We got a real PAC battle going on over in the 5th Legislative District, where Overlake Hospital psychiatric nurse Ingrid Anderson is running to the left of Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet in one of the more interesting and perhaps more consequential statehouse races this cycle.
A corporate PAC called East King County Jobs Enterprise Washington, which is funded entirely by Lyft, is running a pro-Mullet ad online that dismisses Anderson's candidacy as political hobbyism, saying she'd "rather make a point than make a difference."
Some copy introducing the 30-second ad reads, emphasis mine: "Ingrid Anderson will do anything to prove a point, but in this climate we need real leaders who make a difference."
On Thursday afternoon several groups who've funded Anderson's campaign—including NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, the National Women's Political Caucus of Washington (NWPCW), the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), and a member of the Washington Education Association (WEA)—denounced the ad as "sexist," and held a press conference calling for East King County Jobs Enterprise Washington to take it down.
NWPCW president and newly appointed State House Representative Emily Wicks said the women candidates she's encouraged to run often face "sexist attacks questioning their motivations," and argued that the "connotation that Ingrid will 'do anything' to get ahead...is surrounded by that sexist attitude and innuendo we're so used to."
Others argued the ad's reduction of Anderson's candidacy to a mere point she's trying to make rather than an engine she's trying to use to make change in Olympia was sexist on its face, and said Anderson makes a difference through her work as a nurse and an active volunteer in the district.
WSNA President Lynnette Vehrs said Anderson's perspective as a nurse will serve her and her community well as a lawmaker. She also slammed Mullet for voting to water down a bill ensuring rest breaks for health care workers.
"He hasn't been a real help to us, or with women" in the fight for equal wages, Vehrs said. Mullet voted against a 2019 update to the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act that stopped employers from asking applicants how much they've made in the past, a systemic problem that perpetuated the pay gap between men and women in the same field.
Catherine Boys, a member of the WEA and a 10th and 12th grade English teacher in Issaquah, criticized Mullet for proposing an amendment to a 2019 education bill that would have limited teachers' ability to bargain, and slammed the ad as a "sexist and offensive campaign" against Anderson.
In a statement, Anderson said she's "already made a difference exposing Mark Mullet’s allegiance to wealthy corporate special interests and his willingness to turn his back on struggling Eastside families."
"There’s a reason these huge corporations are spending big to protect their advocate-–they know I will continue making a difference for the people that matter: in the hospital, in my community, and, soon, in the State Senate," she added.
In a statement, Sen. Mullet offered no comment on the sexist ad but said he "would like to see no more special interest funded money pouring into our community," and would prefer to "let our campaigns communicate for themselves with our voters on who would better represent our district in Olympia."
"For that to occur," Mullet continued, "Both myself and my opponent would need to agree to this, which I am on-board with.”
On Friday Anderson didn't take Mullet up on his offer. “It's disappointing that Senator Mullet thinks it's ok to leave a sexist attack ad up, as long as it doesn't put him at a political disadvantage. He is trying to distract from the fact that he continues to accept corporate campaign contributions from the oil industry, pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers and more because they know he is in Olympia fighting for them," she said. "I'm not accepting corporate PAC contributions so I can be an effective voice for families and our communities, not special interests."
Public disclosure forms show independent expenditures have so far spent over $231,600 on Mullet's behalf and
$0 over $277,085 on Anderson's behalf, and both benefit from direct contributions from PACs. Mullet takes money from an absolute squadron of conservative special interest groups, including JP Morgan Chase, Stand for Children Washington (charter school boosters), debt collectors, realtors, Vulcan, Pharma, you name it. Anderson takes money from unions.
Candidates can't coordinate with independent expenditures, who can spend money on whichever race they want for whichever reason they want because free speech!!, but both candidates could resolve to reject direct contributions from PACs. That truce would favor Mullet, as Anderson would have fewer financial resources to overcome the name ID deficit she faces as a challenger. Given the realities of campaigning during a pandemic, challengers are already at a disadvantage.
Though none of the following came up during the press conference, Mullet, a former Bank of America executive who now owns a couple Ben and Jerry's franchises and a Zeeks Pizza on the eastside, has also blocked attempts to pass progressive revenue, blocked moderate proposals to fight climate change, spearheaded legislation to allow big businesses to exploit multimillion-dollar tax loopholes, voted against affirmative action, organized an outdoor ice cream social during the pandemic, and may or may not have completed installation on an $80,000 pool in the backyard of his McMansion.
Unlike Mullet, Anderson supports a clean fuel standard and efforts to "close corporate loopholes and create a more equitable tax system."