The Dirtiest Campaign

The Seattle Port Commission race between incumbent Bob Edwards and challenger Gael Tarleton slimed into its final weekend of name calling with the ultimate glob of mud-throwing: Each accused the other of being Republican. Tarleton, a fund-raiser for the UW?s Office of Global Affairs and onetime executive with U.S. defense contractor SAIC, has already indicated the commission job would be her first step in a hopeful future run for secretary of state. She mentioned this in campaign e-mails she sent out from her UW government office, seeking voter and contributor support. When confronted by a Seattle Times reporter, she said she didn?t know better and announced she?d turn herself in to the state Public Disclosure Commission. She called Edwards "lackidaisical" and perpetrator of a port "culture of secrecy." She blamed him for scandals he wasn?t directly responsible for, adding "If you want more scandals, more failed audits, a polluted Puget Sound and cost overruns, by all means, stick with Bob Edwards." She also accused him of ?swiftboat tactics" and, last weekend, sent out glossy fliers depicting what appear to be checks written by Edwards on a port account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in corrupt payments. Despite the reality graphics, the checks were fakes.

Meanwhile, Edwards has gone after Tarleton?s connection to the private security firm SAIC (Science Applications International Corp.). SAIC?s past transgressions include overcharging and making false statements to the government, and playing a pre-war role in the Bush administration?s false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He did not acknowledge that Tarleton had left SAIC a year before the war began, or that SAIC also did past business with the port, contracts over which he had approval. After the two-term incumbent (whose campaign, it turned out, was the leaker of Tarleton?s improper UW e-mailings), came in 9,500 votes behind neophyte Tarleton in the crowded primary, he turned up the SAIC attacks. The culmination was last weekend?s glossy mailer: ?If You Like Halliburton, You?ll Love Gael Tarleton," it says. On the cover was the smirking face of Dick Cheney, the Republican vice president and former Halliburton chief. On the back was Dick Cheney photo-shopped as if sitting next to Gael Tarleton. The flier cites a Seattle Weekly story on Tarleton?s SAIC connections (without noting that SAIC has no current port contracts), and says ?Gael spent 12 years at SAIC, a company that acts just like Halliburton." Despite the reality graphics, the Cheney connection was a fake.

What would the candidates do about port spending, expansion, competition, and security? I read the fliers word for word. Beats me.

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