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Sen. Haugen calls negative ad campaign ‘deplorable’

An onslaught of negative campaign ads featuring an allusion to killing have been filling mailboxes in the 10th Legislative District.

Four separate fliers arriving in mailboxes that, while they do not advocate any candidate, do question the voting record of Sen. Mary Maragaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who is running against Mount Vernon Republican April Axthelm.

“What they’re saying is just deplorable,” Haugen said. “They had to go back five years to dig up something.”

One flier contained an excerpt from a 1999 Seattle Times article that quoted former Tacoma Sen. Lorraine Wojahn as saying, “I could kill her (Haugen)” for missing a vote, with the “kill” reference highlighted in large type.

Haugen said she was unaware the vote in question was occurring because it was not on the agenda.

Haugen’s daughter, Kathy Haugen Heitt, released a statement in response to the negative ads.

“It’s my hope that Mrs. Axthelm didn’t know that my mother’s grandchildren are old enough to read,” Heitt said. “Otherwise, she certainly should have realized how it would make them feel to receive mail where someone is quoted as saying, in bold print, that they ‘could just kill’ their grandmother.”

One campaign ad states that a 1999 bill authorizing the Patient’s Bill of Rights failed by one vote. The flyer contends that as a result of Haugen missing the vote, the bill died.

Haugen said, however, that she and five other members of her caucus were meeting on the transportation budget at the time and the bill was not on the voting agenda. A subsequent, stronger version of the bill later passed.

“The very people who voted against the bill, the Republicans, are the ones putting this out,” Haugen said.

The flyers are paid for by the Leadership Council, which according to Public Disclosure Commission records has given $50,000 to the Republican State Leadership Commission. The Leadership Council is not tied financially to the campaign of April Axthelm.

“This is really targeting people and making them afraid,” Haugen said. “I’m just real disappointed.”

Axthelm said she did not have any knowledge of the literature until two of the flyers landed in her mailbox over the weekend.

“They didn’t come from my campaign,” Axthelm said. “I have committed to running a clean campaign.”

Haugen said that she and Axthelm had come to an understanding that negative campaigning would not take place in their race.

“To my face, she told me ‘I’m not going to allow any negative campaigning’,” Haugen said.

Haugen said that in all of the time she has been running for offices, she has not engaged in this kind of attack campaigning. She was first elected more than 20 years ago.

Another of the ads questions Haugen’s voting record on taxes. Haugen said she voted to allow one of the tax hikes mentioned. The flyers also question Haugen’s support of senior citizens.

The flyer alleges that Haugen voted against prescription drug benefits for senior citizens. Haugen said that she voted against an amendment put forth by Republican senators, but finally voted on a less-restrictive amendment.

Haugen said the negative campaigning might blur people’s choices.

“These aren’t just constituents,” Haugen said. “These are my friends and neighbors.”

Haugen, Axthelm and Libertarian candidate Brett Wilhelm face off in the Nov. 2 general election.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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