Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Liz Mair joins the Herrera campaign.

I've been reading, off and on, Liz Mair's blog. She's occasionally right in her observations, but her frequent bias towards Herrera calls into question her credibility as some sort of arbiter/reporter of the goings on here in the Washington 3rd.

It became most notable with her bizarre column on Castillo's robo call:
February 27th, 2010 15:37 ET

The race to succeed retiring Rep. Brian Baird in Washington’s third district has taken a sharply negative turn with David Castillo, one of two leading Republicans vying for a spot on the November ballot, taking a proverbial hatchet to the other, State Rep. Jaime Herrera, in a robocall that has caused tempers to flare among political insiders in Southwest Washington. The robocall, narrated by a female voice who identifies herself only as “Susan” and put out on Thursday, attacks Herrera for taking money from labor union SEIU and for traveling to Washington, DC for events held that same day.

Herrera was in the nation’s capital on Thursday for fundraising and meet-and-greet events hosted by her former employer, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and high-profile Herrera endorser former Sen. Slade Gorton.

A representative of the Washington State Legislature with whom I spoke today confirmed that none of the committees on which Herrera serves met on Thursday; nor were any votes taken in the Washington State House of Representatives on that day. That, specifically, has one prominent Republican in the district outraged at Castillo’s attack.

However, the robocall has caused other tempers to flare, too. It emerged today that the Castillo robocall has even prompted one former Castillo endorser—Shannon Barnett, a candidate running to replace Herrera in the Washington State House of Representatives— to drop his support altogether. According to Barnett (with whom I spoke earlier), Castillo spending money on the call constitutes a waste of campaign resources. Furthermore, Barnett says, it evidenced an unwillingness on Castillo’s part to stick to a key campaign pledge made months ago to Barnett. Per Barnett, Castillo promised to focus his campaign on talking about issues that unite Republican voters in the district. Hal Palmer, an advisor to Barnett, added that he was “appalled at the distorted attack on Jaime Herrera.”

The robocall has also elicited some strong pushback from Keath Huff, a self-described Tea Party organizer and long time conservative activist who published an open letter to third district conservatives at his site LibertyTeeth on Friday. In that letter, Huff says he too was “appalled by the recent voice mail I received about my friend Jaime Herrera.” He goes on to blast Castillo for pushing out a “phone call” containing “blatantly false accusations” and employing “propaganda.” and urges recipients to support Herrera.

Meanwhile, multiple, additional third district Republicans are complaining that the Castillo campaign is violating the 11th commandment, misrepresenting Herrera, and improving Democratic chances of holding the third in multiple emails obtained earlier and reportedly sent to the Castillo campaign.

One prominent Washington State Republican who is neutral in the battle between the two candidates takes issue with the attack on Herrera relating to SEIU contributions, and believes this comes close to Castillo throwing stones in a glass house. Setting aside the robocall content, Castillo aides and supporters have been keen to assert connections between her and the union, with Castillo himself and new media consultant Patrick Ruffini tweeting on Friday about a post by Warner Todd Huston entitled “Washington State’s SEIU Bought Republican.” That post, and one other from last week, highlight SEIU’s endorsement of Herrera. Herrera opponents also frequently cite her vote for legislation backed by the union.

However, says the same Washington State Republican raising red flags about Castillo’s SEIU attack, that’s a description that voters may find better fits Castillo’s former boss, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, a prominent Castillo endorser. While Herrera did take $500 in August 2008 from the SEIU PAC, a search of Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission website shows that DeBolt in fact took in $3200 from various SEIU entities during the 2008 cycle alone. (An OpenSecrets.org search shows that neither Herrera nor Castillo has taken money from individuals employed by SEIU in the course of their congressional races as of the last filing period with the FEC.)

Moreover, a source tells me, Herrera’s support for legislation also backed by SEIU had nothing to do with alleged “connections” to SEIU. Rather, some providers of children’s care in her legislative district were speaking out ahead of that vote in favor of the legislation Herrera supported. A source who personally affiliates with Herrera and who has personal knowledge of the difficulties such providers were expressing around that time told me several weeks ago in relation to this point that this was one instance where employers were seeking a standardized employment contract, just as SEIU was. This source indicated that a standardized employment contract—something the legislation would have facilitated—was crucial to obtain from the providers’ perspective. Long-running problems involving individual employees asking for astronomical pay increases that could not be met had, in this person’s view, been evident, and this was something a standardized contract might have avoided. This, in turn, was connected in several instances to employees walking off the job with no notice, thus jeopardizing operations. This person wondered at the time how Castillo would have voted in the same circumstances, given his branding as a candidate.

Others see Castillo’s attacks—including the robocall—as a sign of desperation more than a possible misunderstanding. One Republican source pointed to the comparative advantage in fundraising already being experienced by Herrera. Herrera, who formally entered the race midway through December, raised $55,775 in what her campaign says was just about two weeks during 2009. By comparison, Castillo, who entered the race midway through 2009, raised $104,172 during the entire year.

