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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

O’Quinn campaign clarifies statements on polling data

No surveys specifically showed candidate in lead

The campaign of Republican legislative candidate Shelly O’Quinn, which claimed in e-mails to GOP officials that polls showed her “blowing away the competition,” acknowledged Thursday that no such specific polling exists.

The revelation came after a complaint was filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission, questioning why O’Quinn’s campaign hadn’t listed polling expenses even though O’Quinn’s campaign manager had boasted about poll data in e-mails. Polling expenses must be reported under state law.

Thomas Jarrard, O’Quinn’s campaign manager, said in an interview Thursday his e-mails were accurate even though the claims were based on more generic polling that did not mention O’Quinn or her opponents, former state Rep. John Ahern or incumbent Rep. John Driscoll, by name.

“That e-mail is referring to polling that says conservative candidates are strong candidates in the 2010 election,” Jarrard said. “That is Shelly O’Quinn.”

The primary election for the 6th Legislative District House seat held by Driscoll has been marked by intense bitterness between the Republican campaigns. O’Quinn has been fighting back against Ahern supporters who say she isn’t conservative enough.

Late last month, Chuck Skirko Jr., president of the Spokane County Young Republicans, filed the complaint, which included copies of two e-mails from Jarrard. “Recent polling data shows that Shelly O’Quinn is blowing the competition away,” one of Jarrard’s e-mails from July 14 said. A message sent June 23 said, “Recent polling is also showing that Shelly is beating the competition,” according to a copy attached to Skirko’s complaint.

Spokane County Republican Party Chairwoman Cindy Zapotocky confirmed that Jarrard sent e-mails touting polling to party officials.

“I asked him to show us (the poll), and he didn’t do it,” Zapotocky said. The party has endorsed Ahern.

A written response from the O’Quinn campaign to an inquiry about the PDC complaint said “the polling referred to is not the type that requires campaign expenditure or reporting.

“The accusations made by John Ahern’s volunteer that this campaign has violated the rules of the Public Disclosure Commission are false and are an improper attempt to create a headline immediately prior to the close of the primary,” the statement said.

Skirko said Thursday he’s glad Jarrard provided more explanation about the polling.

“Perhaps he should publicly admit that he was misleading, at the least, to the Spokane County Republican Party board members and all of those who frequently receive his e-mails,” said Skirko, who said he filed the complaint without informing Ahern’s campaign.

Meanwhile, O’Quinn’s campaign alleges that Ahern’s campaign has distributed campaign fliers referring to Ahern as the incumbent state representative. State election law bars candidates from implying they are incumbents unless they are. Jarrard provided a copy of a brochure that says “re-elect John Ahern” that Jarrard said was distributed on the South Hill.

“John Ahern’s campaign has attempted to turn this primary into an intra-party mudslinging exercise and this campaign steadfastly refuses to participate,” said the statement from O’Quinn’s campaign.

Reached Thursday evening, Ahern said he was unaware the PDC complaint had been filed. His campaign has not used material that says “re-elect,” but if some were distributed, they may have been passed out by other Republicans campaigning for precinct committee officer who had material left from his 2008 campaign, Ahern said.

“I think we’ve conducted our campaign at a high level,” Ahern said. “I think I’ve done that. I think (O’Quinn has) done it, too.”

Ahern, a Republican, is running against O’Quinn and Democrat Driscoll for the seat he held until Driscoll edged him out in an election two years ago.

The top two candidates in Tuesday’s primary will advance.