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OLYMPIA — A policy adviser for Rob McKenna's gubernatorial campaign resigned today after apologizing for making derogatory remarks about Asians and the elderly on the Internet.
Kathlyn Ehls submitted her resignation, which campaign manager Randy Pepples said in a press release he accepted after she met with leaders of the campaign's Asian American Coalition. “It was important for her to thoroughly understand their feelings and to apologize to them for her comments,” he said.
In comments posted on Twitter several months before she joined the campaign, Ehls wrote Asians should “learn English” and that senior citizens who take too long to cross the street in front of her car should “get a wheelchair.” (For an earlier post on this, click here.)
Ehls' termination was at the top of a list for a “true mea culpa” that a group describing itself “Concernd Asian Pacific Islanders” was demanding as it announced plans to protest outside McKenna's headquarters today. Other items on the list included “not wage war on unions”, support for same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act and a jobs plan that doesn't sacrifice the envirobnment, quality of life but provides wages that meet “basic needs” for families.
Five Asian-American legislators — all Democrats — also called for her termination: “One tweet reveals a callous insensitivity toward the multiple challenges faced by non-native English speaking immigrants and refugees. As long-time champions of English Language Learning (ELL) opportunities and initiatives, we call on both Mr. McKenna and Mr. Inslee to declare their commitment to full funding for ELL programs as well as for other immigrant and refugee integration programs that assist in the transition to life in America.”
The campaign for Initiative 502, which would legalize some marijuana use, announced three “name” supporters Tuesday.
State Sen. Lisa Brown. Spokane Council President Ben Stuckart. The Rev. Happy Watkins.
Brown and Stuckart aren't big surprises, considering they've supported medical marijuana measures in the past. I-502 is a step beyond that, to decriminalizing small amounts of mairjuana for personal use, but it's not a big step. Brown said the taxes from legalized marijuana would help health care and drug prevention programs, and Stuckart said the city's policing resources could be better spent on more serious problems.
Watkins, however, is the campaign's “get.” In the announcement, he said he was looking at it from a community perspective. “When young adults are arrested and charged for marijuana possession, they are shamed, turned into second-class citizens and face long-term economic hardship,” he said in the press release announcing the endorsement.
A spokeswoman for the campaign said I-502 is lining up support in what she called “the faith community”, particularly among African-American ministers because the minority community may feel a bigger impact of the war on drugs. They announced support from three Seattle-area ministers last month.
OLYMPIA — All of the “new media” opportunities for candidates in their staffs have a downside, the Rob McKenna campaign discovered this week. There are now more ways to do something stupid, and get caught at it, and have it come back months later to bite you in the posterior.
So it was that Kathlyn Ehl, a policy staffer for the Republican gubernatorial candidate's campaign, had to apologize Monday for sending out Tweets that disparaged Asians and seniors, before she was on the McKenna staff.
Seattle area blogs like Slog and Publicola reported that Ehls had tweeted in January that Asians should “shut up and speak English” and in November that anyone so old that it takes an entire light to cross the street should “GET A WHEELCHAIR”. Not good for a campaign that would like to get votes from one of the state's largest minority communities or the state's most dependable voting block.
By 5 p.m., McKenna had issued an apology. Unlike some political apologies, it didn't include a series of equivocations:
“The tweets sent by a member of my campaign staff, Kathlyn Ehl, which were reported today were offensive and inappropriate. I am glad to see that she has apologized for her actions.
The fact that she made the comments before joining my campaign does not make them any less hurtful to Asian Americans and the elderly. They were insensitive and wrong regardless of their context.
She has done the right thing by apologizing. I am hopeful that she has learned a humbling lesson that will give her greater perspective about having charity in her heart when considering the challenges faced by others.”