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Negative campaign signs turn up in 48th District

Signs, accusing Sen. Rodney Tom of ignoring voters, have turned up along many Bellevue streets. - Chad Coleman, Bellevue Reporter
Signs, accusing Sen. Rodney Tom of ignoring voters, have turned up along many Bellevue streets.
— image credit: Chad Coleman, Bellevue Reporter

Negative TV and online ads for political campaigns are no rarity, especially in this election. From the U.S. Senate, all the way down to local representatives, many candidates spent their hard-earned donations and time to disparage their opponents rather than share their own ideas.

But, negative campaign signs about a specific candidate remain unusual – until this year.

Last week, signs all over Bellevue popped up with accusations that 48th District state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Bellevue) "ignored voters" when he voted to suspend Initiative 960, requiring a two-thirds majority on new taxes, to help balance the budget in January. Voters passed the measure in 2007 by a 51-48 margin. Tom was one of 26 state senators to vote in favoring of suspending the initiative with 21 against.

The signs were put up by the campaign of Tom's challenger Gregg Bennett.

"We're letting the voters know that Tom ignored the voters and voted to suspend I-960, which led to an increase in taxes of almost $1 billion," said Bennett's campaign coordinator, Jesse Moon.

Tom said he's already received more than a dozen calls from constituents upset about the signage. He called the effort a "new low as far as negative campaigning," and suggested the signs may be illegal because they don't indicate who paid for them.

Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the Public Disclosure Committee said signs only need to say who paid for them when they are greater than eight feet by four feet in area.

Tom said the signs illustrate that Bennett's campaign is struggling as the Nov. 2 election nears.

"I think it shows a campaign in desperation.... They're not gaining any traction on their own message," he said

The race between Tom and Bennett has been a tense one for several months. Both candidates have attacked the other's professional background, with Tom accusing Bennett of lying about his accounting background, and Bennett responded by questioning Tom's real estate credentials.

But campaign signs painting an opponent in a negative light rather than promoting the purchaser's agenda remain a rarity.

Tom Campbell, code compliance supervisor for the city of Bellevue, said negative signs are more often associated with initiatives. He couldn't remember any specific signs attacking individual candidates in the past.

"This is the first one that we've noticed recently," he said.

Attacking ads, along with the amount of money spent on the campaign show how badly both sides want to win the race. Bennett, the challenger, has raised more than $500,000 and spent more than $425,000 of that according to the PDC. Tom has garnered nearly $250,000 and spent $180,000 of that.

Tebelius complains of sign vandalism

Republican Diane Tebelius, who is competing against Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) in the 48th District, filed charges this week against an individual who admitted to slashing one of her campaign signs.

"There are powerful opponents who want 'business as usual' in Olympia and are threatened by our message of reform and accountability," Tebelius said in a press release. "Taking a box cutter to slash your opponent's signs is not only a desperate political tactic, but rather disturbing."

Tebelius filed charges of third-degree malicious mischief against an individual who admitted to slashing a single Tebelius sign worth $2.50 the evening of Oct. 15, said Bellevue police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate. The suspect was sent a criminal summons for the violation. The suspect also slashed two signs about ballot initiatives, but those owners declined to press charges, Iafrate said.

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