A Spokane County Commissioner election race is becoming contentious, with challenger Robbi Anthony claiming that incumbent Al French is making disparaging comments about her character at public events. French asserted that his comments were taken out of context.
Anthony said Monday on a public Facebook post that French called her a “transgender, Bernie-loving, socialist, millennial” at a Republican meet-and-greet event held at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley on Saturday.
“It seems elementary to go after someone’s character, especially in a public forum,” she said. “If he wants to disparage me privately, then that’s his First Amendment right. It’s such a disappointment. At first, I was mad about those comments. It hurt. It was personal. But, as I’ve simmered a bit, I’m just disappointed.”
French said he didn’t mean any ill will by his comments, which he claimed were mischaracterized and inaccurate, adding that he asked the audience if they think he’s running against a “self-described” transgender Democrat and Bernie Sanders supporter.
“People raised their hands and I said, ‘No, I’m not. I’m running against the blue wave,’ ” he said.
French said it’s unfortunate that his comments were taken out of context at the event.
“It breaks my heart that this was mischaracterized. It’s a disservice to both her and me and that’s unfortunate,” he said. “I have treated her with respect this entire campaign. Whether she’s transgender or not has nothing to do with if she’s going to be a good commissioner. Her lack of experience makes her not qualified for this job.”
Anthony said although French has treated her with dignity for a significant portion of the campaign, the comments were somewhat expected by herself and her campaign team.
“We hoped Mr. French would not make comments like this. It’s a bummer because it’s absolute fearmongering,” she said. “People don’t like change and I thought he would have handled these things differently, but here we are and voters will decide at the polls at what they want.”
French said his entire campaign has focused on his track record and qualifications to retain his seat on the county commission rather than his opponent, adding that he called Anthony to clarify his comments.
“I’m not going negative. That’s not how I want to run my campaign,” French said.
Anthony said she’s hoping conversations with French can remain civil for the remainder of the election.
“(French) and I ended the call agreeing to be positive from here on out. He made the same case that the content of (his) comments wasn’t exactly what he intended,” she said. “I think he’s sincerely regretful. To his credit, he gave me a call. I can’t say it changed my mind.
“I think the only positive out of this whole incident is he really said, with the most sincere conviction he could muster, is that he isn’t going after my campaign, or myself, for the remainder of the election.”