Filing week is barely over, and charges of dirty tricks already are flying in the 31st Legislative District, where controversial state Sen. Pam Roach is running for reelection.
Roach’s most serious competition comes from a fellow Republican: state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist of Enumclaw, who is channeling long-simmering uneasiness among some Republican leaders with Roach’s volatile reputation.
But this flap surrounds Lynda Messner, a Bonney Lake woman who filed as a Democrat just before Friday’s filing deadline. Messner’s candidacy led the only other Democrat in the race, Lane Walthers, to drop out, saying two relatively unknown Democrats would only split the vote and have no shot at getting past the primary.
It turns out Messner, who also goes by Lynda Dabson, isn’t much of a loyal Democrat. State Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, captured online posts by Messner on conservative web sites in which she echoes tea party Republican talking points.
In one, Messner called for the impeachment of President Obama because “he is not a citizen.” She added: “NO OBAMACARE, NO GUN CONTROL, NO DEALS WITH THE UN, NO IMMIGRATION REFORM, NO MORE EXECUTIVE ORDERS until Obama can proove (sic) he is eligible to hold office.”
In another, she called the president “Obama Bundy!!! Disagree with him and he will ‘Dahmer’ your hide.”
Hurst accused Roach, R-Auburn, of recruiting Messner as a fake Democrat to dilute support for a real Democratic candidate. “This is typical Pam,” he said, pointing to similar accusations that surfaced in 2001, when the wife of a political consultant working for Roach recruited a Green Party candidate to run in her county council race.
Those charges are denied by Roach and Messner — and Hurst admitted he didn’t have direct evidence of a link. But many of Messner’s posts, along with her Facebook profile, were taken down recently.
In emails, Messner said she “generally embraces fiscally conservative beliefs” but filed as a Democrat because she “believes the Republican Party’s focus on social issues alienates mainstream voters.”
In an interview, she added: “I don’t think religion belongs in politics anywhere. I think religion is strictly a lifestyle choice.”
Messner said she’s been “sucker punched” by questions about whether Roach had put her up to filing. “I am not sure where this idea got rooted but everybody is focusing on this matter and I am not a part of this,” she said.
Roach, meanwhile, said she has never spoken to Messner. And she accused Hurst of illegally using his House campaign funds to try to take her out, saying she’d filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
In any case, what Messner did is perfectly legal under Washington’s “top two” primary system, which allows candidates to declare any partisan affiliation they desire, noted Dave Ammons, spokesman for Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
“The parties no longer have control over who is ‘legitimate,'” Ammons said.
Candidates can even make up new parties. Hence, this year, a legislative candidate in Graham claimed to be part of the “Marijuana Party.” In Seattle, a woman filed as a member of the “Republicanspirit Party.” Those designations will appear by the candidates’ names on the ballot.
Hurst said he’d be frustrated if Messner’s dubious party label somehow enables Roach win reelection again. “I don’t care who beats her. Its time for somebody to beat her,” he said.
Messner, meanwhile, said she was happy to get some publicity as a little-known candidate. She attributed the current dustup to the brawl between Dahlquist and Roach, and said it only reinforced her reason for running. “Washington deserves 2 good choices and not the lesser of 2 evils,” she wrote in an email.