Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen has been bombarded by negative mailers this election season, some of which are oddly hilarious, but she’s not laughing about the latest piece she claims is simply false.
“It’s just bold-faced lies,” she said repeatedly.
The mailer was paid for by the Washington State Republican Party, but Haugen blames challenger Barbara Bailey, a Republican state representative and an Oak Harbor resident who pledged not to go negative.
It faults Haugen for a lack of oversight and accountability at the ferry system, citing a five-year-old audit.
The mailer quotes outgoing State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat, who recently endorsed Bailey.
“I am supporting Barbara Bailey for State Senate because I know she will fight for more accountability and oversight of state government services — including the ferry system, which desperately needs it,” Sonntag said.
But the problem, as Haugen sees it, is that the mailer makes it seem as if she didn’t follow the recommendations of the audit.
It states “over $100 million could be saved” and offers “potential cost savings” if the audit recommendations were followed.
In fact, the savings weren’t potential, but implemented. Haugen said she worked closely with the State Auditor’s Office five years ago to implement the reforms that Sonntag proposed in his 2007 audit of the ferry system.
“The truth of the matter is, we have not only implemented all of his recommendations, but many more,” she said. “We actually got started before he even got those recommendations to us.”
Even more galling, Haugen said, is Bailey’s hypocrisy on the issue. She points out that Bailey voted against one of the main reforms of the system, promoted by Haugen, which “has succeeded in improving staffing structures and reducing overhead costs,” according to a press release from Haugen.
Ironically, the mailer criticizes Haugen over this specific issue.
Bailey also voted against a 2012 bill funding construction of new ferries for Whidbey Island, which were partially built on Whidbey Island, Haugen emphasized.
Bailey and Sonntag did not return requests for comment.
Sonntag was directed by voters in Initiative 900 to audit various state offices, including the ferry service.
He identified millions of dollars of waste and recommended a long list of reforms, including lowering overhead costs and making better use of existing resources, according to the mailer.
Haugen had previously criticized Bailey over a negative mailer that was sent out prior to the primary election. Bailey said she had no knowledge of the piece, which was put out by the Good Government Leadership Council.
But this time, the mailer was paid for by the State Republican Party as an in-kind contribution to Bailey’s campaign, which means she had the opportunity to review and approve the content, according to Haugen’s campaign spokesman.
The race between Haugen and Bailey has significance beyond the 10th District as it could be one of the seats which tilt the balance of the state senate to Republicans.
The importance of the race could explain the proliferation of mailers, which include a number of goofy ones from the Leadership Council. There’s a mailer featuring Haugen inside a giant ball of twine, a badly Photoshopped image of mismatched arms with hands over her ears and a bulldozer pushing bags of money into Deception Pass. One even has Haugen’s face on Mount Rushmore.
“I don’t know if people are paying attention to this stuff,” Haugen said.