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Eye On Olympia

Archive for October 2006

Marr defends management record, says year-old lawsuit claims are baseless…

Sorry to be late posting this, but…

State Senate candidate Chris Marr denies allegations that he and other managers at a local auto dealership ignored, for years, the sexual harassment of a saleswoman by male colleagues.

In a lawsuit filed last year, former Spokane Lincoln-Mercury saleswoman Dawn Fowler said that she was subjected to frequent harassment and discrimination by co-workers while selling cars at the dealership from 1997 to April 2005. At the time, Marr was part-owner, vice president and then president of the dealership.

After six months of legal skirmishing and arbitration, in which public access to documents is severely restricted, the company settled Fowler’s claim late last year for an undisclosed amount. The case was closed in January.

In court documents, Fowler said she repeatedly complained to managers but that they – including Marr – did nothing to stop it.

Not true, Marr said in interviews Friday.

“I would categorically deny that it was anything that was brought to the attention of managers,” he said.

As a manager and a business owner, he said, he’s always had zero tolerance for sexual harassment. He said he was dragged into the suit simply because he was upper management.

Read the story here.

Most devastating Washington campaign ad of the year?

A new website, authored by someone hiding behind a domain registration company’s privacy service, points to Rep. Geoff Simpson’s family-oriented campaign, particularly a recent family-oriented mailing, then compares it to the contents of Simpson’s legal separation file.

In an e-mail to us, Simpson, D-Kent, called the website cowardly and despicable. He said he and his wife of 23 years have reconciled and are working hard to keep the family together.

These attacks on our family — including our three children who now have been publicly exposed — are despicable.

I am disappointed that my opponent has chosen to attack my family instead of focusing on her qualifications for office and what she would do differently if elected. Attacking me on my votes or effectiveness in Olympia is one thing, but posting personal, private information on the web anonymously is not only cowardly, but also a sign of desperation.

A three-year-old vote is resurrected for an attack ad…

As the days count down to November’s election, Washington’s second-most-expensive state Senate race is turning more ferocious.

Since Friday, Spokane residents have been opening their mailboxes to find large postcards that maintain that Sen. Brad Benson “voted to cover up sex crimes against our children.”

The mailer – which features a photo of a hurt-looking girl clutching a teddy bear, as well as some Spokesman-Review headlines about alleged church and boys home sex abuse – focuses on a vote by Benson three years ago.

Benson, R-Spokane, called the mailing “a new low.”

“I guess when you’re desperate you dig deep and stretch things,” said a fellow senator, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, who voted the same way on the bill.

In 2003, Benson was one of 35 House lawmakers who voted against adding the clergy to the occupations required by law to report allegations of child abuse. The bill passed the House, only to die in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The new ad was sent out not by Benson’s Senate opponent, Democrat Chris Marr, but by the state Democratic Central Committee. Marr says he doesn’t condone the “sensational” format of the ad and wouldn’t have sent it out himself. But he says it accurately reflects how Benson voted.

“Some people may not like the piece, but I say let’s look at the legislation behind it,” Marr said. “Brad cannot deny that he voted against it.”

Click here for our story: more from Benson about why he voted no and comment from Marr and the Democrats about why they feel the vote is fair game.

Shut out…

If you watched last night’s mostly-staid “debate” in the Senate race, you saw three candidates.

But it turns out that a fourth was there, if only briefly.

While Sen. Maria Cantwell, GOP challenger Mike McGavick and Libertarian Bruce Guthrie staked out their positions in the KING-5 TV studio, Green Party candidate and former Black Panther Aaron Dixon was trying to get in and be heard as well.

Dixon, refused entry and subsequently arrested, called his exclusion from the statewide televised debate “a glaring example of how the two major parties work in cahoots with one another to continue their vise-like grip on our electoral system.”

Guthrie — a millionaire who was allowed to participate only afer a massive loan to his own campaign so he would meet the war-chest standard that organizers used to decide who to include — would likely have agreed. During the debate, Guthrie said that Dixon and independent candidate Robin Adair should have been included. The debate was organized by KING 5, the Seattle City Club and The Seattle Times.

“What are the Democrats, the Republicans and KING-5 afraid of?” Dixon said in a press release afterward. “Why don’t they fight for the inclusion of other political parties and progressive candidates so that we may broaden the debate?”

Dixon plans a press conference in Seattle this morning to talk about the arrest and on the “money-dominated state of American politics.”

Mailbox continues to trump ballot box…

In what even the state’s top election official called a “stunning” statistic, 93 percent of Washingtonians who cast a ballot in last month’s primary election voted by mail.

“Even in the counties maintaining polling locations, 82.8 percent of voters who participated in the primary cast their ballots by mail,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed.

At this point, 34 of Washington’s 39 counties conduct elections almost entirely by mail. (Why the “almost”? Because every county, under federal election law, must open at least one in-person polling site to accomodate disabled voters.)

