Saturday, November 10, 2007

Goodbye... for now

From this morning's Renton Reporter:

[Cheryl] Haskins... waged a well-funded campaign against Parker. She said she's not done with politics. "It would have been the beginning, whether I win or lose," she said.
Now, she says, she plans on getting involved in local Renton organizations.

Until we meet again...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Issue of Faith

Note: by posting this entry, my intention is not to sensationalize Cheryl's Haskins' defeat or rehash previously-discussed topics. I simply feel that this particular issue needs a bit more illumination.

In both the Seattle Times and on her campaign website at one point, Cheryl Haskins indicated that she believed my opposition to her candidacy constituted a personal attack on her faith. That belief genuinely troubles me, for a number of reasons. I have close relationships with people of many different faiths in my life, from Orthodox Judaism, to Evangelical Christianity, to mainstream Islam, and they and I know that I would never impugn anyone's personal religious or spiritual beliefs, even if I strongly disagreed with them. I believe that personal faith (or lack thereof) is something that each person needs to discover on their own, and I know that faith plays an important and positive role in billions of people's lives worldwide. In fact, several current and newly-elected Renton City Council members – all of whom I've now met – have very strong spiritual beliefs, and they've been very open about their affiliations with religious institutions and organizations. I can tell you that I've been blown away by the intelligence and integrity of these council members.

In believing that my opposition to her candidacy is attack on her faith, Cheryl Haskins has indicated that she's unwilling or unable to examine the true nature of my criticisms. Essentially, she's taking the easy way out by playing the victim. I could have done the same by labeling her a "homophobe" or saying she "hates" gay people, but I chose not to use such inflammatory terms to get my message across. I'm fairly certain that Cheryl's opposition to gay rights is far more complex than just an intrinsic fear or loathing of gay people, and I've never suggested otherwise. I've also never questioned her right to personally oppose gay marriage or domestic partnership legislation, because I understand that she has strong personal beliefs that that run counter to those concepts. What I have questioned is her religiously-inspired organization's public opposition to and politicization of gay rights issues.

There are some, including Dean Radford, the editor of the Renton Reporter, who apparently believe that discussing a candidate's faith or religious affiliation has no place in a campaign for local office. In situations where a candidate has made no mention of his or her personal beliefs, I'd agree with that statement. If, however, a candidate has publicly promoted his or her church membership or personal religious beliefs, I think it's entirely appropriate to ask what role those beliefs might play in public policy decisions. Most candidates wouldn't find such a question offensive, and would realize that it's simply a part of running for office in our multi-cultural, multi-religious society.

In Cheryl Haskins' case, though, the questions people asked of her were not focused on her personal faith, but on her public political activism against gay rights, which has clearly been influenced by her faith and her affiliation with a very conservative church, where her husband happens to be a pastor. The fact that a great deal of her campaign funding came from members of her church – people who don't even live in Renton – was also a concern for me and others, as it suggested a coordinated effort by outsiders to get a candidate with a specific ideology elected to our City Council. Many people remain skeptical that Cheryl's candidacy was masterminded by the Religious Right, and I really have no proof that it truly was. However, based on well-documented efforts by groups such as the Christian Coalition to install religious conservatives in local, non-partisan offices, it's quite possible that Cheryl Haskins' candidacy represented more than just one woman's interest in representing her community. That supposition is supported by the involvement of the state Republicans and leaders of her church in her campaign and its financing. I also believe that Cheryl intended to use the City Council as a brief stepping stone on her way towards higher office, without paying her dues in our community. Most politically-savvy observers I've met have echoed that concern.

Given all of this information, Cheryl Haskins is either being naïve or manipulative in claiming that she's being attacked on the basis of her personal faith. If she feels persecuted, I hope she can overcome that initial reaction by reexamining the true nature of the opposition to her candidacy, which I think I've made very clear.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It's finally over

As soon as I stumbled upon Cheryl Haskins' true background just over a month ago, I immediately began writing a personal email to her, letting her know that her anti-gay activism had not escaped my attention. As I wrote the email, I started to feel increasingly disturbed by the prospect of such a divisive individual serving in a leadership position in my community. Despite my complete lack of hands-on experience with political activism, some untapped part of my psyche began to glow, and a stream of ideas and strategies suddenly filled my head. I realized that I had a moral obligation to inform my fellow citizens of her hidden liabilities. I stopped writing the letter to Cheryl, and instead wrote one to the editor of the Renton Reporter. Thus began my unlikely and tumultuous career as Cheryl Haskins' most vocal opponent in her run for City Council.

Four weeks and a wealth of experience later, I'm fairly certain that my efforts did indeed help derail Cheryl Haskins' well-funded plan to get elected. Whether or not she could have actually won is impossible to gauge, but all of the well-seasoned politicos I've met seem to think that my actions turned the tide of public opinion against her, and helped reverse the positive effects of the massive marketing she had done to promote her "new face." That visibility was really the only strength she had going for her, since she had no local record of service to go on, and her campaign message was generically non-controversial.

I'm not comfortable taking credit for her defeat, though. Despite what my detractors have said, this journey has never been about inflating my own ego or making a name for myself. I was most concerned that my criticisms of Cheryl would tarnish King Parker's reputation, but despite the efforts of some to paint me as King's "kingpin," he did a masterful job of staying unconnected to the controversy. If anything, I think my criticisms of Cheryl allowed people to look beyond her superficial message of "fresh ideas" to see that she really wasn't a qualified candidate, particularly when compared to King Parker, whose record of service to our city is unimpeachable.

I respect Cheryl for graciously conceding defeat today, but based on the statement on her website, it's clear that her political ambitions remain strong. As I have said before, I personally feel that she should channel those ambitions into running for a partisan office, like County Council or State Representative. In such case, she would need to run as a Republican, and she would be held accountable for her past political activism in opposition to gay issues, which may not even turn out to be an issue for voters in such a campaign. The worst thing she could do, though, would be to run for the City Council again, or for the School Board, as the new political super-majority in Renton is very much galvanized against her now. In addition, there will likely be some sort of campaign finance rules in place by the time she tries to run for such office again, so she'd have a hard time funding her campaign with outside money. Plus, I'm not going anywhere.

If Cheryl Haskins publicly repudiates her past involvement in divisive anti-gay activities, expresses a genuine desire to uphold our state's current anti-discrimination protections for gay people, and demonstrates those new commitments by building bridges with LGBT groups, then she just might be able to salvage her reputation in our community. If she wants to hold leadership roles in non-partisan, non-religious community organizations and participate in citizen committees in Renton, she will need to show that she can work effectively with people of all backgrounds. I won't be the one to challenge her involvement in such roles, but now that her past activities are widely known, other people certainly will bring them up.

This election should serve to remind all citizens that it's our responsibility as voters to fully research the affiliations and qualifications of candidates for any political office. Someone who suddenly arrives on the scene and bills herself as unencumbered by political baggage and full of new ideas should not be given the benefit of the doubt, especially if she has little history of local community involvement. As evidenced by the fact that a previously unknown individual received 41% of the vote running against a pillar of the community, it's clear that money and a good PR campaign can buy votes when people don't take the time to fully research candidates.

I have learned that one citizen, employing only the truth and $655.75 of his own money, can make a significant impact on public opinion, without compromising his personal ethics or resorting to deceitfulness. While some pretty ugly tactics were used to try to intimidate me, I always had the truth on my side, and in the end, my message was only strengthened by my opposition's machinations. I have also discovered that Renton is indeed the inclusive, tolerant, and welcoming community I'd always believed it to be. That was especially apparent when I arrived at last night's combined Election Night party (for five major candidates) to find many people wearing "Kevin Poole Fan Club" stickers, including big-name community leaders of all backgrounds. Now, that's what I call supportive.

Thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this process with advice, reassurance, and sign-posting physical labor. And thank you to those who respectfully and intelligently challenged my criticisms of Cheryl Haskins. In responding to such challenges, I had the opportunity to fully analyze my own motivations and preconceived notions of people. If there's one thing I learned from this experience, it's that labels – gay, straight, religious, atheist, black, white, old, young, male, female, rich, poor – are absolutely useless when it comes to trying to determine where people stand on a particular issue. That's a lesson I will hold dear for the rest of my life.

Finally, while I'm not ready to trust Cheryl Haskins' political intentions, my heart does go out to her on a very personal level right now. She and her family have been through a lot since she announced her candidacy, and I'm sure things have been especially difficult over the past several weeks, as they've been for me. Whatever issues I have with her public activities, I respect her humanity, and I wish her happiness and personal success. Hopefully, she can achieve that happiness and success without opposing the human rights of any of her fellow citizens.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin Poole

CHERYL HASKINS CONCEDES DEFEAT!

UPDATE: Wed. 10 a.m.: Cheryl Haskins has conceded defeat in a statement posted on her website. In the statement, she indicates that this campaign only marked the beginning of her political career. One can hope that any future political ambitions on her part will involve running for partisan offices as a conservative Republican, rather than for local, non-partisan offices. In any case, I'm happy to see that she has graciously conceded defeat.

-----------------------------

As of 1:04 a.m., with 100% of the precincts reporting in and 46% of the total vote counted, King Parker is leading Cheryl Haskins by 59.2% to 40.6%, or 1,188 votes. Statistically, that represents an insurmountable lead at this stage in the game, and it's therefore safe to call King Parker the winner of Renton City Council Position #5. (I feel like CNN, without the dramatic music and fancy graphics.)

Marcie Palmer and Don Persson have retained their seats on the City Council, and Greg Taylor is now the newest council member. In addition, it appears that Denis Law will be the new mayor of Renton, having captured almost 55% of the vote in his race against incumbent Kathy Keolker.

Boy, am I sure glad I aligned myself with the right group of people! And such nice people they've turned out to be.

Congratulations to all the winning candidates! I'll obviously have more information and commentary later today (Wed.).

Monday, November 5, 2007

The final countdown

Just after 8 p.m. Tuesday night, the first results for the Renton City Council election will begin streaming in. The initial results will only reflect votes cast by mail-in (absentee) ballots, rather than votes cast in polling places, which will be released a bit later. Given the developments of the past week related to Cheryl Haskins' campaign, there could be major differences between the two types of votes.

My unscientific, completely opinionated prediction: Cheryl Haskins will garner less than 40% of the vote, perhaps far less. The majority of the votes she does get will be based on people's lack of knowledge about her past, not their support of her conservative activism. Try as I might, I still haven't been able to reach people who don't read the newspaper, don't talk to their neighbors, or haven't seen one of my rapidly-disappearing signs around town. Those are the people that Cheryl's $45,000 spending spree has influenced the most.

Of course, there are those who will vote for Cheryl Haskins because they think she reflects their personal values. This is not Spokane, though, and based on past election and demographic data, I'm pretty certain those folks don't make up a significant number of voters here in Renton. Plus, her opponent, King Parker, isn't exactly a flaming liberal. He's known for fiscal conservatism and community involvement, and has a long and distinguished track record to stand on. He has also managed to stay out of Cheryl Haskins' controversies, which makes him an easy choice for those that may have even the slightest concerns about her candidacy.

As I've said before, one of the secondary goals in my opposition to Cheryl Haskins is to discourage her from ever running for non-partisan office in our community again, and to send a message that outside money and influence will not go unnoticed in future elections here in Renton. This whole ordeal should also serve to remind voters that we cannot rely on campaign lawn signs, mailers, and pamphlets to tell us what candidates really stand for, especially when they don't have local records to stand on. I was almost duped by Cheryl Haskins "new face" advertising blitz, as were many of you.

If you haven't mailed in your absentee ballot, you must do so by tomorrow (Tuesday). You can also drop off your absentee ballot at any polling place. If you'll be voting in-person at a polling place, the polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. To confirm your eligibility to vote and find your polling place, visit the King County Elections Voter Guide Lookup page.

Unless any further developments occur with regard to Cheryl Haskins' candidacy, you probably won't hear from me again until late Tuesday night. Of course, that could change if she suddenly calls the newspapers and accuses me of eating small children.

Best of luck to all the non-polarizing, locally-funded, and community-oriented candidates!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Welcome new readers!

Thanks for visiting! If this is your first time here, I recommend you start with my introductory posting, which provides some background on why I believe Cheryl Haskins is not an appropriate person to serve on the Renton City Council. Let me also take this opportunity to reiterate that I am not affiliated with her opponent in any way, and that my concerns with Cheryl Haskins are solely focused on her divisive public activism in opposition to gay issues, her weak record of public service within the Renton community, and her massive campaign funding, 95% percent of which has come from outside of Renton.

Thanks for visiting.

CALL TO ACTION: Help put up signs

Most of the signs I put up around town have gone missing, but I still have quite a few left -- maybe 100 or so out of the original 250. Please email me at southlakewa@mac.com if you'd be interested in picking up signs to post around town this weekend. Areas of particular focus are the Highlands, downtown, Rainier Ave, Talbot Hill, and North Renton. It'd be best if you have your own staple gun and hammer. Even putting up just five or ten signs would make a difference.

I'm concerned that people with less than honorable intentions might try to take advantage of this situation, so if I don't personally know you, I ask that you provide me with a local reference, preferably someone within the GLBT community, or someone who's been supportive of progressive issues. Sorry for the paranoia, but I apparently need to be concerned about such things now.

A special note to the Haskins campaign: I am not requesting financial contributions from anyone, nor "in kind" contributions, so please don't waste more taxpayer money by filing another PDC complaint against me, OK?

More bad press for Cheryl Haskins

From today's Seattle Times:

Critic of Renton City Council candidate now complies with campaign rules, agency says
By Cara Solomon
Seattle Times South King County reporter

The state Public Disclosure Commission confirmed Friday that a Renton resident who is an outspoken critic of City Council candidate Cheryl Haskins is now in compliance with campaign laws.

Haskins filed a complaint with the commission Wednesday, arguing Kevin Poole should have filed with the PDC as a political committee. A spokeswoman for the commission said Friday that while the political-committee designation didn't fit Poole, he still misunderstood other PDC rules. Once informed, he made the necessary changes.

"I feel like the complaint against me was really intended to intimidate me," Poole said.

Haskins said she wanted only to see Poole comply with the law. She is running against former Councilmember King Parker.

Also Friday, the Renton Police Department said it had dropped an inquiry into a stolen sign backing Haskins. Police determined the large sign had actually been taken by a Haskins supporter.

Haskins also had complained earlier to the police that hundreds of her signs were stolen or defaced by stickers opposing her candidacy. That complaint remains open, police said.

Haskins said she doesn't think Poole took her signs but that she is concerned about the stickers, which she says feature language from his Web site.

