Phones are ringing at voters’ homes in hotly contested legislative districts, and the voice on the other end may have some unflattering information about the candidates.
Voters in parts of the “suburban crescent,” the arc of swing districts around Seattle, heard negative messages about candidates recently in what one of the targeted candidates, Joe Fain, calls a “push poll,” a survey intended to persuade rather than query.
Fain, a Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Claudia Kauffman of Kent, seized on the calls in an e-mail asking supporters for money, writing that “my opponent’s campaign” paid polling firm Mountain West Research to do “push polling.” The “calls were used to mud-sling and distort the facts,” he wrote.
But Kauffman didn’t pay for the calls, said Chris Gregorich, who runs the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. He was wondering himself about their origin after hearing one of his own legislators, Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, was targeted.
He surmises organized labor is responsible. It’s “probably (the) first salvo in these various races they’re planning on playing in,” Gregorich said.
Kathy Cummings, spokeswoman for the Washington State Labor Council and its political committee, DIME PAC, acknowledged DIME PAC is paying for polling, but said the calls aren’t push polling. “We’re just testing messages in order to identify how we best help our champions,” Cummings said.
The key difference is that labor’s calls are going out to a small sample of people, while a “push poll,” which aims to convince, not to measure, goes to many people.
The council has endorsed Hobbs’s Democratic challenger, Lillian Kaufer.
Another recent poll, which tested both positive and negative messages, came from state Senate Democrats’ campaign committee and quizzed voters in the 31st District about Sen. Pam Roach and her Democratic challenger, Raymond Bunk.
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UPDATED with Labor Council’s clarification of its poll.