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Saturday, October 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Racial issues raised over Democratic mailing
By Warren Cornwall
Democrats, however, say the ad has nothing to do with race and everything to do with 48th District Republican candidate James Whitfield's right-wing affiliations.
The mailing features a white moving van in front of a pristine suburban house and a clear blue sky. On the other side, the ad describes Whitfield as an extremist who moved to the suburban Eastside district just to run for office. At the bottom it features a smiling portrait of Whitfield, framed by dark gray asphalt from the road in front of the moving van.
"He moved here last year ... Unfortunately he brought too much baggage," reads the front.
Whitfield said the imagery appears to evoke a past era when white neighborhoods shuddered at the prospect of African-Americans moving in next door.
"I can't say what their intention was," he said of the state Democratic Central Committee, which paid for the ad. "All I can say is it's pretty insensitive or it's pretty intolerant."
The 48th Legislative District is a largely white, relatively affluent suburban district that includes parts of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Medina.
State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt dismissed the complaint.
"It is outrageous for them to be making the charge that there is some racial implication to this piece. James Whitfield is a carpetbagger. It's very evident that he moved into this district just to run for office and he brought all of this right-wing baggage with him," Berendt said.
Whitfield's opponent for the state House seat, incumbent Democrat Ross Hunter, said he reviewed the ad before it was mailed and didn't see any racial overtones.
"I thought this was a relatively light hit on someone who is more partisan than I am. I did not see the imagery that he's complaining about. If I had, I would have said something about that," Hunter said.
"It's absolutely outrageous and downright racist. Ross Hunter should be ashamed!" King County Republican Party Chairwoman Pat Herbold stated in the release.
Whitfield also took issue with facts in the ad. Whitfield wasn't a newcomer to Kirkland in 2003. He first moved there from Illinois in 1997, moved to Lake Forest Park in 1999 and then returned to Kirkland in 2003. He said he long had wanted to live in Kirkland again.
Whitfield also disputed the ad's claim that he oversaw the endorsement of a 2002 state Republican Party platform that proposed weakening the Endangered Species Act, easing gun regulations and restricting abortion rights.
The Republican said he didn't join the party's state executive board until several months after that platform was adopted. He said there were some parts of it he supported, and others with which he disagreed. He has cast himself as a moderate Republican who worked to broaden the party's appeal.
Berendt didn't offer proof that Whitfield moved in order to run for office, but said it seemed like more than a coincidence. He also questioned whether Whitfield could distance himself from the party's platform while he was on the executive board.
"When you're elected to these executive boards, you support their platform," he said.
Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or email@example.com
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