Poole said he knew nothing about the stickers.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com

---------------

As of 7:30 AM this morning, Cheryl Haskins' website had not been updated to reflect the new information. I encourage readers to respectfully contact her campaign and request that they remove any mention of the bogus PAC complaint to the PDC against me, as well as any mention of the sign stealing, since we know that her own supporter's action is what prompted the campaign to file a police report.

Also, as this latest article indicates, I really do not know what this allegation of "stickers" is all about. Are they talking about my leaflet, which was once available for download in electronic format? Or are they talking about actual stickers, as in, Hello Kitty and scratch & sniff? I have not seen any such stickers, nor do I know anything about them. If someone chose to make them on their own, then that's hilarious! But it's not good if they were used to deface Cheryl's signs. There's no need to try suppress anyone's message – the truth is working just fine.

Finally, can someone please tell the Haskins campaign that my moniker has never been "anonymous citizen?" It was (and is) "Renton Citizen." Sounds like the Haskins campaign needs a fact-checker (and a spell-checker, for that matter).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Nothing to hide!

Cheryl Haskins' complaint against me to the Public Disclosure Commission was what we in the tech industry like to call an attempt to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). She apparently thought I'd be discredited by having to disclose my expenditures on lawn signs and my website, and while I haven't seen the actual complaint yet, I've been told that it accuses me of being massively funded by outside interests... like she is. Sorry, but I've filed the proper form and the PDC considers this "investigation" closed. I think it's pretty ironic that someone who spent $655 of his own money to express his First Amendment rights is forced to deal with accusations of misconduct, while someone who's receiving 95% of her record-setting campaign funding from outside the city has gotten by with virtually no scrutiny, until I exposed the situation (and the Renton Reporter and Seattle Times finally reported on it).

In addition, the malicious attempt to implicate me in the theft and defacement of her signs has really backfired, now that one of Cheryl's supporters is apparently the person who was seen "stealing" a sign (who knows what the real story is, but Cheryl's campaign filed the police report). At some point, I hope to be able to laugh about the whole thing.

Anyway, the point is, I have been exonerated, and Cheryl's candidacy continues to implode.

Here are scans of my PDC paperwork, in case anyone's interested:

Thursday, November 1, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Cheryl Haskins' Supporter Is the Real "Sign-Stealer"

Just when I thought things had calmed down, I received this email:

Date: November 1, 2007 5:52:47 PM PDT
To: info@rentonfacts.com
Subject: Haskin's signs

Hello Kevin,

I spoke with Cara Soloman [of the Seattle Times] this afternoon after reading her article to get your web address. I wanted to share something with you.

On Monday as I was driving home from work, I observed a woman removing what I thought to be Haskins campaign signs from the south entrance to Gene Coulon Park. It angered me that someone would stoop that low.

I looked up her website, knowing nothing about the candidate and called them and let them know. My feelings were whatever side of the political spectrum they were on, this was just wrong. My mistake. I gave them the physical description of the woman and her license plate number and description of her SUV.

I grew up in Renton and work there, but live in Seattle about 1000 feet outside the city of Renton's line - I say this to cover myself because I wasn't paying attention to the campaign as it's out of my area.

When I got home tonight I had a voicemail from Det. Barfeild (sp? - I have his tel. #) ) from the Renton Police Department. I returned his call and he asked me if I had seen this woman actually pull the signs out of the ground. I told him no, but I had seen her walking from the area where pol's signs were clustered and she threw the sign in the back of her SUV. The officer told me that he had checked out the address of the licenses plate holder and that they had Haskins signs in their yard, so he assumed they were supporters simply maintaining her signs. I now realize that this supporter wasn't pulling Haskins signs, but yours - they are very close in color and design.

I had not researched Haskins and had no idea of her positions or funding till after I had done this. In hindsight it was a bad move.

I'm a 45 year old gay man and will have been with my partner for 21 years come March. We registered as domestic partners last month. Needless to say I regret my action - but it wasn't in my area and I wasn't paying attention [to Renton politics].

My question to you now is, how can I help you? I need to make amends -

Thanks for reading

Brad Crane

------------------

So that explains why most of my "95% funded by outside interests" signs have gone missing! I did indeed put a sign in the very spot Brad mentioned, and I noticed it had disappeared. Talk about irony. Imagine, Cheryl Haskins' campaign files the police report, then finds out that one of her own supporters ended up being investigated by the police! Not only that, but the civic-minded witness to the event turns out to be GAY!

Obviously, Brad has nothing to be ashamed of, as he was just trying to do the right thing by reporting the incident. Brad has agreed to go public with the story, and I commend him for his bravery, especially since he has seen how the Haskins campaign has tried to intimidate me over the past couple of days.

I also have the email Brad originally sent to the Haskins campaign with the SUV's license plate number and the description of the woman, but I'm choosing not to publicize it. It will be interesting to see how the media and the Haskins campaign respond to this bombshell.

More irony: on Cheryl Haskins' campaign website, she makes a big deal about the police report that was filed, along with the "perpetrator's" license plate. [UPDATE: that statement has since been removed form the website.] Hee hee. She also goes on to describe the complaint to the PDC against me, which will not advance any further now that I've filed a C6 form.

Cheryl Haskins' October Surprise has now become a November Surprise.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taking a break... I think

Now that today's article in the Seattle Times has finally given widespread exposure to the concerns about Cheryl Haskins' candidacy for city council, my work here is just about done. I've had ample opportunity to express my opinions and defend my views, as have my detractors, as evidenced by the comments they've left on this blog and by the letters they've written to the Renton Reporter. I think it's safe to say that many, if not most, Renton voters are now aware of Cheryl Haskins' divisive politics, outside funding, and weak ties to the community. In fact, I've been told that some of the seniors at an event Cheryl attended at a retirement home this week called her on the carpet for her divisive views, to which she responded rudely. Go, Grandmas!

So, my original goal – to inform the public of Cheryl Haskins' anti-gay activism – has been met. Along the way, I also discovered that she has received massive campaign contributions from outside the city and has virtually no record of community service within Renton. I have achieved my goals without distorting the facts or compromising my ethics. Voters are now aware that Cheryl Haskins is more than just a "new face for Renton"'; she is a controversial public activist of her own making who can no longer avoid scrutiny of her past activities and affiliations. If the voters of this city decide to overlook her baggage and elect her to the city council, then so be it. Personally, I don't think that will happen, but $45,000 can buy a lot of positive publicity in a small city, so you never know. Even if she is elected, citizens and city officials will be watching her every move, waiting for her right-wing views to come out in the council chambers.

The one thing I do ask of those who support my position is that you write a letter to the editor of the Renton Reporter to express your views, and get it in ASAP. I really don't have the stomach or time to craft a response to the anti-Kevin, pro-Cheryl crowd's claims, and I'd appreciate any help I can get on that front. You can send your letters to editor@rentonreporter.com. If you have personal concerns about the objectivity of Dean Radford's reporting and editorializing, you can send a personal (and respectful) message to him at dean.radford@rentonreporter.com. I think it's especially important for him to hear from gay people, as well as people of faith who oppose Cheryl Haskins' politicization of gay issues. I think he's willing to listen to your concerns.

Thank you all – even my detractors – for participating in this dialog. I wish I could say it's been fun, but it hasn't been. It's certainly been interesting, though.

