Inaccuracy stokes legislative race

An inaccuracy in a third-party campaign mailing on behalf of Republican 26th Legislative District Jan Angel drove the opposition party into action this week, prompting charges that Angel herself had lied about her qualifications.

The political organization behind the mailing has acknowledged its mistake, and Angel has attempted to correct the claims.

Still, the charges and counter-charges have injected frenzy into one of the county’s most contentious races.

The dustup began last week, with a mailing from “It’s Time for A Change,” a soft-money group that supports Republican candidates.

The card promoted South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel over her opponent, former Port Orchard Mayor (and Democrat) Kim Abel. It listed Angel’s qualifications at length, while reducing Abel’s accomplishments to a single column.

The mailer also listed Angel’s educational background as an undergraduate degree in business administration and a masters’ degree in public service.

In fact, Angel does not have an undergraduate degree and her public service training originates from a training seminar she took at New York University in 2003 as well as a three year public official certification program offered by Washington State University and the Washington Association of Counties.

These qualifications are cited accurately in her own campaign literature.

Still, these claims were disputed in a mailing by the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which called Angel out for misrepresenting her record.

Angel said Wednesday that she had neither seen nor approved the inaccurate mailing before it was sent to the voters.

“A lot of these mailings go out without our knowledge,” Angel said. “It is incorrect to say that I have a masters’ degree. I am never made aware of before the fact, nor do I ever approve of, any communications that come from independent groups or political committees.”

The mistake was acknowledged by Builder’s Industry of Washington spokeswoman Erin Shannon, who said the material in the flier was taken from Angel’s Web site.

In the translation, Angel’s statement that she majored in business administration became a degree. And her graduation from a 2003 leadership seminar at New York University morphed into a masters’ degree.

Shannon said that the rules governing soft-money mailings prohibit the candidate from seeing the mailings before they are sent, and they are not allowed to correct any mistakes or misinterpretations.

“Obviously, there was an error,” Shannon said. “But in the scheme of things it is minor. No one will decide whether to vote for Jan Angel or Kim Abel based on this mailer.”

The HDCC, however, has turned the information into political fodder.

In support of its criticism of Angel, the HDCC wrote in a release that Angel “has made the inference” that she received these degrees and criticized her for misstating her qualifications.

HDCC Political Director Derek Baker said his organization has researched the background of Republican legislative candidates, matching their claims with their actual qualifications.

He said that Angel was the only candidate where he found any discrepancies.

Of the material supplied by Baker, only the mailing overtly stated that Angel had received any degrees.

In a video of a public appearance, Angel is shown talking about her education in broad terms and with no claim of graduation.

Baker’s criticism, which was itself based on erroneous information, was then lambasted by Republican operatives working on the Angel campaign.

“These criticisms of Jan by Kim Abel are absolute (manure),” said House Republican Organizational Committee Director Kevin Carns. “They are indulging in desperate mudslinging, because Kim Abel doesn’t have an ice cube’s chance in hell of getting elected.”

Angel earned more votes than Abel in the August primary, although the results were not binding.

Local political observers in both parties predict victory for their candidate, while admitting that the race is “too close to call.” 

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