The temperature of the 31st Legislative District Senate race has jumped another degree, if it hasn’t already broken the thermometer.
The latest round of Roach-Richardson recriminations involves a pair of tough campaign ads mailed out by state Sen. Pam Roach this month that have her challenger, Matt Richardson, steaming.
“He pled guilty to sexually molesting a young girl,” one of them says, over a picture of a suspicious-looking man watching children through a playground fence. “Now he’s running for state Senate.”
Richardson says the image is “terrible.” He fired off a letter Monday to the state Public Disclosure Commission (the second PDC complaint in the race), alleging the mailers violate a law against defamation in election materials. Roach says they are accurate.
It’s true that Richardson pleaded guilty in 1993 to communication with a minor for immoral purpose, in what’s known as an Alford plea, for acts he allegedly committed as a minor. Prosecutors say the conviction was later dismissed because Richardson served his sentence. (For details, read my overview of the race between the two Republicans.) Then and now, Richardson maintains his innocence. He contends to the PDC that the dismissal means Roach’s references to his charges or lawbreaking are false.
The picture of a grown man watching children could mislead someone into thinking Richardson committed sex crimes as an adult, and he seizes on that as well in his letter. Roach counters that allegations against him by Federal Way Public Schools show a pattern continuing into adulthood. (A school official couldn’t conclusively determine the truth of a sexual harassment claim by students, calling it “probable.”)
Richardson also contradicts a host of other claims made in the mailers.
And as if the race wasn’t boiling over already, just add tea.
The Washington State chapter of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, part of the national tea party movement, is going to court to try to open Richardson’s sealed court file. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in King County Superior Court.
Why is a tea party group getting involved? Executive Director Alex Rion said the Campaign for Liberty aims to hold candidates accountable, so it wants some “light of day” on allegations that have been aired in the news media about Richardson. Richardson said a judge should determine there’s no public interest in the contents of the case.
UPDATED to refer to Richardson as a minor at the time of his crimes. He was charged with committing the crime at age 16 but said in a plea he was 12.