Update: Cheryl Haskins' campaign has filed a complaint against me with the Public Disclosure Commission, alleging that I'm spending mass quantities of money to campaign against her. Basically, that I represent a political action committee (PAC). I wish! As I've said before, it's just me here, folks. Apparently, I misunderstood what a PDC campaign finance specialist told me last week by telephone about expenditure reporting. Any independent expenditures related to a campaign that exceed $100 must be reported on a C6 form (I thought it was $700). Fortunately, once I fill out the form showing how much I spent on lawn signs ($655.57, of my own money, thank you), and fax it over to the PDC tonight, everything should be fine. The PDC also initially requested that I add sponsorship information to the rentonfacts.com website, but later decided it wasn't necessary under their new Internet rules. Either way, I have nothing to hide.

There's more: the Haskins campaign has also apparently filed a police report claiming that 600 of Cheryl's signs have been stolen from around the city. They've told the Seattle Times and the Renton Reporter that they have the culprit's license plate number! So, that's why someone pulled in after me when I stopped for a newspaper at the corner store this morning, then glared at me in the parking lot as they slowly passed by without stopping. As I told both newspapers today, I would never, ever remove or deface a candidate's signs, or any other advertisements. That's just not what I'm about. I'm not trying to suppress Cheryl's message, I'm trying to publicize my own. Get it?

Speaking of signs, I've also been told that at least one of Cheryl's lawn signs downtown had a rentonfacts.com leaflet taped to it. I don't condone such activity, and I ask whoever did it to please not do it again. I have taken down the leaflet template from the rentonfacts.com site, and the PDC tells me that those of you who print and distribute leaflets must write your name and address on them. At this point, though, I think the continued media spotlight on Cheryl's campaign is doing her the most damage.

There will likely be an article in the Times tomorrow covering the Haskins campaign's PDC complaint against me. I suspect that it will only serve to illustrate how desperate Cheryl Haskins' campaign has become in these final days. I think her $8,750 PR people need to understand that going after me will only add to the negative press swirling around her campaign. But they really thought they had me today!

We'll see what tomorrow holds... this might be a very short break.

Update: Yep, there's an article in the Seattle Times about Haskins' charges against me. Click here to read it. It's pretty much what I expected, although I'm disappointed that Haskins' baseless charges of sign stealing were given exposure. Hopefully, people will read it and think, "Wow, she's really trying to silence her critic. Poor guy... he's just exercising his First Amendment rights. And that sign-stealing accusation – what a load of crap!"

Update:
I heard back from the PDC today, and everything is fine. I expect to receive a letter from them tomorrow or Saturday that will fully exonerate me. Cheryl Haskins' trumped-up charges were merely an attempt to intimidate me, but they failed.

Seattle Times article investigates Cheryl Haskins' candidacy

Click here to read today's Seattle Times article about the controversies surrounding Cheryl Haskins' campaign.

The Renton Reporter Strikes Back

I went out and grabbed the latest issue of the Renton Reporter from outside the post office last night, and WOW... who knew the Cheryl Haskins controversy was going to get so much ink? While I'm disappointed that Dean Radford (the editor) chose to portray Cheryl Haskins as a victim in his article and editorial piece, at least my research on her political background and funding has finally been validated by the media.

Where to begin?

I guess the biggest problem I have with the article, editorial, and the three pro-Haskins letters to the editor is that they completely trivialize the concerns of people such as myself, who feel that Cheryl Haskins needs to be held accountable for the divisiveness and hurt her political activities have fostered. She has devoted her recent career to fighting any attempts to provide gay people with even the most basic legal protections. She herself testified against our state's domestic partnership bill, which now provides such things as hospital visitation privileges to gay couples and unmarried seniors. Under her watch, a representative of her group testified against the bill that added sexual orientation to our state's anti-discrimination law, the one that finally made it illegal to fire someone just for being gay. Why in the world would a group devoted to "defending marriage" be so concerned with that particular issue?

What I'm hearing from Dean Radford and Cheryl's supporters is that all this "gay stuff" isn't an issue in this campaign, because gay issues aren't relevant to the city council (which, of course, is not necessarily the case, as the Reporter article even infers). In essence, what they're saying is that the questions raised about her divisive politics can be dismissed, because they're only important to a small number of people. To that I say, what if Cheryl Haskins had led an anti-illegal immigrant organization, or a group devoted to questioning the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses? Would the people she had spoken out against remain silent when she ran for city council? Would her activism not be relevant to the campaign?

It's easy to argue that many Americans hold the view that marriage should only be defined as the union between one man and one woman. I've never questioned that fact, and I've never made it one of my main concerns, either. What does concern me is that Cheryl Haskins doesn't just hold a particular viewpoint, she has politicized it and profited from it. Yes, even a "part time" Executive Director gets paid for her work. That says a lot about where her priorities lie, especially since she has demonstrated little interest in supporting community efforts within our city. She is a successful and articulate woman, but rather than focusing her talents on issues of great importance to our society, like poverty, health care, and crime, she chose to become a spokeswoman for the anti-gay lobby in Washington State. Rather than working to reduce the high divorce rate in our state, she chose to make the prospect of gay marriage the most serious threat to traditional families. Why is it unreasonable to question those choices?

As far as the supposed attacks on her religion are concerned, I challenge anyone to show how I (or anyone else) have denigrated Cheryl Haskins' personal faith. I respect and celebrate everyone's right to practice their religion. I have made it very clear that my problems with her candidacy are not about her personal religious views, but her public political activism. Were that not the case, wouldn't I have a problem with the other evangelical Christians running for Council? I do not, because they haven't chosen to make their personal faith a matter of public policy or a source of fundraising.

I think it's entirely appropriate to question why a great deal of Cheryl Haskins' money has come from members of a church where her husband is a pastor. We have very strict laws concerning politicking from the pulpit, and while I don't believe any such activities have occurred in this campaign, it's still an issue that people consider important. It is also appropriate to question whether Cheryl's candidacy is being supported by powerful outsiders with conservative political aims, which I believe to be the case. Why else would two leading figures of the state Republican Party be present at her campaign kick-off event, for a non-partisan office?

I'm very disappointed that Dean Radford tried to frame my concerns about Cheryl Haskins as representing "the politics of division." For some reason, it does not register with him that Cheryl herself is a perfect example of someone who has employed such politics, and is therefore unfit to serve on the city council. The only explanation I can think of is that Dean Radford has his own issues with gay people, or feels that his faith is somehow under attack. I can't really address those topics, but I will say that his editorial was far from unbiased, as was his article. He apparently didn't find it necessary to ask any gay voters in Renton to weigh in on Cheryl Haskins' candidacy, or ask people of faith who support gay rights for their opinions. I could have put him in touch with many such people.

If I only looked at what's in the current issue of the Renton Reporter, I could easily get the impression that I'm alone in my opposition to Cheryl Haskins's candidacy. I've never been in the public spotlight, and I'm really uncomfortable with the apparent hatred my efforts are resulting in. Of course, people have always hated what I am -- gay -- but they've never actually known me by name. But the fact is, if I hadn't drawn attention to Cheryl Haskins' background, no one would have. If I hadn't devoted the last several weeks of my life to informing people about her anti-gay career and her outside funding, a lot people would've unknowingly voted for someone whose views they strongly disagree with. I know, because I was once one of those people.

The good news is that I've also made a lot of new friends, who have provided immeasurable support and advice to me throughout this self-imposed ordeal. From city council members, to teachers, to city workers, to neighbors, I know that I've been speaking for a lot of you out there, gay and straight. In fact, straight men have been my most vocal supporters! I would've never in a million years guessed that one.

In less than a week's time, we'll see just what the people of Renton think of Cheryl Haskins. I have always feared that my public information campaign could backfire, but at this point, I hope that people will just want to avoid voting for such a controversial candidate. Of course, I'm sure many people will vote for her in reaction to the controversy, but what can you do? That's Democracy for you.

