Dems launch smear campaign in Washington State against likely GOP gubernatorial candidate

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Washington State’s Attorney General, Republican Rob McKenna, is facing a heated smear campaign led by the state’s Democratic Party, and Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. Though McKenna hasn’t even made any official moves toward running against Gregoire for her job in 2012, the Democrats are attempting to paint him in a negative light already just in case he does.

In an advertisement in the Olympian newspaper, the state Democrats try to tie McKenna to Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker. “If you like what Governor Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin… you will love Rob McKenna as Washington State’s Governor,” the Democratic print advertisement reads. “Rob McKenna has a track record of attacking public employee unions and he wants to be your next Governor.”

Washington State Democratic Party chair Dwight Pelz told The Daily Caller that even though McKenna has publicly said he believes collective bargaining is a right, he doesn’t believe that he meant it.

“If a politician says x, y, z, well maybe they mean it, maybe they don’t,” Pelz said. “Rob McKenna can say he supports collective bargaining but he has a history of attacking labor unions, he has a history of supporting the national Republican agenda and if he’s governor of the state of Washington, it is our belief he will go after collective bargaining and the rights of public employees.”

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), a national caucus that works to elect “down ballot,” or Lieutenant Governor and below, state-level candidates, calls the Washington State Democrats’ campaign “misleading fear-mongering and accusations,” and said the Democrats are ignoring the $3 billion deficit in the state.

“While state leaders, including Attorney General Rob McKenna, are hard at work making difficult decisions to restore fiscal sanity and protect their state’s interests, Washington Democrats are playing disingenuous games with voters,” RSLC President Chris Jankowski said in a statement. “It is no wonder that Republicans picked up legislative seats in the last election.”

The Democratic organizers are asking supporters to donate money so they can run the advertisement in larger-circulation newspapers. In mass e-mails, the Democratic Party is asking people to donate anywhere $5, “or more if your able,” in efforts to raise $6,935 to run that same negative advertisement in The Seattle Times.

Washington State Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz told The Daily Caller they’ve already raised $5,000 so far, and expects to place a print ad in The Seattle Times in the next week. Pelz said there are currently no plans for broadcast ads or for ads in other newspapers.

As for his reasoning for launching the ad campaign even though McKenna has made no official move towards running for governor, Pelz said, “everybody knows he’s running for governor.”

In addition to the paid advertisements in Washington State news media, Democrats launched a digital smear campaign – and a mock campaign website, robmckennaforgovernor.com, saying he’s been running for governor for decades – setting his entire political career up since he was elected president of the University of Washington student body in 1984.

“We wanted people to know that he’s been running for governor,” Pelz told TheDC. “We put the website up about a year ago because, basically, he’s turned the Attorney General’s office into a press shop, putting out feel-good press releases for him. He’s turned the Attorney General’s office into a campaign shop for his race for governor.”

On the site, the Democrats list who they consider McKenna’s “friends and allies,” like former President George W. Bush, 2004 Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association. Democrats also use the mock campaign site as a conduit to attack McKenna’s support for the Florida lawsuit challenging Obamacare’s constitutionality. “On the day after Congress adopted the National Health Insurance Reform bill, and the day before President Obama signed it, our Attorney General Rob McKenna joined with a dozen other Attorneys General to sue to block implementation of the bill,” the site reads. “McKenna claimed that his sole interest in this lawsuit was to protect the Constitution. But then he acknowledged that he was one of the first two leaders in this legal effort nationwide, and had been working for months to identify avenues for stopping the legislation.”

A rumor in Washington State right now, too, is that Gregoire might decide not to run for a third term as governor, even though she’s been sending campaign-like e-mails out to supporters railing on McKenna as well. Pelz said the party will support Gregoire whatever her decision may be, but left-wing Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly has called on her to step down – has called said the state’s Democratic Party is “out of gas.”

“When a party has held power for a long time, and is running low on gas, there’s an old, oft-deployed survival strategy: Gin up fears and try to drag down the promising alternative,” Connelly wrote.

If Gregoire ends up deciding against running for re-election, Pelz and Connelly said the clear Democratic frontrunner would be U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee.

Matthew Boyle