Once largely rural and wooded, Washington's 5th Legislative District borders Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Redmond to the west,* Kittitas County to the east, and encompasses parts of Issaquah, Snoqualmie, North Bend, Renton, Maple Valley, and Black Diamond. The district is large, dotted with lakes and mountains, and it gets whiter and more conservative the further south and east you get from Seattle.
Politics in the 5th district lean well to the right of the city. Mark Mullet, a Democrat who was elected to the Washington State Senate in 2012, is a pro-business lawmaker who received mixed rating from progressive groups: NARAL Pro Choice Washington gives him a C, Washington Conservation Voters gives him an A, and the Washingston State Labor Council gives him a D. He spent 12 years in international finance at Bank of America, served on the Issaquah City Council, and now owns two small businesses there, a pizza place and a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. He's a classic pro-business, moderate Democrat.
The local Republican Party, however, is anything but moderate, as a tour of the official party website illustrates. The site, which looks like it was constructed by someone who discovered GeoCities sometime in the mid '90s and never learned another line of code, is a collection of fake news, anti-Hillary memes, and false and offensive statements about Democrats, women, Muslims, immigrants, and people of color. Until just today, when I reached out to the GOP for comment, it featured a comic made by Stilton Jarlsberg, a conservative, anti-Obama cartoonist on the front page:
It gets worse. Right under that, a chart of supposed differences between Republican and Democratic platforms is blatantly false. Under "Military" category it says, Democrats:
Prefer decreases in military spending and if that can't be achieved, to use the military budget to fund sex-change operations for as many people as possible
Believe that bending over for tyrants will result in tyrants renouncing their tyranny and making nice.
Under "Gun Control," it says, Democrats:
Do not support the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms).
Favor gun confiscation.
Cannot comprehend that historically 56 million defenseless people around the world were rounded up and exterminated in the 20th century right after their Rulers confiscated all their guns.
Become panic-stricken when shown gun shapes.
Support keeping elective abortions legal, including late-term abortions.
Support government funding of pro-abortion entities such as Planned Parenthood.
Willing to riot at the thought of protecting life.
The list continues, spreading inflammatory falsehoods about the opposing party right before a calendar of local GOP events like the regular Tuesday night meeting of the Cascade Republican Women's club.
Under a section of the website called "Climate 'change'" they post articles and statistics pushed by pro-industry climate change-deniers like Ian Plimer, an Australian geologist who also happens to serve on the boards of several mining companies, and Richard Lindzen, a mathematician and physicist who consults with oil and coal companies and published pro-fossil fuel reports with the conservative Cato Institute.
The website also features poetry, such as "Twas the Night Before Inauguration!," featuring villians Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and, of course, Black Lives Matter. It advertises books and films by climate change deniers, Clinton conspracy theorists, Dinesh D'Zouza, and Ayn Rand. It links to videos like this, from conservative commentator Bill Whittles, arguing that Islam is raging a war against Christians across the U.S. "They will find a way to kill everything they hate," he says, "and they hate everything that isn't them."
This anti-Islam rhetoric endorsed by the local party certainly seems in line with at least one of their representatives: Rep. Jay Rodne of Snoqualmie, who, KOMO reported, warned Americans to arm themselves from an incoming onslaught of Islamic terrorists after the ISIS attacks in Paris in November 2015. "Islam is incompatible with western civilization!," he wrote on his personal Facebook page. "How anyone [sic] people need to die? In the interim, Amicans [sic], arm yourselves!!!!!"
Rep. Rodne is up for relection in November, as is his fellow Republican Paul Graves. While neither the state or local party—or Reps. Rodne and Graves—returned my request for comment, after I reached out, the cartoon featured above quickly disappeared from the website and was replaced by a link to Dino Rossi's campaign website. Other sections disappeared too, though you can see older versions of the site on the Internet Archive.
While the Republicans are keeping mum, the Democrats are speaking up. "People need to know that this kind of racism and misogyny is right here in our backyard," said Alex Bond, political director at the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign, "and that 5th Legislative District Republicans are promoting really terrible messages about women and minorities. This is the kind of gross politics that voters are going to reject in 2018 elections."
For his part, Sen. Mullet said this does not reflect the values of the district. “I’ve been out meeting voters in our district for years," he says. "Even when they disagree with me politically, they’re mostly thoughtful, reasonable people. This site doesn’t represent them. It’s a sad reflection of an extremist minority that turns to trash talk and falsehoods because they know their politics of division doesn’t sell in our purple legislative district.”
*An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the 5th district borders Seattle, as the author forgot the Eastside exists. She apologizes to Bellevue for the error.