The drama continues this week between pediatrician Kim Schrier and former King County prosecutor Jason Rittereiser, two Democrats running for Congress in Washington's potentially flippable 8th District. Fight No. 1 involves honesty in polling. Fight No. 2 involves who's actually being transparent on their tax returns and who isn't. Buckle up everybody. Or don't. We're not really going that far.
If you haven't been following the race, you should know that Schrier has raised more money than Rittereiser and the other top Democrat, former public health manager Shannon Hader, combined. Schrier has also picked up the largest union endorsements in the race.
Rittereiser has been scooping up a large number of smaller union endorsements, though today he just announced that he bagged the Washington Federation of State Employees’ endorsement, which represents 42,000 employees. Hader has recently received the sole support of the King County Democrats and the 45th Legislative District Democrats.
But judging by the size of her endorsements and the amount of money she's raised so far, Schrier appears to be ahead for now.
In an attempt to help promote that narrative, last Thursday Schrier's campaign published some internal polling from Greenberg Quinlann Rosner showing the candidate up 28 points among self-identified Democrats.
Rittereiser called the poll "bogus" and accused Schrier of "misleading" people for only publishing the results of the "informed poll," which is taken after participants read positive statements about the candidates written by the campaign paying for the poll. Candidates often test out positive and negative messaging using these polls. In this case, Schrier could have presented herself in a much better light than the other candidates, which would account for her strong showing.
In a letter released on Monday, Rittereiser argued that, had Schrier published the "uninformed poll," voters would have seen there is no clear Democratic frontrunner. Citing an internal poll from Global Strategies Group that his campaign paid for in late March, he claims "the race is wide open and is even among Democrats."
Rittereiser then goes on to say he could have claimed to boast 25 percent support in the overall race and a 35-point lead among Democratic and Independent voters based on the results of his own "informed poll." But he didn't do that because he only gets those numbers after running positive messages about himself and negative messages about the other candidates.
"Using these results to claim that I have a 35-point lead in the polls would be dishonest," he writes. He then goes on to describe himself as "a defender of the truth."
In response to this letter, a spokesperson for Schrier's campaign said it was "disappointing to see Jason running a negative campaign and attacking fellow Democrats when we should be focused on beating Dino."
"We had hoped Democrats would put party ahead of ego, but it's easy for some people to lose perspective," the spokesperson added.
In their commentary on the race, Daily Kos Elections rightly criticized Schrier's campaign for claiming she was so far ahead in the "Democratic primary" despite the fact that Washington state has a top-two system, whereby two candidates advance after the primary regardless of party. They also praised Rittereiser for his corrective letter, calling him their "new polling hero."
But Rittereiser is also playing politics here. By releasing a partial "informed poll" showing him with a 35-point lead among Democrats, he gets to say there's a way he could be 35 points up among Democrats without saying that he's saying it, all while claiming the moral high ground.
The Hader campaign didn't respond to any of my requests for comment on this particular issue, which is also a political move. She wants to be seen as floating above the fray.
Anyhow, Greenberg sent me the results from their "uninformed poll," which show Schrier with 14 percent overall support among "402 likely primary election voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District." That's more than double the number from Global Strategy Group, which has Schrier at 6 percent. Here are the "uninformed poll" results from Greenberg:
Kim Schrier 14%
Dino Rossi 48%
Chris Vance 7%
Jason Rittereiser 6%
Shannon Hader 5%
So, as of April 12, according to one poll, Schrier appears to have more support than the other Democrats in the race.
Everyone is still losing pretty badly to Rossi, who enjoys high name recognition in the district and plenty of money from the Koch Brothers.
Speaking of Rossi! In other transparency-related politickin' news coming out of this race, the Democrats are calling on Rossi to release his tax returns now that Schrier, Rittereiser, and Hader have all released theirs. My guess is he won't, given that he didn't release them during his failed statewide races in 2004, 2008, and 2010.
But, in addition to wanting to see Rossi's returns, today Rittereiser challenged Schrier to release her 2016 returns.
"Despite requests from the media for transparency, including a request that she also release two years of returns, Democratic candidate Kim Schrier has only released her 2017 tax return, a year during which she left her medical practice to run for office," a spokesperson for Rittereiser writes in a release.
"At a minimum, it appears Schrier is declining to release her 2016 return in an effort to conceal from voters her income in a typical employment year (one in which she worked full time)," the spokesperson concludes.
Rittereiser was the only Democrat to release two years of returns.
I wrote to Schrier's campaign requesting a comment on the tax return issue, but I haven't heard back yet. I'll update this post if I do.