Elected officials react to controversial WashCo chair race ad
Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway has denounced a mass mailer sent by Washington County chairman candidate Bob Terry, which uses Nazi imagery in its depiction of opponent Kathryn Harrington.
Callaway, who has endorsed Terry in the race, said he was not aware of the flyer until news reports broke about it overnight . He said he did not approve of the mailer's message.
"Not aware and not OK," Callaway wrote on Twitter after another user asked Terry's supporters if they knew about the flyer. "We are a (registered Democrat) and (non-affiliated voter) household so I didn't receive the mailer. I contacted his campaign and voiced my concern & objection. I agree with you & (House Rep. Julie Parrish) that there's no place for the swastika or racism in campaigns at any level.
The Terry campaign has come under fire for the advertisement, which depicts crowds of Portland protestors seemingly on their way to Washington County.
"With Kathryn Harrington, Portland is on the march," the mailer says.
Terry and Harrington are running to replace outgoing Chairman Andy Duyck, who is not seeking re-election. The position is officially nonpartisan, but Terry, a registered Republican, and Harrington, a Democrat, have been at loggerheads for months.
"Kathryn Harrington wants to bring her 'experience' in Portland city government to Washington County," the mailer says.
Harrington hasn't served in Portland city government. She sits on the Metro Council, the regional government for the entire Portland area. Metro's offices are located in Northeast Portland, but the regional government's authority stretches as far west as Forest Grove, as far east as Troutdale and as far south as Wilsonville. Harrington represents much of Washington County, including Hillsboro and Forest Grove, on the Metro Council.
Terry has served on the Washington County Board of Commissioners for eight years, representing District 4, a large area covering Hillsboro, Forest Grove and the rest of western Washington County.
The mailer uses photos by The Oregonian taken at Portland protests. Portland has seen several protests turn violent over the last two years. In photos from a Nov. 11 protest, onee protestor carries a sign with a swastika on it, crossed out by a thick red line.
Terry's mailer, which uses a darkened and blurred version of the photo, makes it difficult to see that the protestor is against the Nazi movement.
The Terry campaign has said the mailer isn't about racism, but rather about Terry's belief that Harrington will bring Portland's crime rate, higher taxes and other issues to Washington County.
Other elected officials who have endorsed Terry in the race said they believe the swastika's inclusion was an unfortunate accident.
"I think after talking with Bob Terry that the swastika was not the focus of the article, as a matter of fact I don't think they knew personally, they didn't know it was in there," said Tony Hall, mayor of Gaston, who has endorsed Terry. "It was inadvertently put in there, it was kind of missed by everybody. It was just a photograph of a protest and so based on that, I am trying to hear from all sides here, based on the information I was able to collect this morning, to me it's not an issue."
Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin said similar. He accepts Terry's explanation that he did not see the swastika in the mailer before it was sent out.
"I'm not pulling out my support for Bob Terry as county (chairman) over this," Dalin said, adding, "Obviously, it wasn't an overt attempt by Bob to do something, is what I'm hearing."
While he said he told Terry he should have credited The Oregonian for the photos that were used on the mailer, Dalin said he agrees with the mailer's text that criticizes Harrington.
"I think he's raising a concern that I've heard other people raise: that if Kathryn becomes chair, a lot of the things that she thinks are good and right in Portland, she wants to bring to Washington County," said Dalin, who added he hopes to have a "good working relationship" with whomever wins the chair race.
Several other Washington County elected officials have come out against the mailer, though.
"How could you vote for a man who just put out a mailer with a swastika on it?" asked Beaverton City Councilor Lacey Beaty, a Harrington supporter. "You don't have to look to federal politics to see overt racism."
Beaty posted the message to Facebook, along with the names of county mayors who have endorsed Terry.
"This. Is. Vile," wrote Metro Councilor-elect Juan Carlos Gonzalez on Twitter Thursday. Gonzalez won a race in May to replace Harrington on the Metro Council, but has not officially endorsed her.
Hillsboro City Councilor Olivia Alcaire — who has also endorsed Harrington in the race — said more elected officials should speak up about the mailer.
"We really could use some leadership to acknowledge how such an image brings reflection of pure hate," she wrote on Facebook.
Parrish, a West Linn Republican who represents portions of Washington County, called for Terry to apologize. Parrish has endorsed Terry in the race, but also criticized Democrats for not having similar reactions to similar tactics made by progressive candidates.
"I think he needs to issue an apology," Parrish wrote, "but I find it interesting Democratic leaders in Washington County haven't asked Chuck Riley to do the same for clearly photoshopping Alex Flores in an inflammatory manner. Unacceptable from any campaign."
Riley, a Hillsboro state senator, was criticized after a mailer supporting Riley depicted an image of Republican opponent Alexander Flores last month. The image was doctored to show Flores wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, a symbol of the Donald Trump campaign. The digitally inserted cap is perched sideways on Flores' head, which Parrish suggested was an attempt to "make him look like some kind of thug."
The race will be decided Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with reaction from the mayor of Cornelius, who is a Bob Terry supporter. Mark Miller and Olivia Singer contributed to this report.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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Follow Geoff at @ReporterGeoff
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