Attacks fly in race for Tualatin, West Linn House seat
The fight for Oregon House District 37 is heating up.
Some residents of the district, which encompasses Tualatin, Stafford and West Linn, have complained about recent attack pieces distributed by supporters of Kelly Sloop, the West Linn Republican challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Rachel Prusak.
At issue have been campaign messages sent via direct mail flyers, push polling and text messages that accuse Prusak of wanting to abolish police, as well as being in favor of reducing sentences for murderers such as Jeremy Christian, the man recently sentenced to life in prison for the violent 2017 murders of two MAX train passengers.
One of the direct mail pieces shows Prusak, who appears to be raising her fist in the air, with the headline: "Representative Rachel Prusak has chosen anarchy over safety." It then states: "Politician Rachel Prusak has taken thousands of dollars in donations from groups that want to abolish our West Linn and Tualatin police."
Prusak, a nurse practitioner who ousted Republican Julie Parrish in 2018 to win her current seat, said accusations that she supports such positions are untrue.
"I have never said I would defund or abolish our local police," Prusak told the Pamplin Media Group in an email responding to questions about the mailers. "In fact, I'm endorsed by several constituents who serve as law enforcement officers and civil rights and racial justice organizations."
But Sloop, a registered pharmacist, defended the campaign flyer, saying the information about Prusak's support from those wanting to abolish police is based on a June 22 online post by the American Federation of Teachers' Oregon chapter, a portion of which condemned the actions of police in connection with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
In a screenshot Sloop supplied, the posting further states: "We call for disarming, defunding and ultimate removal of police forces in K-12 schools, universities, and college campuses across Oregon; and will use our material resources and public platform to support efforts to develop community-driven alternatives that ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff."
Sloop alleges that the teacher's organization took down the post, which she called "just too extreme," shortly after the flyer went out. The organization has supported Prusak's campaign with relatively large donations.
Records from the Oregon secretary of state's office show that the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon Candidate PAC made a $3,000 donation to Prusak's campaign committee on Sept. 18. In 2018, the same organization made two $5,000 donations to her campaign as well.
"Do I agree with American Federation of Teachers-Oregon's (since removed) stance on policing? Absolutely not," Prusak responded. "It's preposterous to claim that I agree with 100% of the things supporters of my campaign say or do."
The anti-Prusak direct mail flyer came from the Metro SW Community First PAC. According to the State Elections Division, the political action committee lists its treasurer as Lori L. Piercy of Rainier, with Bart Dickson, chief executive officer of Cobalt Development in Tualatin; Julie Miller, Sloop's campaign manager from West Linn; and Mark Cottle, a Sherwood attorney and former Sherwood mayor, as directors.
However, one of the more inflammatory campaign messages sent by Sloop's campaign came in a "push poll" telephone survey, as well as a text message sent out to area voters.
The text message reads in part: "My opponent Rachel Prusak voted to reduce sentences for murderers like Jeremy Christian, who stabbed three people on a MAX train in 2017."
It goes on to say if elected, Sloop would make sure those "crimes are prosecuted so criminals aren't emboldened to victimize our neighborhoods."
Abby Farber, a West Linn resident, said she saw the text posted online by some of her Facebook friends.
"Ms. Sloop's campaign has disseminated harmful and misleading political rhetoric that goes way over the line," Farber said.
Sloop said her campaign based its information on Prusak's votes in favor of Senate Bills 1013 and 1008. The first narrows the definition of aggravated murder, while the second requires underage suspects to be tried in the juvenile court system unless the judge orders the case to be heard in adult court.
"The latest push poll and text involving jail sentences for people like Jeremy Christian is particularly despicable and misleading, using a crime that traumatized so many Oregonians to try and gain political advantage," Prusak told the Pamplin Media Group. "Legitimate policy differences are one thing, but these tactics are deceptive, harmful, and play into the worst our community has to offer."
Prusak added, "Jeremy Christian has thankfully been sentenced to two life sentences without parole and will never see a day outside prison. His crimes were horrific, and for my opponent to suggest I think otherwise is outrageous."
Sloop said in "hindsight," she wouldn't have approved the Jeremy Christian reference in the push poll.
"That's one that I wished that I had stopped," said Sloop, "and not let it go out on that poll."
She added, "Everyone's saying … I'm running a negative campaign, but what I feel is important to me is that people have information on the current representative and how she votes. That's what Representative Prusak said in the 2018 campaign against Julie Parrish."
Sloop's campaign has also accused Prusak's team of underhanded tactics.
Sloop's campaign manager recently filed a complaint with the secretary of state's office alleging that Prusak's husband, filmmaker Billy Louviere, failed to report $6,000 in crowdfunding money he used to help make a campaign film about Prusak.
Prusak dismissed the charge.
"My husband is an independent filmmaker and created a documentary for his own professional purposes," Prusak said, noting that the documentary was submitted to film festivals.
She added, "It was only after its production that we decided to show it at a few campaign events."
Prusak said the campaign has listed it as an "in-kind donation, in full compliance with state law," and she believes the secretary of state's office will see it that way as well.
To set the record straight, Prusak said, she is out meeting voters "to make sure they know where I really stand."
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