Elections

County Commission candidates say they’re both upset by PAC’s robocall

Thurston County Commissioner District No. 1 candidates John Hutchings, left, and Jim Cooper are interviewed Sept. 22 by The Olympian’s editorial board. Both candidates say they’re upset about an anti-Cooper robocall that was paid for by a political committee.
Thurston County Commissioner District No. 1 candidates John Hutchings, left, and Jim Cooper are interviewed Sept. 22 by The Olympian’s editorial board. Both candidates say they’re upset about an anti-Cooper robocall that was paid for by a political committee. sbloom@theolympian.com

A robocall that went out to many South Sound residents Friday that said “Why does Democrat commissioner candidate Jim Cooper treat women like Donald Trump does?” was not paid for by his opponent John Hutchings.

Tenino’s former police chief, who is running as an independent, said he didn’t know about the message before it went out, and he fears it will cost him potential supporters. He called the message “cheap tactics and slimy activism.”

“I am madder than a freaking hornet,” Hutchings told The Olympian. “I have zero knowledge of this. I have zero to do with this. …This is not how I campaign. I’m about bringing the community together.”

The message states that it was paid for by Friends of Jimmy and We Want to Be Friends of Jimmy Too. Both political committees are led by property rights activist Glen Morgan of Rochester, a frequent critic of the Board of County Commissioners.

Morgan is a Rochester School Board member and a former staff member of the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based conservative group.

We Want to be Friends of Jimmy Too has raised $2,300; its donors include Terry Ballard of Lacey, Gene and Janet Weaver of Rochester, Dream Weavers Inc. of Rochester, Kevin O’Sullivan of Olympia and Pat Tarzwell of Shelton, according to Public Disclosure Commission reports.

The robocall message stated that it was from Olympia City Council member Karen Rogers, and alleges that several complaints were filed about Cooper for employee mistreatment.

“Yes, that was her voice,” Morgan said about Rogers. “A lot of women had kind of come forward and talked about Jim. She was one of them, so she was willing to record that.”

Cooper said the allegations in the message are untrue, and that he’s never been accused of mistreating women.

“It immediately just hurt my feelings,” Cooper said.

As a response, his campaign organized an all-women rally and photo opportunity Saturday at Port Plaza in downtown Olympia.

“That’s the tone of where I’m going,” Cooper said. “I’m not going to be pulled in the mud, and I’ll continue to keep my campaign positive.”

Morgan said Hutchings wasn’t aware of the message before it went out. He said his group will probably send out more robocalls before the election.

“I don’t think it’s any secret I’ve been concerned about the harmful policies that Cooper endorses for years,” Morgan said. “It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’m concerned about the harm that he’s going to bring to our community if he gets into office.”

The message was sent with a callback number to the Thurston County Democrats headquarters. That number was used without the organization’s permission, said Katie Nelson, chairwoman of the Thurston County Democrats.

“We’ve talked to our carrier, and our carrier has advised us that that is actually theft,” she said Saturday. “And we should file a complaint with the Police Department and contact the Attorney General’s Office.”

In the meantime, Cooper and Hutchings say they agreed at the beginning of the race that they’d keep it a clean, issues-based campaign, and they intend to keep those promises.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

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