One way to gauge the stakes of the 19th Legislative District House race between Republican Jim Walsh and Democrat Teresa Purcell is by how hard each is hit by political action committees supporting their opponents. By that measure, direct mail pieces paid for by PACs and delivered to homes in the district this week, are evidence that each side thinks it’s a key race.
Democrats hold a two-seat edge in the House. One of those Democrats is JD Rossetti, who was beaten by Walsh and Purcell in the primary, making it essentially an open seat.
Walsh, of Aberdeen, is the target of an ad that casts him as someone who doesn’t manage his money well and was behind in his taxes. The ad notes that it was not approved by any candidate and that it was paid for by New Direction, a Seattle-based PAC.
The top five contributors to the PAC are the Harry Truman Fund, highly funded by the Washington Education Association PAC and Service Employees International Union — it’s Washington State Council and Local 775 Quality Care Committee; the Kennedy Fund, also highly funded by SEIU interests and controlled by State Senate Democrats; Washington Federation of State Employees; Washington State Labor Council’s DIME PAC; and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union 21 PAC, which has its office in Seattle.
Purcell, a political consultant from Longview, has been the subject of such advertising as well. An ad mailed to homes this past week portrays her as beholding to Seattle interests and “extremist liberal groups.”
Again the ad proclaims that no candidate authorized it. It was paid for by the Quality Communities Committee, which used a contribution from the Reagan Fund — the State House Republican Leadership PAC. That group received money from the Republican State Leadership Committee as well as real estate developer Clyde Holland and investment analyst Kenneth Fisher.
The piece hitting Walsh includes a picture on the front that appears to be a doctored photo of Walsh’s head on another man’s suit-clad body. The hands are positioned with thumbs pointing toward Walsh’s face.
“Who has two thumbs and owed nearly $30,000 to bill collectors?” the ad asks. “This guy.”
On the reverse side it says “We can’t trust Jim Walsh to manage our tax dollars if he can’t manage his own lavish lifestyle,” the text reads. “Republican Jim Walsh is out of touch with our district. While we value financial responsibility and living within our means, Walsh spends like he isn’t from around here.”
It goes on to describe how he failed to pay taxes and was sued seven times over failing to pay bills in the past, then states he opposed efforts “to reduce public school classroom sizes” and proposed “sending our money to private online schools run by out-of-state, for profit corporations.”
Walsh said Thursday that he’s seen the ad and admitted there was a period of time when he had some financial problems. The ad doesn’t put that information in context, however, he stressed.
“It cherry-picked things and presented them in the worst possible light,” said Walsh, who owns Silver Lake Publishing, which specializes in technical publications and manuals, mostly electronic, for employees in insurance, risk management and financial services industries. “But the part about the ‘lavish lifestyle’ was the cruelest cut of all. It had been a hard several years. … I never declared bankruptcy, never stiffed people.”
Walsh said he continues to support the ability to make political contributions that can be used for such ads as long as the donors and others involved follow the law.
“Contributing money is a form of free speech,” he said.
He also said that as long as the ads don’t involve his wife and children that “I’ll suffer the slings and arrows.”
“They’re basically trying to make me look like Donald Trump — an abusive guy, someone who treats people poorly. I don’t think I’m anything like Trump but if they can make me equal to Trump, they’ll win and I’ll lose,” Walsh said. “I’ve got to say it hurts.”
The ad attacking Purcell has the tagline: “Seattle’s Choice Not Ours,” and for some reason, it includes an upside down Space Needle graphic.
“If you want to call Teresa Purcell, you’ll need to dial (206) … Because Teresa Purcell is a Seattle lobbyist,” an ad states. “… she is a paid lobbyist for extremist liberal groups. They pay her more than $120,000 a year to influence politicians and most of her campaign funds are from Seattle.“
She points out she hasn’t been a registered lobbyist in Washington state for more than 20 years and that her public relations business for a long time has been centering on non-profit clients, and such services as training and coaching of leadership skills.
Purcell said other falsities in the ad include stating that she supports establishing a state income tax and that most of her campaign contributions are from Seattle.
It’s true that her telephone number is a 206 area code but, “I’ve had it since all of Western Washington was within the 206 area code,” she said.
The image doctoring in this ad includes a screen grab of a page of the House Democratic Campaign Committee website into a mobile phone screen. The page, with information about her campaign not only shows her campaign’s phone number but also her campaign manager’s. The targeting of someone not running for office is something she considers out of bounds.
Purcell said there’s a fake campaign page on Facebook called “206 Teresa Purcell,” also created and financed by the Reagan Fund, that highlights many of the same pieces of information as in the ad.
“There’s nothing worse than the lack of accountability for things being said on your behalf or against you,” she explained. “It’s why campaigns are negative and people aren’t running for office. It keeps people out of the process and it keeps people from voting.”
A Republican majority, or even a tie, would have significant effects, Walsh points out. “It would change who chairs committees, how bills get to the floor. And this could be one of those seats.”
Both of these candidates have accumulated large amounts of campaign funding. As of Wednesday, Walsh raised $130,962 while Purcell collected $187,573, according to reports filed by both of them with the Public Disclosure Commission.