GIG HARBOR, Wash. – Political mailers circling areas of the South Sound are causing quite a buzz but some say for all the wrong reasons.
The fliers found in Gig Harbor urge voters to write-in a candidate whose name isn’t even on the ballot for Washington’s 26th legislative district race. And worse, some people worry the fliers are a violation of campaign laws.
The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission says it has received eight official complaints – and the agency is looking into the issue. The fliers also seem to endorse a candidate who isn’t running for office.
“We’ve all got to change our rhetoric,” said Nathan Schilcher from Gig Harbor.
If Schlicher’s name and face seem familiar it’s because he once served as a state lawmaker five years ago. But his face is back in politics, if not the rest of him.
“There’s no line anymore,” he said.
That line, says Schlicher, was crossed when a political action committee took his image and plastered it on fliers around Pierce County in an attempt he says to split the democratic vote for the 26th legislative district.
“I do have neighbors and friends who were misled in a positive way, thrilled that I was running allegedly, which I wasn’t, and had to disappoint them all over again and people who were upset thinking it was a stunt that I was trying to hurt Mrs. FitzPatrick, which is far from the truth,” he said.
At the bottom of the fliers, the fine print says they were paid for by the Conscience of the Progressives, a PAC run by conservative Glen Morgan.
“I’ve never seen a situation where somebody could actually say that voter suppression is giving people more choices,” said Morgan. “That’s kind of a ridiculous claim.”
The fliers suggest writing in Schlicher’s name instead of voting for the incumbent Jesse Young or his challenger Connie FitzPatrick.
“It’s all a shadow, an attempt to split votes and mislead voters,” said Schlicher.
The fliers also show logos of Planned Parenthood, AFT, AFL-CIO and Fuse in a way some could construe as an endorsement of the write-in candidacy.
Fuse says it discovered similar fliers for races in three additional contests across the state – and has since asked the state Public Disclosure Commission to investigate.
“I’m not a progressive but I’ve been the conscience of the progressives for many, many years now,” said Morgan.
Morgan, executive director of the PAC, says there’s nothing illegal about the fliers. He adds the tactic is meant to dissuade progressives from settling for the Democratic party’s nominee.
“I think you can be the conscience of somebody,” he said. “Sometimes an outsider is the best you can have where you can actually point out where you say you have an ideal but you’re not actually living up to it.”
But if your Schlicher, the face of a non-existent write-in campaign, he says attitudes like that could keep good people, including himself, out of politics for good.
“Not running for office and after these shenanigans don’t think I’ll ever plan on doing it again,” he said.
The Public Disclosure Commission is looking into the fliers – and if the commission determines the PAC broke any laws they could be liable for $10,000 per violation.
The incumbent in the 26th legislative district, Jesse Young, responded to Q13 News' request for comment saying, "These ads and tactics are utterly stupid."
His challenger, Connie FitzPatrick, responded to Q13 News' request for comment with an email that read in part: "The false mailer is just more of the dirty politics that distract from the real issues in this campaign, and is a blatant attempt to try to suppress the vote.”