State Rep. Jeannie Darneille (D-27, Tacoma)

Wealthy Tacoma trial lawyer Jack Connelly has put nearly $600,000 of his own money into his state senate campaign. Connelly is running against progressive state Rep. Jeannie Darneille (D-27, Tacoma) for the open senate seat being vacated by retiring state Sen. Debbie Regala (D-27, Tacoma).

Connelly is a hardcore anti-choice and anti-gay rights Democrat in the Rep. Mark Miloscia mold. (Miloscia, a labor Democrat and one of just two house Democrats who voted against gay marriage, is the only house Democrat who has endorsed Connelly over his state house colleague Darneille. Meanwhile, Darneille has been endorsed by numerous other Democrats—including Regala—and all the major labor, environmental, and civil rights groups.)

Connelly is spending his money on negative TV ads and mailers attacking Darneille for supposedly being soft on crime. He has spent $20,000 on mailers and $22,000 on TV, according to the most recent Public Disclosure Commission reports.

However, the ads, which among other things call Darneille "a leading advocate for early release" for prisoners, need a fact check.

Connelly famously won a $6.5 million settlement against the state on behalf of the Paula Joyce family; Joyce was killed in a car crash when an ex-felon who was supposed to be under state supervision (and who had violated his release conditions more than 100 times) stole a car and collided with her. With testimony from Joyce's family, Connelly has an ad that states: “While Jeannie Darneille was supporting early release for violent offenders, Jack Connelly was Fighting for Justice for Paula Joyce and her Family.”

Clever, but misleading. The Joyce case was settled in 2005, while Darneille was in office. But beyond that, here are the major asterisks:

Joyce was killed in 1997. Darneille wasn't elected until 2000. She had nothing to do with the state's delinquent behavior in the Joyce family tragedy.

Darneille did put her name on subsequent early release legislation. But here's the deal with that: The legislation  was part of Gov. Chris Gregoire's scare budget—the all-cuts budget Gregoire proposed at the beginning of last session that included early release of prisoners to make the Democratic point that revenue was necessary to maintain public safety. As the vice chair of the house ways and means committee, Darneille simply put her name on Gregoire's request legislation to get the budget debate going. Her next move? As vice chair, Darneille helped kill the bill (it never even got a vote).

"A leading advocate for early release."  Really?

Moreover: this was 2012, not in the early 2000s  when Connelly was working on the Joyce case.

I have a call in to Connelly.

Connelly's advertising also criticizes Darneille for being the lone vote against a bill that would have kept sex offenders under strict supervision after they did their prison time; the legislation established a process to civilly commit former sex offenders, putting them under strict watch and in confined housing.

What Connelly doesn't mention is Darneille's objection: The legislation placed the housing in her district. "I was protesting the placement of the sex offenders facility in Pierce County against our wishes," she says. Noting the infamous McNeil Island facility, Darneille adds, "Enough is enough. Pierce County has been a dumping ground."
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