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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Valley Council race gets ugly, with name-calling, accusations of harassment, inaccurate claims

Candidates in the Aug. 6, 2019, primary for Spokane Valley City Council position 2: incumbent Brandi Peetz, Michelle Rasmussen and Rocky Samson. (Courtesy)

Two candidates running for a council seat in Spokane Valley are accusing each other of bullying, with one candidate calling his opponent a socialist and a “little girl” and the other accusing him of harassment.

Candidate Rocky Samson has falsely accused incumbent Brandi Peetz of voting to increase property taxes. He also calls Peetz a socialist and accuses her of supporting abortion, attending the drag queen counterprotest at the Spokane Public Library, bullying, being too young to run for office, and stealing his campaign signs.

Peetz said many of the claims Samson has made about her are demonstratively false and also irrelevant in a nonpartisan, municipal election.

“He obviously doesn’t know what the definition of being a socialist is, and that has nothing to do with being on City Council,” she said.

She said she never attended the drag queen event and has Republican values. Peetz not only denies ever touching another candidate’s signs but suggests Samson has taken her signs.

Samson, who describes himself as a “true Republican,” said he sees Peetz as a socialist because she believes in abortion, which he describes as a “socialist activity.” He said he knows she believes in abortion because she attended the drag queen counterprotest outside the Spokane Public Library branch on the South Hill. He has not offered proof that she was at the event.

“They’re subjecting our children to many of their socialist agendas, such as abortion, such as gay rights are OK, gay people are OK. They’re not OK, that’s not in the Bible at all. That’s being a socialist,” Samson said. “That’s working against God.”

Peetz didn’t take a position on abortion rights when asked by The Spokesman-Review, saying her position is irrelevant to City Council duties.

Both candidates also have accused each other of bullying.

Samson made several of those claims in campaign flyers he and supporters distributed around neighborhoods. Every other Spokane Valley City Council candidate, including Peetz’s and Samson’s other opponent, Michelle Rasmussen, used their campaign flyers to focus on their goals and qualifications and did not mention their opponents.

In that same flyer, Samson also accused Peetz of saying she didn’t have time for council meetings because of her full-time job. Peetz said she hasn’t had a full-time job since February and that she never said she didn’t have enough time to devote to her duties on the City Council.

“He just makes stuff up,” she said.

Samson also claimed that Peetz voted for a 6% property tax over the next three years. When told that municipal governments are barred from increasing taxes by more than 1% without a vote from constituents under state law, Samson said Peetz had voted to increase it to 2%, which is also not legal under state law.

Peetz, and other current council members, say Spokane Valley hasn’t increased property taxes in years.

Property taxes in Spokane Valley, as well as other communities around the state, did increase last year because of changes in state law, but those changes did not affect the amount collected by the city of Spokane Valley. State legislators voted to change property taxes across the state to boost funding for public education. Spokane Valley was one of the communities that paid more than it did previously, but that was not a result of any vote by the City Council.

Samson said he is a personal friend of controversial state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, who stirred controversy over his writing about the “Biblical basis for war,” linked to white nationalist websites from his Facebook page, and was part of an online group chat in which members advocated spying, attacking and running background checks on political opponents.

Shea endorsed Rasmussen in the race, but wrote on his website that he would be remiss if he “didn’t give a nod” to Samson. In the same post, he also called Peetz a socialist.

Samson said he took the post as a co-endorsement.

Peetz claimed that Samson has been putting his mailers in mailboxes in her neighborhood without postage, which is against federal law.

Samson acknowledged that his supporters had put mailers directly in mailboxes and that he has apologized to the U.S. Postal Service.

A USPS spokesman confirmed there had been complaints of political flyers going into mailboxes without postage and that the post office was working on contacting the candidate’s campaign.

While Samson identifies as a “true Republican,” neither he, Peetz nor Rasmussen have been endorsed by the County Republican Party.

Spokane County Republican Party Chariman Brian Steele said the party doesn’t endorse candidates in municipal elections because they’re nonpartisan, but that the party prefers people who identify as Republicans focus on policies and not personal attacks.

“That kind of stuff we’ve been trying to work as a board to reduce,” he said. “But we don’t have control over that. We prefer candidates stick to issues and solutions.”

Steele said Samson does attend party meetings, but he’s not a board member or an officer and the party doesn’t require membership dues or any contributions from people who identify as Republicans.

Through tears, Peetz said Samson going to her neighborhood to distribute flyers and publicly saying things that aren’t true about her has scared her and disrupted her and her family’s life. She said she’s already moved once after running in 2017 against Caleb Collier and facing harassment and bullying from his supporters.

Peetz accused Collier of trying to intimidate her so she would drop out of the race, and Collier accused her of mudslinging.

“It’s one thing to put yourself out there and deal with criticism,” she said. “But it’s another to have to go around to your neighbors, friends and family and explain the libel and the slander.”

Samson said he dealt with people speaking badly about him publicly in the past and that is part of running for office.

Samson faced scrutiny when he ran for the City Council in 2017 because he had been arrested on a felony theft charge stemming from a furniture store bankruptcy in Kentucky in 2013. He was placed in a diversion program and the charges were dismissed last year, he told The Spokesman-Review.

“She just has to grin and bear it just like I did,” he said. “Welcome to the real world, little girl.”

Rasmussen, the third candidate, did not respond to a request for comment.