On Tuesday, November 7th, voting will conclude in what has become the most expensive state Senate race in the history of the Evergreen State. The outcome of the contest in the suburban 45th Legislative District will determine who controls Washington’s Senate through 2018, and maybe beyond.
If Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra wins, the Democratic Party will regain the majority it lost when Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon defected to the Republicans in 2012. If Republican candidate Jinyoung Lee Englund wins, the Senate Republicans will remain in power and retain their ability to kill progressive legislation.
A majority of voters in the August Top Two election backed Dhingra, who finished with 51.52% of the vote. Trailing far behind in second place was Englund with 41.46%. Independent Parker Harris got 7.02% of the vote and was eliminated.
A month later, the Washington State Wire released the toplines of a poll commissioned from Myers Research to ascertain how the general election might turn out. The poll findings mirrored the results of the Top Two election, with 51% of respondents saying they’d vote for Dhingra and 41% for Englund.
Republicans have tried to paint a rosier picture by claiming their own internal polling shows Englund gaining ground on Dhingra. But they haven’t released any numbers, which suggests that even their own research finds that Dhingra is winning.
The prospect of a double digit Dhingra victory isn’t sitting well with Republicans or their funders, who are loathe to give up their stranglehold on the state Senate. With no evidence of a shift in their favor, they’ve become increasingly panicky, and are taking out their frustration on Dhingra and her campaign.
Just look at what they’re saying and doing.
Fake Facebook profiles
To impugn Dhingra and misrepresent her positions on the issues, Republican operatives created multiple fake Facebook profiles using Manka’s name, accompanied by an ugly, yellow-tinged image of her face.
The profiles were then used as a launching pad for ads which falsely scream that Dhingra’s “extreme pro-drug agenda is a threat to our community”.
This is a line of attack Republicans are pushing hard. They’ve switched from fearmongering on the basis of higher taxes (which didn’t work in the summer election) to fearmongering on the basis of safe consumption sites.
After users complained about the fake profiles, one was taken down and the name of the other was changed to “Unofficial Manka Dhingra“. But there’s no such thing as an unofficial person — Facebook ought to force the Republicans to change the name of the page again.
Red Scare style attacks
A “Red Scare” is promotion, real and imagined, of widespread fear by a society or state about a potential rise of communism, anarchism, or radical leftism. The term is most often used to refer to two periods in the history of the United States with this name.
Republican operatives have also created a video ad which ends with a young person standing in front of Emil Venkov’s bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin in Fremont, Seattle, wearing glasses, a beanie hat, bandanna, and a purple t-shirt with Dhingra’s campaign logo on it (similar to the kind her staff and volunteers wear) plus sporting three buttons: one depicting a hammer and sickle, one that says “Sawant!” and one that says “Raise Taxes!” It’s captioned “Seattle Liberals ♥ Manka Dhingra”.
“I am truly offended and shocked at how low and how deceptive the Washington State Republican Party has gotten with this ad!,” Dhingra said in response.
“They went so far as to make a fake T-shirt with my campaign logo to trick voters into thinking this ad is from my campaign. If you are as outraged as I am, make sure you vote and tell all your friends to vote. We need honesty and integrity in the Washington State Senate. Not lies and false information.”
Jinyoung Lee Englund’s campaign has produced its own similar ads.
Mailers that mimic the design and wording of the opposition’s mailers
Evidently envious of the work of their counterparts on the Democratic side, Republican operatives have also recently created mailers that closely mimic the design and wording of the ads that the Democratic Party and its allies have been paying for in opposition to Englund since the springtime. (Charles Caleb Colton said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… but is it really?)
Here’s an example of a mailer the Democrats have sent to voters opposing Englund:
But two can play at that game. The Democrats decided a few months back to create a political committee to spearhead their anti-Englund campaigns called the Eastside Leadership Council, riffing on the name of the Senate Republicans’ long-established PAC, which is blandly called The Leadership Council.
Dismissing Manka Dhingra’s experience as a prosecutor
Republicans say they are all about family values, but to borrow a phrase from Jinyoung Lee Englund, that’s just a party talking point. Time and again, Republicans have demonstrated that real family values mean nothing to them.
The latest proof of this is Republicans’ cringe-worthy attempts to discredit Manka Dhingra’s work experience, which is one of her strengths as a candidate.
Dhingra doesn’t work full time for King Count Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, the only Republican presently serving in a countywide position, because she has two children and a husband she wants to spend as much time with as possible.
Republicans and independent political groups have turned her résumé against her, noting that Dhingra hasn’t worked full-time as a prosecutor since 2003. Instead, she’s worked part-time to help raise her family. She’s paid for sixteen hours a week, but [Mark Larson, chief deputy of the office’s criminal division and Dhingra’s boss] said Dhingra works more than that. Still, [Washington State Republican Party Chair Susan] Hutchison argues that her limited work schedule means she’s “not a career prosecutor.”
Emphasis is mine. Seriously, what an insult to every working mother in the 45th Legislative District and the State of Washington.
You might think Republican Party brass would show more respect to someone who is employed by the only Republican still holding office in the state’s largest county. But on that score, you’d be wrong. In Manka Dhingra, Susan Hutchison and the people who work for her don’t see an accomplished woman worthy of their respect. They see only an obstacle to their continued grip on the Senate.
This kind of campaigning may strike Washingtonians as repugnant, but it worked in other states for Donald Trump, just as it has worked in the past here for Tim Eyman before this organization began taking him on with a mindset of Permanent Defense. The party of Dan Evans, John Spellman, and even Slade Gorton has become the party of Donald Trump and Tim Eyman. And Eastside voters have taken notice.
The nastier and more craven Republicans get in their attacks, the more at risk they are of destroying what’s left of their credibility with suburban voters.
But it seems they’re so desperate to avoid losing on November 7th in the 45th that they’re not thinking through the consequences of their self-defeating behavior.