By the way, I've been told that there will be a big article in the Seattle Times about Cheryl Haskins tomorrow morning. After tonight's anti-Kevin Poole fest in the Renton Reporter, I'm curious to see how the Times spins the controversy. Either way, I'm no longer just "Renton Citizen"... I'm Kevin Poole, 35, of Renton. Oh, and don't forget: "gay." I'm told that fact will be in the article.

-------------

Here are all the pro-Haskins items from Wednesday's edition of the Reporter... hope you have a barf bag handy!

(click on each image to enlarge)


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Seattle Times endorses King Parker, Cheryl Haskins' opponent

From today's Seattle Times:

King Parker
thinks he should return to the council, a position he held before running and losing to Keolker for mayor in 2003. We agree. Parker is the clear choice for Position 5. His sharp mind and incredible institutional knowledge are invaluable to Renton. His opponent, Cheryl Haskins, is eager but will benefit from more seasoning on a city commission or the School Board.

Nice way to dodge the controversies surrounding Cheryl Haskins, but we can only ask for so much. The prospect of her sitting on the School Board is disturbing, though. Electing her to that position, despite her anti-gay political activism, would send a terrible message to gay youth and their parents, who are already struggling with serious issues, including suicide.

If Chery Haskins wants to run for political office, she should stick with a partisan office, such as County Council or State Representative. At least then she'd have to to run as a Republican, and her far-right views would be well-publicized.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Just what is Cheryl Haskins' group trying to hide?

A reader alerted me to the fact that Cheryl Haskins' anti-gay marriage organization, Allies for Marriage and Children, has completely redone its website, leaving all but one page present. It has also removed all references to Cheryl Haskins, its Executive Director, as well as the bulk of the information the site once contained.

Did they really think I wasn't prepared for such a move?

Fortunately, there's something called the "Way Back Machine" at the Internet Archive, which maintains archival copies of most websites, including the Allies for Marriage and Children site. Click here to see all archived versions of the group's former website. That's former, as in "yesterday." I wonder what could have prompted such a sudden move?

Most of the pages were archived this past April when Cheryl Haskins was the Executive Director. Click on the links below to view the pages:

Home
About
Join Us
News/Articles
Talking Points
FAQ's
Media Center
Contact
Donate

In case the archived pages disappear, I've also saved everything as PDFs. I love technology.

Of course, the question everyone should be asking is, why did the organization feel the need to gut its website today? Was it afraid of people – the voters of Renton – finding out what Cheryl Haskins has really been up to for the past 18 months?

Feel free to make your own assessments about the "Allies" group, but remember: they aren't just opposed to gay marriage, they're opposed to any form of domestic partnership protections and anti-discrimination laws to protect gay people.

Now that's what I call SPIN!

Well, we know that the $8,750 in PR work donated to Cheryl Haskins' campaign was used for something. In a "straight talk" letter (curious choice of words) posted on the front page of her website, Cheryl Haskins attempts to inflate her community service record and defend her ridiculously massive campaign funding, 95% of which has come from outside of Renton:

Although I am new to politics, I have been active in community service for two decades on a state, regional, and local level. Campaigns take resources, especially when your name is not recognized within the broader community. Like anyone would, I went first to the people who "know" me and asked for the seed resources to jump-start my campaign. It is that simple. No agenda. That is exactly who helped me get started: My parents, friends, family, fellow-alumni, and associates, etc.

Uh-huh. She fails to point out that a huge percentage of her contributions have come from members and elders of the very conservative City Church in Kirkland, where her husband is an Associate Pastor. No agenda there!

"New to politics?" Perhaps Cheryl Haskins has never held elected office, but her public opposition to gay rights legislation certainly qualifies as political. How could someone who testified in front of the state Senate against this year's domestic partnership bill be considered "new to politics?"

Cheryl Haskins has virtually no record of volunteerism, civic leadership, or endorsements from within Renton proper. This, from someone who says that she has lived in Renton for ten of the past fifteen years. You'd think that such a civic-minded person would have established a record for herself on the city level during that period. But then again, we're talking about someone whose recent career has consisted of leading efforts against any protections for gay people in Washington State, not working to address issues of critical importance to Renton, like traffic, development, and public safety.

As a reader said in earlier comments...
I'm old school, I believe that people who want to serve the public should be involved in the community they want to serve. Even the most biased of you out there have to admit that King Parker beats her on that front 10 times over. Look at her endorsements and look at his - the proof is in the pudding.

Cheryl Haskins' bowl of pudding is mysteriously absent.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Renton politics have gone international!

I just checked the latest Google Analytics data for this site, and I was surprised to see that people from Germany, the UK, Japan, Greece, Australia, Hungary, Israel, Spain, South Africa, and Canada have landed here. In addition, local people from The City Church (where Cheryl Haskins' husband is a pastor), The Seattle Times (!), The Stranger (!!), and the City of Tacoma (??) have visited. Of course, the vast majority of visitors are from Renton and Washington State, as one would expect.

Whatever you think of this debate, it's interesting to see that people from around the globe are also finding it interesting.

Randy Corman, look out! :-)

Ed Prince, you're my HERO!

I just ran down and grabbed a Renton Reporter from the box outside the downtown post office, and I was overjoyed to see the following letter from Ed Prince, which I've transcribed here for your convenience:

Cheryl Haskins is wrong face for city

As an African-American man, I am in favor of increasing diversity in politics and supporting candidates who represent different ethnicities. Naturally, Cheryl Haskins piqued my interest. I was disappointed and alarmed as I researched Haskins and learned for myself many of the details that were highlighted in Kevin Poole's recent letter to the editor.

From her divisive anti-gay organization to the enormous amount of money she has raised from people affiliated with her mega-church in Kirkland where her husband is a pastor, it has become painfully clear that Cheryl Haskins is the wrong face for Renton. Ms. Haskins had virtually no involvement in the Renton community until she decided to run for City Council.

Her opponent, King Parker, on the other hand, has been a devoted member of the Renton community for 40 years. He is active with the Renton Community Foundation, Renton Chamber of Commerce, Community of Schools in Renton and more. The choice is clear. Please vote for King Parker for Renton City Council, position 5.

Edward Prince
Former chair, 11th District Democrats
Renton

Ed, your letter just wiped away all the negativity I've been dealing with today... it's been rough. I've never met you, but I'm sure you and I will be friends. Thank you for speaking your truth.

Correction!

According to a message on Cheryl Haskins' campaign website, the reporting data for her campaign contributions incorrectly showed a duplicate $5,000 campaign contribution (from Mitch Soule, of Kirkland). So, the adjusted total for her named contributions is now only $44,482.60. That's still over four times the contributions of her opponent, King Parker, and almost as much money as all other city council candidates combined have raised.

Most importantly, though, the percentage of contributions from non-Renton residents and businesses hasn't changed much at all. It's now 94.54%, which I'm going to round up to 95%, if that's OK with everyone. Even if the numbers change next week, I've always been sure to point out on my my websites (and printed materials) exactly when the PDC numbers were reported. In fact, in the interest of accuracy, I waited until all PDC reports were in this past Tuesday before publicizing the 95% number.

I'm glad that Cheryl made an effort to address the concerns that people are raising about her campaign. However, I'm saddened to think that she believes such concerns somehow constitute "smear tactics directed at my faith and other people of faith." The criticisms leveled at her have nothing to do with her personal faith, but everything to do with her public work on an extremely divisive social issue, as well as the suspicious sources of her record-setting campaign contributions.