One well-regarded politico with extensive, firsthand knowledge of Washington and national politics who is not connected to either the Herrera or Castillo camp says "Castillo had months to lock this down and make inroads with Republicans in the third. He didn't do it. This is like the guy in the bar who talks to a girl for three hours, fails to interest her enough for her to give her number out, and then gets pissed off when someone else buys her a drink."

However, not everyone takes issue with Castillo’s attacks. According to Kathy McDonald, a well-known Republican consultant from the third district unaffiliated with either campaign, “It looks like David Castillo is calling a spade a spade. The facts are Jaime was back in DC for a fundraiser, the fact is Jaime took money from the SEIU; the fact is she went before the legislative session was over. If she had waited 2 weeks until session was over this fundraiser would be a mute point.”

Perhaps in a sign that this robocall being put out has been a “no win” for both candidates, both the Castillo and Herrera campaigns declined to comment on this post. The DCCC has previously indicated that the contest between Castillo and Herrera to win over Republicans in the third district will be “divisive and messy,” and features the race on its Palin’s Primaries microsite.

This not even thinly veiled effort to rehab Herrera's tattered image was a crap-pile from the get-go. For example, what Richard DeBolt did or did not do concerning SEIU is completely irrelevant. Why mention it... except DeBolt had endorsed Castillo?

Reading carefully, a pattern emerges. It's a pattern she uses frequently in support of Herrera. It's the pattern of the "unnamed source."

Knowing that Mair had been contacted and provided additional information on issues concerning this race in the past (Such as Gorton's endorsement of Herrera because his former Chief of Staff is running her campaign) which she did not use; her reliance on "unnamed sources" to attack Castillo; her failure to address the facts of the call by informing the reader that every syllable of this call was accurate as a conclusion outside of McfDonald's position; her mentioning Castillo's endorsements while simultaneously trashing him:
February 11th, 2010 19:31 ET

In the last week, I've written two posts that note former Sen. Slade Gorton's endorsement of Jaime Herrera. But I would be remiss if I did not also take a moment to note David Castillo's endorsements, many if not all of which were obtained before I really started covering this race in any meaningful sense.

So here you have it: Per Castillo spokesman Bill Lohr (via the Columbian), Castillo has been endorsed by Attorney General Rob McKenna, someone of whom yours truly thinks very highly, and 13 House Republicans. Says Lohr on the subject of the respective endorsement tally between Castillo and Herrera, “I think it’s more telling that of her own colleagues in the state Legislature, more of them have endorsed David."

This is an interesting point, because on the one hand, yes, Herrera's colleagues in the legislature are the ones who know her best and who you might expect to be the most eager to jump on board her proverbial train. That being said, it is of course worth also mentioning that often, the earlier entrant to a race locks up support from big names in his or her party faster than a late entrant does-- and Herrera is a late entrant. Herrera entered the race very late in 2009; Castillo told me in my interview with him that he began running in June. So maybe yes, maybe no-- but worth pondering.

What I think is more noteworthy, overall, here is that each of these candidates has a big dog in the fight, and in their corner: McKenna for Castillo, Gorton for Herrera. As I've said before, this is going to be an interesting race to watch, and the split of big names between each camp only underlines the point. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: A reader emails "Castillo was also chief of staff to the House Minority Leader in Olympia...so a respectable list of endorsements from House Republicans is rather logical for him. He has probably known more of them longer than Herrera, even though she serves with many of them." Good point!

Is it REALLY a"good point?"

Of course not, because the following is true:

Most of those in the House endorsing Castillo have had the opportunity to work with both Herrera and Castillo.

They made their decision to stick with Castillo, Herrera's efforts to peel them off notwithstanding; shortly after Herrera's announcement, she systematically called those endorsing Castillo to break their word to him by demanding that they peel off him and endorse her.

Some, like Shannon Barnett, claimed to have continue to endorse Castillo with the integrity-worthless "dual endorsement," (which was nonsense; Barnett's now famous fund raising letter for Herrera that went out for Christmas made it clear that he had completely committed to Herrera, in ways that I found, well, disturbing) so that his bizarre lies and trash included in his post robo-call rant were pure garbage.

But keeping on track, the point of this post is that Liz Mair is writing for Herrera like she's on the payroll.

Mair's failure to point out that Herrera's campaign is being ran by former Gorton Chief of Staff Jay Vander Stoep, for example, which anyone familiar with the situation would know was the basis for his endorsement, since, otherwise, he wouldn't have known Herrera if she had bit him; makes her entire shtick questionable.

It's one thing not to report those things you don't know. It's quite another to fail to report those things you do know.

Using "unarmed sources" you can justify or write anything... even the completely nonsensical idea that telling the TRUTH about another candidate is somehow wrong, or can be/should be used for a justification to pull support from a candidate.

Because when true conservatives find out that Herrera co-sponsored and voted for an SEIU bill that requires collective bargaining for daycare workers or that she voted against her own caucus and with the democrats to help them spend $229,000,000 for their new programs in the midst of this horrific recession... they drop her like a bad habit.

Mair, of course, notes that the robo call mentions Herrera SEIU efforts, but then proceeds to write up a bunch of damage control crap from miffed Herrera supporters who are not thrilled to have these facts pointed out.

