WA Supreme Court Candidate to 5th graders: "I'd get rid of all the Democrats"
, 10/24.06: The two opening paragraphs in this story have been revised to include information on new stories in the series. Stephen Johnson, a Washington State senator in the 47th legislative district, where I live, is running for state Supreme Court. Also see the two other stories in this series:
- Stephen Johnson and BIAW Team up to Reshape Washington's Supreme Court
- Religious Right wants Stephen Johnson on WA Supreme Court
This story reports on denigrating remarks that Senator Johnson made about Democrats in general -- and about Democratic Representative Simpson specifically -- when Johnson visited a fifth grade classroom in Auburn in 2004. I knew the teacher, Jennifer Deshaies, and heard her recount this incident at the time.
Representative Simpson also recounts here what appear to have been purposeful tactics used by Senator Johnson to gain political advantage at the expense of his colleague and of good public policy. Simpson, by the way, was one of the targets of the bogus sex offender notification postcards that the GOP sent out earlier this year, a tactic the legislature since outlawed by large bi-partisan majority. He also appears to have been the 2004 test case for this particular tactic. Washington GOP's aggressive and, many say, dirty, partisan tactics have become standard operating procedure for them. It appears that this culture affects elected Republicans, as well, and that Senator Johnson is one of its active members.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Disgusted by judicial candidate
I was hoping the "Stephen Johnson for Supreme Court" signs weren't referring to the same Stephen Johnson I'd met. Unfortunately, they were.
Stephen Johnson was the state senator for my legislative district when I lived in and taught in Auburn. After teaching 90 fifth-graders a unit on U.S. government, I did a request through the state Legislature Web site to have a representative come speak.
They sent Johnson. Johnson entered my classroom and stated the following: When asked by a student, what would you change about, Washington? His reply: "I'd get rid of all the Democrats."
What's the hardest thing about, your job? "Having to work with Democrats." 'He went on to disparage two of the Democratic congressmen from the district.
This isn't a man who should be on the Supreme Court. It would be impossible for him to be impartial. His hatred and scathing intolerance is so prevalent he felt it appropriate to spew it to a room full of 10-year-olds.
By definition, Supreme Court justices need to be impartial, to put aside their personal views and merely interpret the law. I find it hard to believe someone so scornfully biased would be able to do so.
From: Simpson, Rep. Geoff
Sent: Tue 11/9/2004 9:10 AM
To: Johnson, Sen. Stephen
I've been informed by a teacher whose class you attended that you claim to have tried to work with me on "many bills" but that I "refused to meet you halfway". She went on to say that your presentation to the children was inappropriately partisan in many respects. While this does not surprise me, I am disappointed.
Steve, you know that the truth is that I have tried to work with you on several occasions. I have actually been to your office to talk about issues with you and to ask for your support on bills. You have never been to mine. You have tried to kill my bills simply because you don't want me to have any record of accomplishment in Olympia, even bills that you have agreed with policy-wise and ultimately voted for. I asked you last session about doing a joint mailing to our constituents and you rejected that idea.
If and when you are ready to set aside your partisan behavior and try to work with me on legislation that benefits our constituents I stand ready as always.
Earlier this month, I wrote Representative Geoff Simpson and asked, since Senator Johnson is running for state Supreme Court, if there was anything relating to his experience working with him that he would be willing to recount on the record. Here is his response:
In my first session, I sponsored a bill related to a hit and run incident I had responded to as a Kent Firefighter. (House Bill 1280.)* I went to Senator Johnson's office after the bill was approved by the House to alert him that this bill was coming over to the Senate and to enlist his assistance in seeing this constituent issue through to a bill signing in the Governor's office. He listened but didn't offer any indication that he would help.
Some time later the bill had a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee which Johnson was the Ranking Minority member on. I was listening in my office and was surprised to hear a representative from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys testifying against my bill. I went straight over to the Senate hearing room where I confronted the offending lobbyist. He apologized profusely and said that he had made a mistake. It's considered pretty egregious for a lobbyist to testify against a bill in the opposite chambers without ever notifying anyone in the house of origin that you have a problem with it and it's considered to be an exceptional breach of protocol to do it without ever notifying the prime sponsor of the bill. I pressed the lobbyist for more information about why he was testifying against my bill and he told me that he had been contacted by Sen. Johnson and (then) Sen. Dino Rossi just minutes prior to the hearing and asked to testify against it. I could only surmise that since it was my first session after having replaced a Republican incumbent in Johnson's district and the district bordering Rossi's, neither of them wanted me to have any record of accomplishment to run on in subsequent elections, especially an accomplishment that dealt with law and order.
In subsequent sessions, I approached Johnson for his help on a variety of funding issues related to the Capitol Budget for parks and economic development projects. Again, Johnson was not only unhelpful, but he actually worked behind the scenes to eliminate the items from consideration. It was surprising to me that his partisanship even extended to getting funding for his own legislative district**. I soon learned not to ask him for help with anything for fear that he would somehow be able to kill my issue in the Senate.
I went to Sen. Johnson and Rep. Cairnes once and asked them if they wanted to do a joint mailing to our constituents as a show of bipartisanship. They both declined.
Finally, here's an email that I sent Johnson in 2004. It was the last time I really had any contact with him in Olympia. (email appears above)
*Simpson's child- and family-friendly bills, from tougher criminal penalties to increased funding for education and protection against environmental toxics, have indeed, have made him more electable. House Bill 1280, the first bill Simpson ever sponsored, became law -- a notable accomplishment.
The history on 1280 is that Simpson responded as a firefighter to the scene of a hit-and-run incident in which the victim, a mother, lost her life. Because the offending driver fled the scene, it was not possible to test his blood for alcohol content. But Simpson could see in this accident, which occurred during daylight and in good weather, all the hallmarks of a drunk driving. At the time, Washington law rewarded people for the crime of fleeing the scene by imposing a lesser penalty for hit-and-run fatality than for drunk driving fatality. 1280 fixed that imbalance, raising the penalty for hit-and-run fatalities.
**Simpson -- and the other Democratic Representative here in the 47th, Pat Sullivan, have been successful in their efforts to secure economic benefits for our district. A flyer I received from Washington Realtors yesterday, states its support for their re-election due to their "track records of working to strengthen the economy..."