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Friday, October 12, 2012 - Page updated at 08:30 p.m.
School group seeks McAuliffe's defeat for state Senate
By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times staff reporter
Stand for Children Washington, a group that has clashed with state Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe over school-reform issues, has spent nearly $148,000 in an attempt to end her 20-year Senate career.
With about $71,000 remaining in an independent-expenditure account, a Stand for Children spokeswoman said the organization will do more mailings opposing McAuliffe, D-Bothell, in her re-election battle against Republican Dawn McCravey.
So far, the independent campaign has sent out two mailers and aired a cable-TV spot. One mailer, which reached voters this week, labels McAuliffe "Roadblock Rosemary," and says she has stood in the way of needed changes in education.
The size of the independent spending, largely funded by relatives of top executives at Amazon.com and Microsoft, suggests the high stakes in one of the hottest Senate elections.
Stand for Children's spending gives a financial advantage to McCravey and exceeds the $93,272 spent in support of McAuliffe during the primary by the Washington Education Association and other groups, mostly labor unions.
A WEA spokesman declined to say if the union will put more money into the McAuliffe-McCravey battle.
The Stand for Children ads tap a $250,000 fund consisting of two $75,000 contributions, from Mike Bezos, father of Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and Connie Ballmer, wife of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; $50,000 from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; and $25,000 each from two other donors.
McAuliffe said the expenditures were "shocking," while McCravey exclaimed, "Wow!" when she heard the same news.
"I've run four campaigns and I've never seen money like this before," McAuliffe said, noting that Stand for Children has spent more opposing her than she has raised.
The state Republican Party has targeted McAuliffe, along with Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, of Camano Island, and an open seat in Pierce County, in an attempt to gain control of the Senate. Democrats have said they are confident McAuliffe will keep her seat in the Democratic-leaning First Legislative District that includes parts of Kirkland, Bothell, Mountlake Terrace and unincorporated South Snohomish County.
Education has been a central issue, with the WEA supporting McAuliffe while Stand for Children and the League of Education Voters back McCravey. McAuliffe has chaired the Senate Education Committee since 1997.
McCravey, a Northshore School Board member and former special-education teacher, contends McAuliffe has failed to adequately fund schools or hold educators accountable.
Among the differences between the candidates are charter schools, an issue McAuliffe didn't let her committee vote on earlier this year and which is now going before voters as Initiative 1240. They also disagree about how teachers should be evaluated.
Stand for Children spokeswoman Anne Martens said wealthy donors were eager to contribute to the anti-McAuliffe campaign "because of Rosemary's record of standing in the way of really having some deep and serious conversations about how to improve our schools."
McCravey said she was encouraged by Stand for Children's ad campaign against McAuliffe, who she said "has blocked every education-reform bill that has come along recently."
WEA spokesman Rich Wood called the expenditures "a huge amount of money from people who have little or no connection to the public schools" in her district.
Wood said teachers support McAuliffe because she "has been a champion for children and public schools."
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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