I fully expect that additional efforts will be made by her campaign to minimize the controversy surrounding her political activism and finances. I guess that's where the in-kind donation of $8,750 for "campaign strategy & PR work" will come in handy. Hopefully, she'll keep her chin up, and just be straightforward and honest about her political work against gay rights. That's really all I've ever asked.

Once informed of the facts, I believe voters will decide that Cheryl Haskins is not an appropriate choice for Renton City Council.

The plot thickens... and an endorsement!

As I thought might happen, some of Cheryl Haskins' supporters are now trying to frame my opposition to her candidacy as having something to do with the fact that she is African-American. Let me be very clear: nothing could be further from the truth. I was initially drawn to Cheryl's campaign in a positive way because I wanted to see a successful black woman on the city council. If you'd like to read the full discussion, please see the comments section of this entry, where I've posted the entire conversation.

I have held off on endorsing any candidates for city council, but let me take this opportunity express my strong support for Greg Taylor, a highly-regarded community leader and businessman. I have heard from people of all backgrounds that he is an excellent leader and a very fair person, and is far more qualified than his opponent, Terry Persson. Greg is therefore getting my vote. He happens to be African-American, and is a proud member of the Christian Faith Center, an evangelical church. What he isn't, though, is an outspoken anti-gay rights activist with a campaign being funded by outsiders.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

An intense discussion

Today, I focused on responding to comments made by my detractor (and I'm using the singular version of the word, at least today), so I haven't had time to come up with an exciting new installment. Instead, I encourage everyone to read the conversation that's going on here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The latest virtual lawn sign

I'm giving Cheryl a bit of a statistical edge here, as the real percentage is 95.1%.

Cheryl Haskins' campaign contributions questioned

Yet another letter about Cheryl Haskins in our local rag...

click image below to enlarge



Such a waste

I just listened to a recorded interview Cheryl Haskins did with a frighteningly anti-gay radio show, and I have to say, she's good. She's an incredibly articulate and persuasive speaker, and while passionate about her beliefs, she refrains from degrading those opposed to her. Her civility doesn't make the true intentions of her statements any less disparaging, however.

Here are the basic points she made in the interview (not exact quotes, but synopses), along with my rebuttals:
  • The presence of poverty within a community is the best way to determine whether a class of people suffers from discrimination. Gay people are rich (they travel internationally!), so they clearly don't experience discrimination. OK, so does that mean that Jewish people don't suffer from discrimination? Haven't they been called "disproportionately more affluent" than other groups? In fact, I believe that notion has been a staple of anti-semitism for centuries. Regardless, what you're saying is that it's OK for a company to fire someone for being gay, because that person can just go out and find another high-paying job. I don't know anyone – gay or straight – who wouldn't suffer severe financial and emotional repercussions if they were summarily fired from their job. By the way, the "studies" indicating that gay people are more affluent than others are based on marketing surveys, not census numbers or sociological studies. There is absolutely no empirical evidence to support the claim, and the one true sociological study on the topic showed exactly the opposite. Gay people are just as racially, religiously, and socio-economically diverse as the general population. Yes, some gay couples have more disposable income than families with children, but no more so than any couples without children. There's no doubt that successful white gay men get more attention in the media, but they are merely one segment of the GLBT community. Cheryl's obviously been watching too much Will & Grace or hanging out with some very successful A-List gays.
  • Gay people can hide their gayness, unlike race. Now that's odd, don't we protect against discrimination based on religion in this country? Isn't that something someone could hide, too? "Just take off that turban and you'll get the job!" or "If you want to stay in this apartment, I'm afraid you'll need to remove that crucifix from the wall."
  • Gay couples are adopting many of the unwanted African-American children in our state. Not only are those children being ripped away from their culture, but they're being deprived of two parents of the opposite sex. So, I guess you're saying that those children would be better off in orphanages or in dumpsters? There's a reason why such children are being adopted by gay people – no one else wants them, and gay couples can offer them loving, stable homes. If you put your money where your mouth is, Cheryl, you'd be operating a foster home for orphans, using donations from your rich church friends for something truly useful.
  • The other side will not give up until gay marriage is legalized. They spent thirty years waiting for the anti-discrimination bill to be passed. Doesn't that mean you might as well just give up the fight, Cheryl? Do you really think that equal protection under the law for gay couples won't be realized at some point in this country? Within a decade, nearly every Western nation (and others, like South Africa, Taiwan, Uruguay, and maybe even Mexico) will have some sort of marriage-like protections for gay people. And it's not just gay people who are pushing for such protections – it's everyone who understands that it's in society's best interest to encourage and protect committed relationships between adults. The "example" that anti-gay marriage advocates like to claim is that gay marriage in Scandinavia has resulted in the weakening of heterosexual marriage. That supposition is entirely debunked in this Slate article.
  • There are serious problems with divorce and single-parent families in our society, and legalizing gay marriage (or domestic partnerships) will only make the situation worse. I have an idea, Cheryl: how about if you just fight to outlaw divorce and single parenting! Oh, wait... that would probably lead to the imprisonment of many of your supporters. By the way, have you ever been divorced?
I'm thankful that Cheryl didn't use any of the most outrageous and hateful lies used against gay people in the interview, unlike other nutcases who were interviewed for the same show. I think that says a lot about Cheryl Haskins, and it gives me hope that she hasn't completely lost her humanity. As best I can tell, she's not out to incite violence against anyone, and she comes across as a reasonable person who's just incredibly passionate about preserving the institution of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. What's the problem with that?

Here are the problems:
  • She has made a new career out of being against a group of people, whether she sees it or not.
  • The groups she has forged alliances with inspire hatred against gay people, plain and simple.
  • She's using her success and intelligence to address a nonexistent "problem," when there are far more pressing (and real) issues in our society.
  • Deep down, all of her arguments are based on fear and an extremely narrow view of religious doctrine, not on truth or compassion.
I hope someday she recognizes what a complete waste her work "protecting marriage" from gay people has been, when she could have been doing so much good with her many talents, money, and education. Shame on you, Cheryl.

The other candidates' numbers

[ Updated 10/25/07 2:05 PM ]

As promised, I've run the numbers on the other city council candidates' campaign contributions. Here's a summary of their total named contributions, as reported to the Public Disclosure Commission:
  1. Cheryl Haskins: $51,882.60
  2. Greg Taylor: $20,901.64
  3. King Parker: $10,340.00
  4. Marcie Palmer: $9,245.00
  5. Don Persson: $2,400.00 (he's running unopposed)
  6. Terry Persson: $2,080.00
  7. Shirley Gaunt-Smith: $805.00
I guess I won't need to modify my claim that Cheryl Haskins has received more money than all other candidates combined! The total of the other six candidates' contributions is $45,771.64, which means she still squeaked by with 53.1% of the total named contributions for the entire city council race.

Greg Taylor has certainly raised a lot of money, which isn't surprising, since he's very well respected and well connected within the community. Along with most other candidates, he has received PAC and union money, but nothing outrageous. His single greatest contribution was $1,500 from the WA State Association of Realtors, but over 56% of all his named contributions have come from Renton residents and businesses. As with other candidates (except Cheryl Haskins), that percentage would be higher if Boeing's $500 contribution to him was considered to be from Renton, or if groups such as the WA Education Association or the Affordable Housing Council are counted as Renton community stakeholders.