While *I* do not use "unnamed sources." Her columns speak of a "representative of the Washington State Legislature with whom I spoke;" (but did not name) and "one prominent Republican in the district (but did not name) "multiple additional 3rd District Republicans are complaining (but not named) "One prominent Washington State Republican who is neutral" (but not named) "the same (not named) Washington State Republican raising red flags about Castillo" and "Moreover a (not named) source tells me" and "Others (not named) see Castillo's attacks" (even the use of the word "attacks" is a defense of Herrera) and "One (unnamed) Republican Source," and "One well-regarded (but unnamed) politco." And on.... and on.... and on.

It's as if Mair simply couldn't find ANYONE besides Kathy McDonald in the face of this veritable but unnamed regiment of people who condemned Castillo's phone call which was the absolute truth, as a good idea. And it's equally strange that while Mair was incapable of finding any of the rest of us who appreciate hearing the truth about Herrera; the one person she DID find (Purely for purposes of balance, I'm sure) was named... while most of the others were not.

Because, this effort to shift the focus to the messenger instead of the message is nothing BUT damage control. At the end of the day, had Herrera not ditched us to go to a fund raiser in DC, it wouldn't have been the basis for a robocall. At the end of the day, had Herrera not supported SEIU, they wouldn't have endorsed her or given her money. Mentioning these FACTS in the call?

That's just coincidence, right?

And then, of course, we come to Mair's latest Herrera campaign piece:
March 28th, 2010 13:12 ET

Here's a belated update on some news related to the WA-3 race from last week:

Jaime Herrera announced the endorsements of former Rep. Linda Smith and the Cowlitz County GOP. Smith, readers will recall, was the last Republican to hold the third district; she lost a Senate bid against then first-termer Patty Murray back in 1998. The Cowlitz County GOP endorsed Herrera unanimously; readers will remember that back in February, Herrera won a Cowlitz County GOP straw poll.

David Castillo's campaign seems to have committed something of an own goal in the wake of the health care vote last weekend. On Tuesday night, his campaign sent out a statement titled "Heck Takes Position on Health Care Bill-- After the Vote." The problem? Heck's website indicates that on March 20-- i.e., the day before the House voted on health care-- Heck announced that "at this time, if I were a member of Congress, I would be voting YES on this legislation." Is the Castillo campaign arguing
that Heck backdated that item? Or did they just not notice it? Or were they aware, but decided to issue an attention-grabbing attack release anyway? Sources inside the district say that Castillo almost certainly would have known of Heck's positioning ahead of the vote. Reportedly, Heck had been touting his support for the bill at events in the district for several days before the actual vote. Furthermore, one Washingtonian who keeps tabs on Heck for professional reasons that I spoke to indicated receipt of a Google alert pointing to the Heck website item on Saturday night. And, one Republican who attended a Lincoln Day dinner the night before the vote at which Castillo was reportedly present says that Heck's endorsement of the bill was mentioned during a speech there.

Besides Mair's continuing use of the unnamed source dodge, a campaign mistake of such a low level of significance is hardly worth mentioning; and it's not as if Mair has focused on the multiple "own goals" committed by Herrera.

When added to this crock:
February 9th, 2010 12:12 ET

In my inbox this morning is an email announcing that on February 25, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and former Sen. Slade Gorton will be hosting a fundraising breakfast here in DC for Jaime Herrera-- one of the big names competing to succeed Rep. Brian Baird in representing Washington's third district in Congress.

The breakfast will take place on the Hill from 8-9AM. Herrera should walk away from it with a bit of money to line the campaign coffers: Attendees are being asked to cut a check for $250 (if an individual) or $1,000 (if a PAC).

I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see David Castillo knock Herrera for raising money in DC (he's already poked her for seeking support from folks outside the third district). I also fully anticipate the DCCC will blast her for taking PAC contributions (because Democrats never, ever do that).

Personally, I don't think anyone's going to fault Herrera's former boss (McMorris Rodgers), who is of course also from the Evergreen State, for wanting to help her out-- and McMorris Rodgers, like most federal-level elected officials, is in DC on Thursday mornings. Furthermore, I maintain that Slade Gorton's backing is going to be very helpful to Herrera-- as will any money she takes away from this event.

Here, we agree, Ms. Mair. It's pretty clear you don't think.

As one of Herrera's unfortunate constituents, I was offended by her decision to ditch us much like I was offended by her decision to allow others to vote for her while she was making fund raising calls so she wouldn't appear to be blowing off her job to, you guessed it, fund raise.

That Herrera is stuck on stupid (as are her handlers) is evidenced by this moronic play to bail during session to go to a fund raiser that easily could have waited. You know, one of those "own goals?" You remember... something you strived to do pre-damage control over?

That Mair not only gives her a pass with this but tries to sell it?

Well, that all speaks for itself.

All of this calls into question her false pretense of fairness. It's not that Mair can't be a Herrera supporter. Many have drank that Kool Aid, and supporting any candidate is her right. But she should at least admit it to provide the reader with some prospective instead of hiding behind this false facade of journalistic integrity.

But then, when you're "on the payroll" so to speak, this kind of thing is to be expected.

Right, Liz?

Cross posted at Clark County Politics.

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