This post has been updated as of Saturday afternoon.
Supporters of Joe Fitzgibbon, one of three Democratic candidates for state Representative in the 34th District, say that precinct committee officers (PCOs) have been unfairly ordered not to distribute literature when canvassing in the district. The 34th both endorsed and nominated Marcee Stone, one of Fitzgibbon's opponents. An endorsement from a district Democratic organization appears on all campaign literature from the group and often results in direct contributions from the organization.
Other officials in the district, including district chair Tim Nuse, say the district has never ordered its members to campaign for a certain candidate, and that PCOs are free to distribute whatever literature they want.
A memo from Susan Sheary, head of the King County Democrats, seems to indicate that PCOs were in fact told that they couldn't distribute Fitzgibbon literature "under the banner of" the District, but that they could do so on their own, independent time.
Just another day in the always-entertaining 34th.
Ivan Weiss, a supporter of Fitzgibbon and former chair of the 34th, says Nuse told district officials that PCOs were not, under any circumstances, allowed to distribute Fitzgibbon's literature when canvassing the district. Nuse personally endorsed Stone before the district's official endorsement. UPDATE: Weiss has said in the comments that I "lied" about his statements to me. That isn't the case.
Here is a direct quote from our conversation, taken verbatim from my typed notes: "Tim appeared to believe that he had the authority to compel PCOs to campaign for only the endorsed candidate. Something like that is unenforceable. ... I can tell you unequivocally that when we discussed this at an executive board meeting, I just stood up and told [Nuse] he was full of shit, and he didn’t have the authority, and that I was going to campaign for Joe Fitzgibbon. What was he going to do?"
"As long as PCOs are canvassing for a Democrat, the party has no enforcement power" to keep them from supporting a particular candidate, Weiss says.
UPDATE: In a draft email to 34th District members, Nuse wrote:
There have been a couple questions regarding the role of a PCO and what is expected of you. When you are elected or appointed as a PCO your duty is to represent the District and the Party by registering your neighbors to vote and sharing with them who the 34th District Democrats have chosen to support. This is why we take the time to endorse and nominate candidates. That work is now complete. Soon, we’ll be asking you to carry the materials of those candidates and issues and help turn out the vote.
We realize that some people supported candidates that did not receive an endorsement or nomination. As an official representative of our organization, we expect that you will distribute the information of only the candidates and issues that received the support of the 34th District Democrats. By doing so you maintain the integrity of the process, the endorsement, the District, and the Party. This strikes at the very core of who we are.
This is nothing new. Last year, a couple candidates for Seattle City Council who did not get our endorsement began contacting PCOs asking them to carry their materials. When the candidates took this step they were undermining the whole function of our endorsement process and the collective decision and strength of our organization. They were contacted and told to stop immediately, which they did. When you are performing the function of your role as PCO, we hope you will take this expectation seriously.
If all 34th District PCOs were required to distribute Stone's literature, or barred from distributing Fitzgibbon's, the order would also apply to Fitzgibbon himself, Weiss says. "Joe is a PCO in his precinct in downtown Burien. ... Is he forbidden from canvassing his own precinct on his own behalf, or would he be forced to carry Marcee Stone’s lit around? How could such a thing ever be implemented? It’s insane on its face."
Nuse says he never proposed such a policy, and actually agrees. "It’s Ivan Weiss trying to make a flap. It’s cynical politics as usual," he says. However, he adds, "Ultimately, we would hope that nobody would go around with the 34th District banner talking up Joe Fitzgibbon, because that's inconsistent with what the 34th supports."
Fitzgibbon said he wasn't familiar with the behind-the-scenes discord. However, he adds, "PCOs are not organs of the 34th district, they're elected by the people of the 34th. Obviously, it would be ludicrous to force all PCOs to campaign for Marcee. I don't think they would go that far."
Stone did not return a call for comment.
KC Dems head Sheary did not respond to a call requesting clarification of the party's policy. However, in a memo that went out to party members, Sheary wrote that "No District member may campaign for another candidate wearing the banner of the District—if a District member chooses to do so, there may be no District name or logo associated."
Weiss says the argument could have been avoided if the district had simply refrained from endorsing, or made a dual endorsement.
"Three of our members are in this race, and a Democrat is going to win anyway. It’s just not necessary for the district to choose one person, because they’re all good Democrats," Weiss says.