What you don't see in Greg Taylor's reports are huge donations from non-Renton residents. In fact, his largest contribution from a household outside the city was from Bradley and Cynthia Marshall of Seattle, for a combined total of $1,000. Compare that with the large contributions Cheryl Haskins has received of $1,000 or more:


As for the sources of the other candidates' contributions, there's really nothing unusual to report. Their contributions seem to be appropriate for a city council race in a city of this size. I encourage you to check the reports for yourself on the PDC website. Be sure to enter 2007 for the year when searching, as many candidates have run for office in previous years.

After this election is over, I think I'd like to see our city government enact campaign finance regulations for city races. Currently, all statewide races, along with county-wide races in our four largest counties, are subject to strict limits on individual contributions. I believe it's $750 per person, or $1,500 per household. For some reason, those limits don't apply to municipal elections. They seem quite reasonable to me, and would help prevent someone with wealthy friends from essentially buying a seat on the city council.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Updated Total: $51,882.60 and 95.1%

As anticipated, a few additional contributions to Cheryl Haskins' campaign were reported today, bringing the new total of her named contributions to $51,882.60. None of the additional contributions were from Renton residents, and the new percentage of contributions from outside the city is now 95.1%.

Meanwhile, King Parker's total named contributions have risen to a respectable $10,340. Wow, that's what... 1/5th of Cheryl Haskins' contributions? The percentage of Parker's contributions from Renton residents and businesses is exactly 70% (more if you consider Boeing to be Renton company; its $500 contribution is recorded as coming from Seattle).

Note: if you look up King Parker's contributions on the PDC website, be sure to enter 2007 for the year; he ran for mayor in 2003, and the contributions for that campaign need to be filtered out from the results.


I ask again: just what will Cheryl Haskins do with all her money?

Monday, October 22, 2007

The money keeps rolling in... now up to $51,152.60

Today's Public Disclosure Commission reports are out, and Cheryl Haskins has reported another $5,000 in contributions, none of which came from Renton residents.


The new total of her named contributions is now $51,152.60. I'm going to wait until tomorrow to do a full report on all the candidates' funds, as I suspect that Cheryl Haskins will be reporting additional contributions later today or tomorrow. In fact, the word on the street is that she received a huge amount of money last week. It'll be interesting to see where the money's coming from. I have no doubt that she's actively trying to recruit donors from within the Renton city limits, but I sincerely hope that she's not attempting to... well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

A Cheryl Haskins supporter speaks out

I received this message via my posting on Craiglist:

EVERYTHING you are saying is TRUE!

But so what?!


Cheryl is a MORE than qualified candidate.

Who cares where this FIRST-TIME candidate’s money is coming from? Have you ever started a new venture and convinced complete strangers to invest in your dream? If so, bravo to you! You failed to mention her church member’s contributions that OWN businesses in Renton.


And as far as the gay issue, get over it. They fight for what they believe in and she fights for what she believes in. That’s what a leader does.


USE COMMON SENSE!!!


I’m sure she appreciates the free publicity!



My reply:
(I've made a couple of minor edits)

Well, at least you're not calling me a liar! I appreciate that fact.

Would it be OK for me to tell you to "get over it" if a candidate was anti-Jewish or a white supremacist? I know, comparing antisemitism and racism with homophobia is a hot-button issue, and I'm not making a direct comparison. What I'm trying to say is that for me and others, Cheryl's work against gay rights (including anti-discrimination legislation) is as hurtful and dehumanizing as any other form of targeted antipathy towards a particular group. I'm sorry you're unable to put yourself in my shoes, and I understand if it's a religious thing for you (and Cheryl). But I have every right to oppose Cheryl's candidacy on such grounds, and the vast majority of people in our diverse community don't want someone like Cheryl in office.

The amount of money Cheryl's getting from her church friends is completely ridiculous for a campaign for city council, and even the Public Disclosure Commission is concerned by it. It hasn't gone unnoticed by Renton voters or leaders, either.

No, I haven't run for office before, but if I did, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to secure tens of thousands of dollars from my friends. Normally, a "first time candidate" has a really difficult time getting donations, and usually has to take out loans to pay for the campaign. Shirley Gaunt-Smith, bless her heart, is in that position. Cheryl, on the other hand, seems to have unlimited funding at her disposal. She can outspend her opponent -- a well-liked, well-respected community leader -- by a factor of at least 6 to 1. That just isn't right, and indicates that special interests are trying to influence the election.

As for free publicity for Cheryl, I'm all for it! The more people who make an informed decision about who to vote for, the better. If they choose to vote for Cheryl, then so be it.

I'm sure Cheryl is an excellent leader and a good person (despite her dogmatic exterior), but she has too much baggage to represent all the people of Renton.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Non-partisan? Not even close.

It was pointed out to me by a political insider that the 2006 Washington State Republican Party Chair, Diane Tebelious, can be seen in a photo of Cheryl Haskins' campaign kick-off event last July. In addition, Rose Strong, a candidate for the same party office in 2005, was a speaker at the event. She's apparently a member of Cheryl Haskins' church, and can be seen in the photo at right, next to President Bush.

OK, so Cheryl Haskins has friends in high places within the state Republican Party who are supporting her candidacy. Not a surprise to me, but some voters in Renton might be uncomfortable with that fact, given that the city council election is non-partisan.

Having at least two important figures in the state Republican Party present at your kick-off event is anything but non-partisan, and seems somehow calculated. To illustrate my case, check out this statement Rose Strong made in a blog titled "Operation: Red Washington" in 2005:

What do you see as the main task(s) of the state party chair? Candidate recruitment – we should recruit those persons interested in running for office on every level of elective office, to include non-partisan positions. A Candidate Recruitment Chair should be appointed by each of the 39 counties to coordinate and vet each candidate.

Sounds to me like Cheryl Haskins was just the person they were looking for!

In the interest of fairness...

I feel compelled to post this letter to the editor of the Renton Reporter, which was published in today's paper. Since it doesn't address any of the issues I've raised about Cheryl Haskins' candidacy, I'm not going to comment on the letter, but everyone else is welcome to do so.

click the image at right to enlarge

Friday, October 19, 2007

My favorite comment thus far

Posted by anonymous on 10/19/07 at 9:59 PM:

Cheryl Haskins has ZERO previous connection to activities, interests, citizenship, or organizations in Renton - until the day she decided to run for council and starting raising money outside of Renton. She has demonstrated ZERO sincere interest in the city. She has her own agenda and it isn't about Renton.

I wish I could write so succinctly! Thanks, anonymous.

Rentonfacts.com updated

I've updated my other site, www.rentonfacts.com, with a How to Help page, which provides some ideas on how Renton citizens can spread the word about Cheryl Haskins' politics and outside funding. I've included a downloadable leaflet, which you can print and distribute to your friends and neighbors.

Thank goodness for the First Amendment.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cheryl Haskins, "A New Face for Renton"

Cheryl Haskins' candidacy is being viewed with more and more suspicion by highly-regarded Renton community leaders from across the political spectrum. I've actually heard from many of them, and they are alarmed by the source of her campaign contributions. In case you missed it, 94.5% of her funding has come from outside of Renton, and she has more money than all six other city council candidates combined.

Cheryl Haskins' campaign slogan, "A New Face for Renton," has been quite effective. It certainly got my attention, and almost got my vote. It immediately positioned her as being from outside the political establishment, which is appealing to voters who view career politicians with disdain. In addition, the slogan diffuses the argument that she's an outsider; she's just "new," with fresh energy and creative ideas.

