What's up with that?
National group spends $55,000 to oppose Mielke
Saturday, October 29, 2005
By ERIN MIDDLEWOOD, Columbian staff writer
Progressive Majority has spent $55,219 on mailers and phone calls to oppose Republican Tom Mielke's bid for Clark County commissioner, according to reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission as of Friday.
Mielke said he's surprised to have captured the attention and animosity of the national organization.
"Why is this Washington, D.C., group, which is so far off base, interested in Clark County?" Mielke said. "They feel so threatened by me, it's amazing."
Mielke, 63, hopes to unseat Stuart, a 34-year-old Democrat, from the county commissioner spot he has held since his appointment in December.
Progressive Majority is working to create a farm team of left-wing politicians who can work their way up the ladder of elected office, much as GOPAC has done for the right wing, said Dean Nielsen, director of the group's Washington state office in Seattle.
GOPAC is credited for the Republican tide that swept the nation in 1994.
Nonetheless, Progressive Majority's involvement in the county commissioner race disturbs Clark County Republican Party Chairman Brent Boger.
"We should keep local elections local and not simply be the pawn in the strategy of a national political action committee," Boger said. "We need a commissioner who will devote his energies to Clark County and (who is) not simply someone in the pipeline for higher office."
Stuart said he has his sights set solely on keeping the office he holds.
"My only desire is to do my best to serve the community in this job. Everything that I've done in my education and in my professional life, including being a commissioner, has been because I care about Clark County," said Stuart. He has degrees in law and planning, and formerly worked for the environmental groups 1000 Friends of Washington (now known as Futurewise) and Friends of Clark County.
Progressive Majority donated $1,267 worth of training and staff assistance directly to Stuart's campaign last summer. But the group spent its big money as a so-called "independent expenditure," separate from Stuart's campaign.
"I have no control over it," Stuart said, adding that he hasn't talked with anyone from Progressive Majority since August.
The group's spending adds to what's already a high-dollar countywide race. Stuart had raised $184,039, while Mielke had $189,035 as of Friday.
Progressive Majority's Web site lists 20 candidates the group is supporting around the state this year. But the only independent expenditures it has reported so far were to oppose Mielke, a former legislator. The group targeted Mielke because his stance on growth management, Nielsen said. Progressive Majority has sent out two anti-Mielke mailers on the topic so far.
Mielke has said planners should assume the rapid growth of the past 15 years the county's population has surged by 65 percent since 1990 will continue, and should expand urban areas accordingly.
"This is a huge race to decide what Clark County will look like whether voters want managed growth or to blow the doors open for development," Stuart said.
"I'm for planning for growth," Mielke countered. "I'm not saying just throw the door open."
He called the Progressive Majority's mailers "hit pieces."
Boger, the county's Republican party chairman, speculated that the Progressive Majority is behind push poll calls some voters have reported receiving. Push polling is a telemarketing technique in which damaging information about an opponent is couched in the form of questions. Mielke says that voters have received such calls about him.
Nielsen said Progressive Majority played no part in those calls or any push polling.
"Not only do I think it's disgusting, but I don't think it works," Nielsen said.
Progressive Majority paid Winning Connections of Washington, D.C., $13,176 for phone calls, according to public disclosure reports. But those calls were not to conduct polls, and followed a script that addressed Mielke's stand on growth and development issues, Nielsen said.
Erin Middlewood can be reached at 360-759-8031, or by e-mail at erin.middlewood@ columbian.com.
There are lies, damned lies and now, the Progressive Majority, who admits to "addressing Mielke's stand on growth and development issues" but not to "push-polling," which is, of course, precisely what they were paying for. And if they didn't think it "worked," then one must wonder why they do it.
Odd that the Progressive Majority is so willing to engage in that which they allegedly find "disgusting."But more importantly, one must wonder why they're so concerned about THIS race... and why Stuart is so important to them.