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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

October 23, 2012 at 12:19 PM

National Democratic group strikes in AG’s race

A national Democratic group has joined the state attorney general’s race, trying to bolster the campaign of Bob Ferguson, who has been slipping in polls after attacks by a national GOP group spending $2.5 million in the race.

The Washington Committee for Justice and Fairness, funded by the Democratic Attorneys General Association and the Service Employees International Union, has reported to state watchdogs $900,000 in receipts. Records show the group has spent more than $400,000 buying time for TV ads on Seattle stations thus far.

In a 30-second TV ad scheduled to start running today, the Democrats attack Republican candidate Reagan Dunn, a former federal prosecutor, for cutting deals with criminals he prosecuted. Specifically, the ad says Dunn “cut a deal” with a drug smuggler, a child pornographer and a domestic abuser who went on to beat someone to death in a drunken rage.

Dunn notes that prosecutors strike plea deals with defendants in the vast majority of cases they handle; only a small fraction ever go to trial. “As a matter of judicial economy we’re trying to encourage cases to settle before trial, because if most went to trial the wheels of justice would grind to a halt,” he said.

Dunn also says the charge about him cutting a deal with a convicted domestic abuser is inaccurate. He contends that case was primarily handled by other prosecutors and he did not sign the plea agreement.

An SEIU spokesman acknowledged that Dunn was not listed on the plea agreement. But Dunn did submit a sentencing recommendation, spokesman Jackson Holtz noted. And that recommendation called for dropping one felony charge and reducing the sentence from the maximum of 10 years to 40 months in prison.

Look for us to fact-check the ads by both national groups more thoroughly in days to come.

The Democratic ad hits the airwaves after the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington, D.C., bludgeoned Ferguson with ads focused on how Ferguson, as a law student two decades ago, helped a death row inmate get legal representation. In a Survey USA poll just before the GOP ads surfaced, Ferguson held an eight-point lead over Dunn.  Last week a poll by the same group had Ferguson ahead by just two points, with 22 percent of voters undecided.

The spending by national groups shows how important our state race is. Currently each party has 25 state attorneys general spread across the country. Republicans are especially intent on holding the AG’s office in Washington.  A spokesman for the GOP group said it has never spent as much in a single state race as it’s investing in Dunn. Both Ferguson and Dunn are seen as rising stars in their respective parties.

The ads, though, with grainy images and ominous sound effects, aim to drag the candidates down in the minds of undecided voters. “This is sort of lowbrow politics,” Dunn said of both national groups, which are running campaigns that cannot coordinate with the candidates.

Comments | More in Attorney General, homepage, Politics Northwest | Topics: Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, Reagan Dunn


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