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French backs off on letters

Candidate offered prewritten opinion pieces to supporter

Candidate Al French says he was just trying to be helpful when he wrote letters to the editor for his supporters to sign and send.

“I have several written and you can have your pick,” French told Robin Sparrow on Friday on his personal Facebook page. “I have others (supporters) that are submitting, too. Or you can write your own if you like.”

The Spokane County commissioner candidate asked Sparrow to submit one of his letters when she suggested he put some signs on buildings near Interstate 90.

“That’s just a courtesy that we do for some of our supporters,” French said when asked about the Facebook exchange. “We just provided some help for them.”

He said he didn’t realize The Spokesman-Review’s policy of printing no more than one “original letter” a month from any writer meant candidates aren’t supposed to use stand-ins to pat themselves on the back.

“I did have a couple of letters that are basically suggestions,” French said. “I didn’t know you had a policy against it or I never would have posted it on Facebook. I like to think I’m a little smarter than that.”

The two-term Spokane city councilman said this was the first time he had asked a supporter to sign a letter he wrote – and he won’t do that again.

In a private e-mail five minutes after French’s Facebook post, Sparrow asked French for “a couple of letter ideas” but indicated she would compose her own message.

“I wanted to write my own letter, but I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to write about,” Sparrow said Wednesday in an interview. “I was thinking more like when somebody asks you to write a letter of reference for them.”

Sparrow said she hasn’t had time to write the letter yet, but French is a family friend she’s pleased to recommend.

Sparrow works with French’s wife, and the two families belong to the same motorcycle club.

“I think he’s a great guy,” Sparrow said.

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