influence. This year, such groups have poured more than $4 million into this high-stakes Senate election.
Constituents in the 45th District should turn a blind eye to this kind of manipulation and vote based on policy issues, rather than lies pushed by third parties.