The campaign mailers recently sent out in at least two Washington's state legislative districts look like a pitch to Democratic voters to elect a progressive candidate. But they come from a conservative political action committee, and ask voters to write-in alternative candidates in close races that will help determine the margins of power in Olympia.
A campaign mailer recently sent out in Washington’s 19th Legislative District has all the hallmarks of a Democratic pitch. It bears the emblems of unions and the left-leaning advocacy group Fuse Washington, and calls on voters to embrace the “progressive” candidate.
But the mailer, sent by a political action committee called Conscience of the Progressives, doesn’t urge voters to elect Erin Frasier, the Democrat running against Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.
Instead, it urges voters to write-in their support for Teresa Purcell — the Democrat who ran and lost against Walsh two years ago.
As it turns out, Conscience of the Progressives is run and funded by conservative advocates and donors. And the mailers drew a swift rebuke Friday from Democrats and some of those listed on the campaign flier.
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“My phone just started blowing up about half an hour ago, and I’m horrified,” Purcell said Friday afternoon. “I sent out a Facebook post yesterday that full-throatedly endorsed Erin Fraiser.”
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, and chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, called the advertisement “pretty blatant voter suppression.”
The 19th District is one of the most closely watched state House races. In the August primaries, Walsh edged out Frasier by just 136 votes.
A similar mailer was sent to voters in the Spokane area’s 6th Legislative District, where Republican Jeff Holy beat Democrat Jessa Lewis by about 5 percentage points in the August primary. Instead of voting for Lewis, the mailer urges voters to write in Joe Pakootas, a Democrat who in 2016 ran for U.S. Congress.
Campaign filings show another mailer from Conscience of the Progressives was sent in the 26th Legislative District to oppose Democrat Connie FitzPatrick, who is running against Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor. The Seattle Times couldn’t determine Friday what that mailer said.
Conscience of the Progressives is led by Glen Morgan and funded almost completely by another independent committee called Send A Message, according to campaign-disclosure records.
Morgan in recent years has made a name for himself by filing nearly 400 complaints to the state Public Disclosure Commission against Democratic candidates and elected officials. He’s filed similar complaints with the state Attorney General’s Office.
Morgan on Friday said he sent the mailers because he believes Democrats didn’t nominate candidates who were as progressive as that party wants to be, and he wanted to highlight that. But he acknowledged he wants to see Republican Walsh win on Nov. 6.
“If I have the choice, I’m going to vote for the more conservative person,” Morgan said.
Fuse Washington and the Washington State Labor Council, whose names are listed on the mailers, are speaking with attorneys to see what, if any, recourse they could take against Morgan or the PAC, according to representatives for both groups. Both organizations this year have endorsed Frasier and Lewis.
Conscience of the Progressives is largely funded by another PAC, whose main donor is Peter Zieve, the aerospace entrepreneur who gave $1 million to support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign and drew scrutiny for his expression of anti-Muslim sentiments.
Zieve didn’t return an email and call Friday afternoon seeking comment.
In the August primaries, around 20 Republican incumbents or candidates running for open seats currently held by the GOP trailed Democrats in state Legislature races. If those results in November hold up, Democrats could win the largest majorities in a decade.