Earlier this month, I wrote about one of the closest, most-watched legislative races in the country, between conservative incumbent Republican Rep. Jesse Young, and union-owned, perennial candidate Larry Seaquist. While the district is located in the Puget Sound region near Seattle, it has been leaning conservative lately.
The two candidates are less than one point apart in the polls, but last week it came out that Seaquist has been duplicitous on his position regarding open government. In September, he was asked by the Kitsap Sun Editorial Board whether he supported modifying the state’s Public Records Act, to reduce transparency and give more power to the government. Specifically, whether he would “give agencies more discretion over which requests to fulfill, increase costs to requestors, and make more material exempt from the Act.”
Seaquist answered in part, “No. Government agencies must always operate in the sunshine. I have been an active member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. We must open the legislature’s secretive budget process to the public.”
This is not what he said in June to the Association of Washington Cities. Clearly pandering to get their endorsement, he responded affirmatively on a questionnaire indicating he would change the state’s Public Records Act. He agreed to let government agencies start charging fees for electronic copies, and when asked how else he would change the act, wrote, “I’ve worked on and voted for fixes in this area in my years in the legislature — ever since I learned of the abusive requests of the City of Port Orchard.”
Rep. Young denounced the conflicting positions to Web Press Daily,
This is clearly an attempt to answer this question in whatever manner befits the best interest of the organization administering the interview. Of course, the AWC favors this proposal because it makes their obligation to fulfill – or not fulfill – PRA requests easier, and Larry told them what they wanted to hear in an effort to gain their support. When the Kitsap Sun is asking the same question on behalf of 100,000 weekly readers however, he states he will not support that proposal, and will be a strong advocate for government transparency. Whether he lied to the AWC, or he lied to the Kitsap Sun Editorial Board, the fact remains he is lying about critical legislation and transparency. Our national election has certainly highlighted the need for transparent government, specifically as it relates to the integrity of our public data – and as someone seeking public office, Larry has failed this litmus test. Further, in seeking the endorsement of the Kitsap Sun Editorial Board via false answers, I feel he is attempting to use the Kitsap Sun (and by extension the USA Today, who owns the Kitsap Sun) as vehicles by which to deceive voters – much like OSPI candidate Erin Jones recently attempted to do in Seattle, and thus, had her endorsement revoked.
The Public Records Act, along with more definitive transparency bills that allow the public to question their government finances and actions, are fundamental to transparency, and a key issue with a core demographic of independent voters.
There has been a steady rise in public desire over the past decade to hold government accountable through public information requests. As these requests have grown in number there has been a pushback by local government to limit access to such data. While the national political scene is drawing most voters’ attention away from this issue, to independent swing-voters that want to hold government accountable, this is a core issue as they seek to vote in November. Opposite their viewpoint are local governments which also wish to influence state-wide legislation. Appeasing both groups can sometimes be a tightrope to walk.
Toby Nixon, president of Washington Coalition for Open Government, issued a statement critical of the duplicitous positions, and chose to personally endorse Rep. Young, below. With an inconsistency this serious coming out so close to the election, it is expected to tip the election in favor of Young.
The post Wash. Dem. Legislative Candidate Larry Seaquist Caught With Two Positions on Open Public Records appeared first on Tea Party Tribune.