Financial disclosures out this week show Troy Kelley has jumped to the front of the pack of candidates for state auditor, at least in terms of money. The state representative from Tacoma now leads in campaign receipts –thanks to an infusion of $78,000 of personal cash — and in spending, some of which is paying for an ad running now on cable TV.
The commercial touts some favorable words from the current state auditor.
“Retiring State Auditor Brian Sonntag says, ‘He’s the independent voice we need.’” it says.
What some viewers might miss is a date in small print in the corner of the picture of Kelley and Sonntag. It says “10/11/10.” The date is an acknowledgement that the praise was offered back when Kelley was running for re-election to his House seat, before his attempt to succeed Sonntag as auditor.
The campaign cleared the content of the ad in advance with Sonntag, who asked that it include a date, since he’s not endorsing any of the candidates — Democrats Kelley, Mark Miloscia or Craig Pridemore, or Republican James Watkins.
Even so, two opponents say the ad is misleading.
“People are being left with the impression that Brian Sonntag has endorsed Troy,” Watkins, a consultant from Redmond, told me. In a Facebook post, he called it “outside the bounds of good ethics.”
“We’ve all been trying to get Brian Sonntag’s endorsement,” said Miloscia, a state representative from Federal Way. “Brian’s a very nice guy and over 10 years I’ve got a zillion quotes that Brian has used about me, but it’s inappropriate to use for this race.”
Kelley’s official statement in the voters’ pamphlet quotes a more extended version of Sonntag’s 2010 comments but doesn’t include a date. That, too, was run by Sonntag first, and he didn’t object.
Kelley said he has never claimed Sonntag’s endorsement and his use of the quote is as fair as Watkins’ frequent use of a quote spoken by Sonntag this year, which has been described by some — thought not by Watkins, as you can see in those Facebook comments — as an endorsement.
“I think we’ve been 100 percent above board here,” Kelley said.
“Brian encouraged me to run,” said Kelley, who seemed taken aback by the objections. “I’m in this race because of Brian, so that’s why I’m really shocked here.”
So what does the man himself say?
“I saw the quote and I said I can’t back away from that because I did say that,” Sonntag said. “But I didn’t say it for this election.”
Does the ad misrepresent him? “It’s really not for me to judge. I’m not running.” How about the voters’ pamphlet? “That could be viewed as a bit misleading,” Sonntag said, but he figures, “All’s fair in love, war and politics.”
I can’t post the ad here because Kelley says he doesn’t have an electronic copy, and while his campaign showed the ad to me, it wasn’t willing to let me shoot a video of it. Here’s a transcript:
Leading by example, business owner Troy Kelley was the first legislator to cut his own pay in this economic recession.
Retiring State Auditor Brian Sonntag says, “He’s the independent voice we need.”
Troy’s experience to be our State Auditor is unparalleled.
(Troy) Hi, I’m Troy Kelley. If we’re going to focus on our top priorities like public schools, we must manage our budget responsibly, just like families do everyday.
That’s why I’m running for state auditor.
Here is a bootleg copy of the ad.