Sunday, January 29, 2006


Willy Horton Rides Again For the Republicans

OK, anyone out there remember Willy Horton? He’s baaack—the Republicans are up to their old tricks. Scare the people and get them to vote for the fascists. What can you say?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 12:00 AM
Legislature 2006
GOP postcards fuel a fracas

By Andrew Garber
Seattle Times Olympia bureau

OLYMPIA — House Democrats on Monday accused Republicans of dirty politics for mailing out 25,000 postcards that accuse certain lawmakers of being soft on crime and protecting violent sex offenders.

The postcards show a mug shot of a middle-age man with slicked-back hair. His eyes and his name are blacked out to shield his identity. The cards, shown in photocopies provided by Democrats, carry a bold headline that reads, "This violent predator lives in your community."

They also describe sex crimes supposedly committed by the person, then mention the name of a Democratic lawmaker and claim the legislator "refused to impose life sentences for violent sex predators."

The cards are part of a $75,000 Republican ad campaign that Democrats say is targeting lawmakers in swing districts for the November election. In addition to the cards, the campaign is using radio spots, television ads and automated phone calls.

"It's politics at its worst," fumed House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said he had nothing to do with the ad campaign and referred questions to Kevin Carns, executive director of the Speakers Roundtable, a GOP political-action committee (PAC).

Carns said DeBolt, who has raised money for the PAC, was not involved in the ad campaign. Carns defended the advertisements, saying Democrats have used similar tactics in the past.

"I'm not going to apologize for playing tough," he said.

The attack ads are based on a vote taken the first day of the legislative session after House Republicans made a motion asking for an immediate floor debate on a newly drafted, 116-page sex-offender bill. The measure would crack down on sex offenders, including imposition of lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

Since the session had just started, no hearing had been held on the bill and lawmakers hadn't had a chance to read it. The GOP motion was rejected on a party-line vote.

Within days, voters in six districts started getting automated phone calls attacking Democrats for not voting for the measure. Carns said there was discussion of an ad campaign even before the vote was taken, but the ads weren't created until afterward.

The mailing infuriated Democrats. "The entire postcard is a lie," Kessler said.

For example, she said, although the postcards claim the sex offender pictured lives in a particular district, the same photo appears on all the cards.

Carns said the cards aren't supposed to be taken literally. "I would have loved to put an offender from each specific district and not obscured their name. But we'd have put ourselves at liability to do so," he said.

He used one picture, with identifying information blacked out, "as a metaphor," he said.

The ad campaign is justified, Carns said, because "the House Democrats have refused to get tough on violent predators."

If they will move the Republicans' bill, HB 2476, out of committee, "the ad campaign will stop," he said.

A hearing was held on that measure and a second sex-offender bill, HB 2411, sponsored by Democrats, on Jan. 12.

Tom McBride, executive secretary of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said his group supports the Democrats' bill and has concerns about the GOP measure.

"There's lots of stuff we support" in the Republican bill, he said, "but there's one big bone of contention."

His group is concerned about the mandatory minimum sentences called for in the legislation. Such sentences could affect the willingness of children to testify when the case deals with family members, he said. The Democrats' bill allows prosecutors and the courts more discretion, McBride said.

Rep. Al O'Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, also was troubled by the mandatory sentences.

"The vast majority of sex offenses happen within families. If you start saying family members are going to get hammered hard, you'll end up with fewer reports by family members who don't want to lose their breadwinner or don't want brother Bob to go to prison for 25 years," he said.

O'Brien said he's putting together another sex-predator bill with the help of Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican.

Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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