October 21, 2022
From the Editor’s Desk: Fact-checking 42nd District campaign mailers
Mike Sato and Salish Current Staff

Mailers produced by candidates, political parties and political action committees (PACs) in support of and against candidates have begun to arrive in 42nd Legislative District mailboxes. How accurate are their claims? In pursuit of the truth, Salish Current staff have fact-checked some of the statements.

October 21, 2022
From the Editor’s Desk: Fact-checking 42nd District campaign mailers
Mike Sato and Salish Current Staff

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This year, Whatcom County is on track to receive over $1 million worth of political advertisements in mailboxes. These political mailers to 42nd Legislative District addresses are timed to arrive with the ballot and carry with them a variety of claims and arguments. Here at the Salish Current, we continue our work of fact checking these claims as they arrive.

‘TOO EXTREME’

This mailer was produced by the Washington State Republican Party (WRSP) against Democratic incumbent Rep. Alicia Rule and Democratic candidate Joe Timmons as part of their Evergreen Progress Political Action Committee $36,873.64 independent expenditure.

• Mailer statement: “Abortion is a difficult, private and personal decision. Alicia Rule and Joe Timmons disagree.”
Score: False

On Joe Timmons’ website, he says, “The choice to have a family is a personal and private decision.” Alicia Rule expressed similar sentiments at the July 1, 2022, rally in the wake of Roe v. Wade being undone (read the Salish Current’s coverage here).

Both Timmons and Rule support returning Roe v. Wade to the law of the land and have committed to protecting Washington’s 2018 Reproductive Parity Act which protects the right to an abortion in state law.

• Mailer statement: “Their plan calls for partial birth abortion. Abortion up until the due date. With no safeguards.”
Score: False

First, “partial birth abortion” is not a medical term but was coined by the National Right to Life Committee in 1995 to refer to a procedure that was used to remove a fetus during the second trimester. Less than 1% of abortions take place in the third trimester, and in Washington state, abortions are legal only up until the fetus is viable to live outside the womb except to protect the life of the pregnant person. 

As stated above, both Timmons and Rule support returning the rights that were in place prior to the reversal of Roe v. Wade and support the Reproductive Parity Act which means that they support the state laws currently in place. 

‘Shewmake Leads on Public Safety’

This mailer in support of Democratic Representative Sharon Shewmake’s campaign for State Senate is part of a $63,963.20 independent expenditure produced by the New Direction PAC, a Seattle-based political action committee that is mostly funded by unions (SEIU, WEA, Washington Fed. of State Employees). 

• Mailer statement: “More—and better paid—officers. Shewmake voted to nearly double the number of new officers, meaning better staffing and shorter response times . . . [ESSB 5693]”
Score: Mostly true

The bill referenced in the citation on the mailer is actually the 2021-2023 operations appropriations bill, a big omnibus operating budget bill that includes all the operating expenses and appropriations for the budget. The mailer is correct inasmuchas Rep. Shewmake did vote in favor of the final bill; however, it was not a specific bill aimed at increasing funding for law enforcement. As a result, we rate this mostly True.

• Mailer statement: “Cracking Down on Property Crimes. Shewmake co-sponsored and helped pass a new law increasing penalties and providing additional tools for law enforcement to reduce catalytic converter theft. [HB 1815]”
Score: True

The bill referenced, HB 1815, requires the Washington State Patrol to create a catalytic converter theft-tracking project using vehicle identification numbers, expands the “No Buy” database to include tracking of scrap metal recyclers who traffic stolen catalytic converters, modifies the criminal penalties relating to metal theft and establishes (and provides resources for) a task force on catalytic converter theft. 

It was cosponsored by Rep. Shewmake, passed out of both chambers unanimously and signed into law by Gov. Inslee on Mach 30.

‘Whatcom County is not as safe as it used to be’

This mailer is credited to the Washington State Republican Party but is from candidate Dan Johnson for state representative. The Johnson campaign used the State Party bulk mail indicia to save money, which is a standard practice among some campaigns. 

• Mailer statementRecent antipolice laws made crime in Whatcom County skyrocket.”
Score: Somewhat true

Salish Current tackled claims of spiking crime rates in a previous fact-check article and, while some law enforcement professionals have attributed the increase in property crimes to the recent police reform bills out of Olympia (see Salish Current’s coverage here), they also reference the deteriorating condition of the jail and the difficulty in retaining staff as major impacts on their ability to reduce crime. 

• Mailer statement: “If we don’t change who represents us, things will get even worse. They already plan to release more prisoners early and make drugs like fentanyl legal by next year.”
Score: Mostly false

Who “they” refers to in the second sentence is unclear.  If it is referencing people “who represent us,” as is the implication, then it is false because no state representative from the 42nd District has sponsored legislation to legalize fentanyl. A citizen initiative was drafted this year that would decriminalize personal drug possession and clear possession convictions from records. It did not, however, gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot and no elected officials from Whatcom County endorsed it. The mailer could be referencing that citizen initiative but it is a stretch. Therefore, we rated it mostly false.

—Reported by Mike Sato and Salish Current Staff

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