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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Council president race gets less civil, with Wendle defending doctored photograph, PAC calling her ‘reptile’

Until recently, the race for Spokane City Council president had been an exercise in “civil discourse,” according to candidate Breean Beggs.

But that changed, Beggs said, when his opponent, Cindy Wendle, used a distorted photo of him in a recent mailer.

Wendle was also the target of a recent uncivil ad calling her a “hollow-eyed reptile.”

That ad came from the Question Political Action Committee, which opposes conservative candidates and causes in Central and Eastern Washington and has also targeted mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward by calling her “bubble-headed” and an “empty and vapid vessel for local real estate profiteers and tycoons” in social media posts.

While Beggs has denounced that ad and Question PAC has since edited the post to call Wendle a “corporate stooge” instead, Wendle defended the mailer from the Committee to Elect Cindy Wendle, her campaign’s Political Action Committee.

That mailer featured a picture of Beggs’ face cut from a family photo and pasted atop an oversized suit, with a shorter neck, a hand out to the side like a sassy emoticon and a hazy photo of the Spokane skyline.

The original photo of Beggs’ face was lifted from a 2014 family photo.

The mailer reads, “Breean Beggs doesn’t know where he stands.”

The rest of the text shows that Beggs “isn’t being honest about his record,” Wendle said in a statement texted to The Spokesman-Review on Saturday.

The other side of the mailer includes a photo of Wendle smiling in a hard hat, beneath the phrase, “Clear Leadership for City Council.”

“We are shining a light on the fact that Breean isn’t being honest about his record, and he’s hoping no one notices,” Wendle’s statement read. “The satirical portrayal of Breean was done to draw attention to the hypocrisy of his record.”

As in some of her earlier campaign material, her mailer oversimplifies data, claiming, for instance, that the city has “higher crime rates.” But Spokane police data from 2019 shows that among the 12 categories of violent and property crime tracked in the city’s reporting, only one – burglary of a garage – has increased compared to this point in 2018.

While doorbelling Saturday, Beggs told The Spokesman he wasn’t surprised to see the distortion of his face but was surprised to see the mailer came from Wendle directly.

“If that’s how you want to treat your opponent, that will show how uncollaborative you will be,” Beggs said. “My sense is that they’ve seen some polling that shows they’re behind and they’re a little more desperate. When times are more stressful, you can kind of see what people are made of.”

Beggs released a statement about what he called Wendle’s “attack ad.” In it, he also responded to what he called the “insensitive attack” on his opponent from the Question PAC.

On his campaign Facebook page, Beggs wrote, “Emotions are running high in these final days of the campaign. Unfortunately, some people cross the line and make personal attacks.”

He called the post about Wendle “unfair” and “not welcome.”

“I have a spouse and kids who suffer through the rigor of campaign and attacks, and she does as well,” Beggs said Saturday. “And that’s why I reached out to” condemn the Question PAC attack.

While Beggs implied that Wendle was hypocritical for changing her style when it comes to the mailer, Wendle said the real hypocrisy can be found in Beggs’ record.

“Every day people share stories with me saying they see more open drug use, more crime and more homelessness in our city than three years ago, and they’re looking for someone who hears them and will work to fix these issues instead of ignore them,” Wendle’s statement said.

Ultimately, Beggs said, he wished the campaign hadn’t come to personal attacks.

“I’ve just found as both a lawyer and a community leader that you get more done when you don’t make personal attacks and don’t try to ridicule people, because once you do that, they will probably never trust or want to work with you again,” Beggs said. “So that’s my style and that seemed to be her style early on. It is kind of weird in the last few days to see that change.”