Unfortunately for her, Cheryl Haskins has not demonstrated any real affinity or commitment to Renton. Where does she volunteer here in town? Which local community groups has she led? Which neighborhood committee has she been involved in? Which local business did she help grow? Which local boards has she sat on? How many years has she been working to improve our city?

Maybe she's just not one to boast about her accomplishments, but I doubt it. All other candidates for city council specifically list their ties to the Renton community on their respective websites. Does hers?

There's a reason why Cheryl Haskins is dependent on outside money for her campaign: she has virtually no support, financial or otherwise, within the Renton city limits. Could that be why only one single organization in Renton – the firefighters union – has endorsed her? Check out her opponent's list of endorsements.

Cheryl Haskins can no longer run on her slogan alone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Haskins-Hutcherson Connection

People continue to question why I'm using the word "extreme" to describe Cheryl Haskins' politics, when her Allies for Marriage and Children organization seems so benign, in a warm and fuzzy, family values kind of way. Let me put this delicately: Wake up, people!

Those of you who are still questioning the credibility of my warnings about Cheryl Haskins need to read this article from Tuesday's Seattle Times. The article describes how a virulently anti-gay local minister (and former Seahawk), Ken Hutcherson, is speaking at a conference of anti-gay extremists in Lynnwood this weekend. And we're not talking warm and fuzzy here... the group's name is "Watchmen on the Walls." Does that sound benevolent to you? Apparently, Ken Hutcherson is a leader of the group.

After reading the article, do a Google search for "Ken Hutcherson and Aaron Haskins," and see what comes up. I realize that Aaron Haskins isn't running for city council, but his wife's campaign is essentially being funded by leaders and members of his church in Kirkland. The connection between Ken Hutcherson and the Haskins is alarming.

UPDATE - 10/19/07, 10:26 PM:

The connection between Ken Hutcherson and Aaron Haskins is closer than I thought. They sit on the Board of Directors of the "Sound the Alarm" organization, which was formed to overturn our state's anti-discrimination protections for gay people, enacted in 2006. They enlisted Tim Eyman to gather signatures for a state referendum on the issue. Fortunately, they didn't get enough signatures to get it on the ballot, but don't underestimate their resolve.

Has Cheryl Haskins hired a crisis management team?

In addition to her record-setting campaign war chest, Cheryl Haskins has also just reported receiving an "in-kind" contribution of $8,750 for "campaign consultation & PR work" from Howard / Shore Communications in Renton. That means the company donated its services to her campaign. Since when does a candidate for city council in a city of 60,000 people need a PR consultant?

Thanks, Dan Gannon!

This letter to the editor appeared in today's edition of the Renton Reporter:

[click to enlarge]Dan makes a valid point: simply holding the view that marriage should be defined as "a covenant made between a woman and a man" does not make one "extreme." However, when a person makes it her career to challenge any form of government-sanctioned protections for gay and lesbian people, that definitely qualifies as extreme, in my opinion – especially in the Puget Sound area. The polls that Dan refers to do not address support for domestic partnership legislation, and were not conducted in Renton. More importantly, when someone's campaign for a local, non-partisan office is 94.5% funded by outside interests, is that not an extreme example of outsiders trying to influence our local politics?

Keep those letters to the editor coming! It seems that a healthy (albeit contentious) debate on Cheryl Haskins' politics is finally taking place.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Make that $46,132.60 and 94.5%

Thanks to some new contributions to Cheryl Haskins' campaign, including another $5,000 from Mitch Soule of Kirkland (a member of her husband's megachurch), the total of her "named" contributions is now $46,132.60. The percentage of contributions from Renton residents has fallen to only 5.5%. This is getting really scary. Those of you who aren't riled up about Haskins' anti-gay activities can at least understand the ramifications of her campaign being funded by outside money. Would someone care to write another letter to the Renton Reporter? Or contact the Seattle newspapers and TV stations?

Here are the latest numbers:
  1. Bellevue $11,312.60 24.5%
  2. Kirkland $11,270.00 24.4%
  3. Medina $5,000.00 10.8%
  4. Issaquah $3,265.00 7.1%
  5. Renton $2,530.00 5.5%
  6. Clyde Hill $2,500.00 5.4%
  7. Edmonds $2,100.00 4.6%
  8. Seattle $1,875.00 4.1%
  9. Snohomish $1,300.00 2.8%
  10. Woodinville $1,225.00 2.7%
  11. Other $3,755.00 8.1%
Check the numbers for yourself at the WA State Public Disclosure Commission's website.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Don't be fooled

Unless you've been on the receiving end of religiously-based, anti-gay rhetoric, it might be difficult to see to Cheryl Haskins's views as "extreme." Her organization's messages are fairly mild-mannered, and she's obviously a very intelligent person; she's not about to say something virulently anti-gay, as that would destroy her credibility. In my estimation, though, anyone who devotes their career to opposing gay marriage -- and domestic partnership benefits -- lives far outside of the mainstream, at least here in the Puget Sound area. The real question isn't whether Cheryl Haskins is anti-gay, it's whether she's an appropriate candidate for a non-partisan office.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another concrete example of Cheryl Haskins' divisive politics

Earlier this year, three Bellevue city workers (two firefighters and a 911 dispatcher) sued the city to obtain the same benefits for their partners as their heterosexual spouses enjoy. The city eventually changed its policy, and the lawsuit was dropped. Not surprisingly, Cheryl Haskins and her anti-gay organization staunchly opposed the lawsuit. Read about it here.

rentonfacts.com is up!

While I still intend to use this blog as the primary means of communicating my message, I've also set up a separate web site: www.rentonfacts.com. Right now, it's just a single page, but it concisely summarizes the information I've uncovered thus far, and provides a link to this site.

What's so "extreme" about Cheryl Haskins, anyway?

If this were Spokane, Chehalis, or Bonney Lake, Cheryl Haskins' right-wing politics wouldn't raise any eyebrows. But this is Renton, an up-and-coming blue collar town that votes overwhelmingly Democratic or (very) moderate Republican, and has always welcomed people of all backgrounds. In our hard-working, "Ahead of the Curve" city, what makes Cheryl Haskins so extreme compared to other candidates for city council? Here's a summary:
  1. She's receiving tens of thousands of dollars from supporters that don't even live in Renton. As a result, her campaign contributions dwarf that of any other candidate.
  2. Her biggest donors are leaders and members of the ultra-conservative, wealthy, megachurch she attends in Kirkland, where her husband is an associate pastor.
  3. She leads (or recently lead) a well-funded, religiously-rooted organization, Allies for Marriage and Children, whose primary aim is to prevent gay couples from achieving any form of legal protections or recognition. Don't expect to read any anti-gay vitriol on the group's website, though; they choose their words very carefully.
  4. In 2006, Cheryl Haskins' "Allies" group testified in opposition to the state law which now protects gay people from employment and housing discrimination.
  5. Under her leadership, the "Allies" group strongly opposed our state's domestic partnership law when it was proposed in January 2007. The bill ultimately passed the state House and Senate, and was signed by the governor, but...
  6. In a press release dated 1/17/07, Cheryl Haskins was quoted as saying, "Legislative proposals like Senator [Ed] Murray’s suggest that an amendment to the state’s constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman should be carefully considered as over half of the states in this nation already done." Care to guess what their next course of action will be?
  7. She has not been upfront with voters about her divisive political activities.
  8. She is a polarizing candidate for an office that's designed to be non-partisan and consensus-building. How can she fulfill those mandates when she carries so much baggage?