A political mailer sent late last week to voters in the 19th Legislative District promoting a write-in campaign for Democrat Teresa Purcell, which would mean a dilution of votes for the nominated Democrat in the race — Erin Frasier — has some calling foul on the man who sent them.
“Don’t be fooled by fake Progressives like Erin Frasier,” reads the mailer. “Let’s write in a real Progressive: Teresa Purcell.”
“I was stunned and amazed when I saw it,” said Purcell. “Then I saw Glen Morgan’s name on it.”
Frasier is challenging Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, in what is considered to be a close race. Two years ago, Purcell, of Longview, narrowly lost to Walsh.
Democrats have usually won in the 19th, Republicans, partly because of the wave of Donald Trump voters, did well in 2016.
Both Frasier and Purcell could be considered liberal Democrats. A write-in for Purcell is likely a vote lost to Frasier.
Purcell is very familiar with Morgan. It was his initial complaint about Purcell’s campaign finance documents that led to an $18,000 fine levied against her after she lost to Walsh by about 500 votes in the 2016 race.
“I couldn’t possibly be any more shocked and sickened that someone would do this. Coming from Glen Morgan, it’s ridiculous,” said Purcell. “It’s an incredibly cynical and terrible tactic,” designed to split the Democratic vote to give an edge to Walsh, she said.
Morgan, a staunch conservative, claims the mailer was sent to give Democrats a choice to vote for someone more liberal than Frasier.
“I got the idea from a progressive friend of mine, for the voters who complain about not having good choices on the ballot and wished they could write somebody in,” he said. “We always have a choice to write in somebody if they want someone more progressive than what is out there in the first place.”
Democratic leaders, and Purcell, believe Morgan’s tactic is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at voter suppression.
“They’re saying what I’m doing is voter suppression, and that is a kind of delusional and over-reactive way of responding to this,” said Morgan. “I’m telling you there is nothing secretive about this. I filed all my documents with the Public Disclosure Commission. I put my name at the bottom of the mailer with an email address. That’s not exactly being secretive.”
Purcell said Morgan’s explanation doesn’t hold water.
“Glen Morgan has zero interest in trying to do anything that would help a democracy,” she said. “This has just been an incredibly cynical way to split the Democratic vote.”
Walsh said he is distancing himself from the mailer because he simply has nothing to do with it.
“I don’t support it, I’m not a fan of it, and I am not associated with it,” said Walsh. “I want to make it clear that I was not part of this idea, I had nothing to do with it and I don’t support it.”
Walsh said Morgan is known as a Republican activist, but Walsh said Morgan is “not really a Republican, he’s more right-of-center.” He added, “He’s trying to be clever and trick people and I don’t think it’s going to be successful.” Walsh said he’d rather focus on Frasier: “My position is she is a decent person but lacking in substance. She just doesn’t answer questions.”
Frasier herself addressed the mailer, saying, “They got one thing right — I oppose a state income tax. Some of my neighbors got a mailer, funded by wealthy Puget Sound area donors, attacking me and asking voters to write in my friend and supporter Teresa Purcell for state representative, even though she isn’t running. This is just more of the dirty politics that distract from real issues facing Southwest Washington families.”
The group attributed as paying for the mailer is Conscience of the Progressives, sponsored by Send a Message PAC. Morgan is listed as the executive director on the mailer and in Public Disclosure Commission paperwork. According to the commission, the largest cash donation to the group came from the Send a Message PAC, $21,125, with an in-kind contribution from Morgan of $125 for “mailbox usage.” Morgan is also listed as having loaned the group $10,000, and on the PDC paperwork is listed as executive director for the Citizens Alliance for Enumclaw WA.
The Send a Message PAC has a total of $11,130 in cash contributions, $10,000 of which is attributed to Peter Zieve of Mukilteo, founder and president of a major supplier of automated aerospace assembly systems to Boeing and Airbus who donated $1 million to the Donald Trump presidential campaign in 2016. Zieve ran unsuccessfully for Mukilteo City Council in 2017, accused by the State Attorney General of anti-Muslim hiring practices at his company. He had also the year before mailed postcards to Mukilteo residents warning of plans to build a mosque in the city. Zieve admitted to mailing the postcards and eventually apologized for it. The Attorney General removed Zieve from the hiring process for non-management positions and the company agreed to pay nearly $500,000 in penalties.
Morgan said he did not talk to Purcell about the mailer ahead of time because “it’s illegal for somebody running a PAC to have contact with anyone in their mailers.”
Purcell said she has been firmly behind Frasier’s campaign for many months and has no intention of being a write-in candidate for the seat.
“As I always say, I firmly believe things happen for a reason, and although we lost our campaign it inspired a lot of energy,” said Purcell, who has been doorbelling for Frasier and has contributed financially to Frasier’s campaign. “I think Erin is an excellent candidate and will be an excellent representative for this area.”
The rules for write-in candidates have changed some this election cycle.
“In order to be a valid write-in the candidate needs to file a write-in declaration of candidacy,” said Grays Harbor County elections supervisor Scott Turnbull. “If they file that before the 18-day voting period starts there isn’t a filing fee. If they file after that period they would need to pay a filing fee, if there is one.” Candidates can file as write-ins up to 8 p.m. election night.
Purcell said it’s important for voters not to be fooled by the mailer.
“One of the most important pieces of all of this is, if we want to restore civility to democracy we have to not let this type of thing work,” she said. “The dirty tricks, the cynicism, the utter and complete dishonesty reflected in this ploy, it’s a cancer to democracy and the best way to stop it is to have it not work.”