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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Union’s donation questioned

County clerk challenger’s calls hint at quid pro quo

Michael Baumgartner mailer
Michael Baumgartner mailer

A Democratic candidate for Spokane County clerk took the unusual step this week of questioning her opponent’s acceptance of a union campaign contribution.

In a recorded call received by many voters, the campaign of Mary Wissink gives the cellphone number of her Republican opponent, incumbent Tim Fitzgerald, and encourages people to call him “and ask him what he promised the unions.”

The phone call, which was voiced by Ron Wright, a retired police detective, stresses that incumbent Republican Clerk Tim Fitzgerald received a campaign contribution from a union “that has spent thousands to defeat Republicans,” including state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The union, which is unnamed in the call, is the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, which represents most Spokane County employees including those in the clerk’s office. It gave $950 to Fitzgerald’s campaign.

Asked about the message on Friday, Wissink mentioned issues well outside the reach of a county clerk.

“That union only supports candidates who support Obamacare,” she said.

Gordon Smith, staff representative of the council, said the union was not interested in Fitzgerald’s stance on the Affordable Care Act.

“The reason he got this endorsement is that the employees really like him,” Smith said. “He came in as a stranger and really has left an impression that he knows what he’s doing.”

Shannon Tritt, a processing clerk in the county clerk’s office who served as the union shop steward until earlier this month, said she does not know Fitzgerald’s position on Obamacare. Nor was he asked about issues unrelated to being county clerk.

Instead, Tritt said, the union backed him because he’s improved morale and has been a great leader.

“The office hasn’t been better run – ever,” she said.

Wissink said she’s a strong supporter of unions. She received a $300 campaign contribution from a different union, the Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

“If Tim Fitzgerald is a proud union supporter, we are witnessing one of the rarest political moments in that a Republican is standing up for the union cause.”

She said the phone call was not negative, nor was it questioning unions who contribute to campaigns.

“It’s just a question,” she said.

Zombie politics

Just in time for Halloween, mailboxes were stuffed with a mailer with Democratic state senate candidate Rich Cowan’s face superimposed over a zombie.

Or is it a mummy?

The mailer, from incumbent Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner, takes aim at tax credits Cowan’s film production company has accepted.

“Rich Cowan says he’s created jobs, but they’re zombie jobs paid for with taxpayer funds,” the political ad reads. “It’s the season for scary stories. And the scariest of all is how Rich Cowan used taxpayer money to turn a profit.”

The ad does not mention that Baumgartner was among legislators who voted to reauthorize the tax credits.

Cowan’s company, North by Northwest, is producing the TV show “Z Nation,” which is filmed in Spokane and recently was extended to a second season. It has brought the equivalent of about 200 full-time and mostly union-scale jobs to Spokane.

Highway politics

Republican Tim Benn, who is challenging Democratic incumbent state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, has filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission, saying Riccelli’s mailer makes “blatantly false” statements about Benn’s positions.

Among his concerns, Benn is correct that the flier falsely states that he “opposes the completion of the North Spokane Corridor.”

Benn has been clear in his support for completing the freeway.

Riccelli said he believes it’s fair to say Benn opposes the freeway because Benn opposes increasing the gas tax.

This article was changed on November 1, 2014 to remove an incorrect reference to Fitzgerald’s campaign as a “re-election bid.” Fitzgerald was appointed to the Clerk’s position. He is running for the seat in Tuesday’s election for the first time.
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