The state’s two largest counties — King and Pierce — have about 41 percent of the state’s registered voters, according to Reed’s office. Both open poll sites. Yet even there, more than 80 percent of voters dropped off their ballots in mailboxes, rather than going to those poll sites.

“People like voting by mail,” said Reed. “Most importantly, they spread their ballots out across the kitchen table and really study the issues and candidates.”

Turnout, by the way, averaged 41 percent.

Blog posting, the long form: Interesting things from local legislative campaign-finance filings…

Yesterday brought another deadline for filing data to the Public Disclosure Commission, Washington’s campaign-finance agency.

We haven’t found any big revelations in our region’s races yet, but have come across a number of interesting tidbits about who’s donating to who.

Here they are, race by race:

District 6 race for state senate
-Democratic challenger Chris Marr ($286,000 so far) continues to raise money like the house is on fire, far outpacing Republican incumbent Brad Benson’s $148,000.
Among Marr’s recent donors: Tacoma’s “City of Destiny PAC” ($700), the Inland Northwest PAC ($700), Spokane city councilman Bob Apple ($25), and $350 from Harold Higgins, president of Big Daddy’s Casino.
Among Benson’s: The Service Employees’ International Union’s state council, the Far West Agribusiness Association, and InsurePAC, all of whom gave $700.

District 7 race for senate:
-Fundraising’s been slow lately ($5,045 total) for Democratic challenger Chris Zaferes, although progressive activist and tweezer company magnate/Cantwell campaign co-chair Dal LaMagna — a donor to several local Democratic campaigns — contributed $1,400 in August.
-Republican incumbent Bob Morton, on the other hand, is raking in the cash, much it from PACs. Recent donors include AT&T, Physicians EyePAC and Tesoro, all of whom gave the $700 max for this campaign cycle.

(For a map of legislative districts, click here.)

District 3 race for House:
-Republican challenger Laura Carder: $0 reported so far.
-Democratic incumbent Alex Wood, however, has an unusual distinction: no money at all from any individual. His entire $16,550 as of Sept. 18th is all PAC money, according to his campaign reports. Groups representing architects, lawyers, beer & wine wholesalers, the state Indian Gaming Association, truckers and auto dealers all gave the maximum $700. It’s good to be an incumbent, apparently.

District 4 race for state House:
-Democratic challenger Ed Foote — singlehandedly bringing civility back to politics by prefacing his donors’ names with “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” in his campaign reports — has raised only $2,260. Of that, $200 came from former congressional candidate Don Barbieri, $100 from current congressional candidate Peter Goldmark and his wife, and $700 from Dal LaMagna.
-Republican incumbent Lynn Schindler has $34,565. She also has relatively few individual donors. Recent contributors include the Holland America cruise line ($300), Architects PAC ($250), Wal-Mart ($700 and Tesoro ($500).

District 6 House race:
-Democrat Don Barlow has raised $29,975, including $200 from former House candidate Laurie Dolan (who landed very well indeed, now running Gov. Gregoire’s policy shop), $250 from the Squaxin Island Tribe, $100 from Spokane city councilman Bob Apple and $1,400 from Native American voters’ PAC INDN’s List.
-Republican incumbent John Serben, however, has $67,615, including a long list of contributions from corporate PACs: Glaxo Smith Kline, Premera Blue Cross, InsurePAC, Wal-Mart and Phillip Morris USA among them.

Another District 6 House race:-Democratic challenger and perennial candidate Barbara Lampert has raised $0, according to her campaign reports.
-Republican incumbent and relentless doorbeller John Ahern has $29,770, including recent donations from the state restaurant association ($700), insurer PEMCO ($150), and Wal-Mart ($700).

District 7 House race:
-Democratic challenger and college IT guy Jack Miller — who also prefaces every donor’s name with “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” — has $18,314. Among the donors, Colville’s Mary Selecky ($100), who also happens to be Washington’s Secretary of Health.
-Republican incumbent Bob Sump’s $32,825 war chest leans heavily toward PAC contributions. Among the recent ones: 7-Eleven, AT&T, Tesoro and Wal-Mart.

District 9 House race: (open seat)
-Fundraising appears to have slowed for Democrat Caitlin Ross, who’s running on a thin $4,475 budget. But she’ll probably get political points for her recent ad — showing a beaming Ross standing in a sun-drenched Palouse field — in Wheat Life magazine. Donors include Spokane legislative candidate Chris Marr ($250), Don Barbieri ($500), Seattle talk-show host (and her Dad) Dave Ross ($700) and yes, Dal LaMagna ($1,400).
-Republican candidate Steve Hailey slowed his fundraising considerably since the four-way GOP primary. He’s raised $28,057 this year, although he spent most of that on the primary. He’s presumably banking on the fact that the farm-belt Ninth hasn’t sent a Democrat to the state House since the 1930s.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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