A Republican state senator from Oak Harbor has taken the uncommon step of publicly denouncing the way a Democratic opponent is shown in a mailer paid for with money raised by her GOP colleagues.
Sen. Barbara Bailey, in a letter published in the Whidbey News-Times and an interview and letter in The Herald, criticized the mailer’s use of a photo portraying challenger Angela Homola in an “unflattering manner.”
Bailey insisted she had no involvement with the materials sent by the Good Government Leadership Council, an independent committee funded solely by the political operation of the Senate Republican Caucus.
“This piece was a complete surprise to me,” Bailey wrote in her letters to the editor. I do not condone such actions and have reiterated to my campaign staff and supporters that I have not and will never authorize literature such as this.”
In The Herald interview, Bailey said she wrote the letter in response to letters published in the News-Times, The Herald and other newspapers “making me look like a terrible individual” for the existence of the mailer.
“The reality is people can put out whatever they want to put out,” she said. “I don’t like anybody using them on my behalf. I don’t like anybody using them against me. The campaign should be more about what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished and what the plan is for the future.”
The mailers targeted Homola’s tenure as an employee in the Island County Planning Department that ended with a negotiated layoff in 2003. They also criticized her record as an elected Island County commissioner from 2009-13.
They contain a photo of Homola as she scrubs moss off her roof. She is in jeans and T-shirt and wearing gloves. Some of the mailers crop the photo to show only her face and it appears grainy and a bit out of focus.
Homola, who said she is a trained carpenter, said the mug photo is a doctored version of a picture she posted online. She wanted to show herself doing something that voters would not likely see Bailey doing — climbing onto a roof to clean off the moss by hand.
Homola’s greater frustration and anger is directed at assertions in mailers which she said distort information about her job performance and legislative record.
Homola set up a page on her campaign website for voters to “Get the facts” about the group behind the mailers.
While Bailey’s campaign didn’t send out the mailers, Homola insists the senator “could put a stop” to their continued use. Homola called on Bailey to give back contributions received from individuals and groups that also gave to the Republican PAC.
“How can you be a public servant and not have any control over your campaign finances?” she asked. “If you can’t control your campaign finances, how can we trust you to be in control of the state finances?”
The Senate Republican Caucus operates the Leadership Council as its soft-money political action committee. As of Monday, it had raised $1.4 million and given $295,000 to the Good Government Leadership Council for its independent campaign efforts. That PAC spent nearly $40,000 on the pieces targeting Homola.
Bailey said she did express her concerns about the mailers privately to caucus leaders as well as some donors who’ve given money to her campaign and the Leadership Council. She declined to identify with whom she spoke. Nor, she said, is she intending to return any contributions.
There is little more Bailey can do. State law bars her and her campaign staff from coordinating in any fashion with any independent political committee.
Given recent history, her caucus isn’t likely to ease off.
Eight years ago, the caucus political operation funneled money through the Citizen Action Group to pay for a torrent of mailers attacking then Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen. One famously featured Haugen’s photo alongside those of deceased Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and liberal Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, of Seattle.
Haugen withstood the barrage and prevailed in the election.
In 2012, the Leadership Council started using the Good Government Leadership Council as its conduit.
That year it spent $256,790 on a political offensive against the venerable Haugen. Among the salvos was a mailer with an image of Haugen photoshopped with hands covering her ears to symbolize she had stopped listening to constituents.
It worked. Bailey, then a state representative, defeated Haugen in one of the year’s most combative and expensive legislative races.