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Friday, September 5, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Charges of dirty politics color Snohomish County race

Seattle Times staff reporter

EVERETT — Anonymous phone calls, a mysterious envelope and a closet full of campaign signs fueled accusations of dirty politics in the Snohomish County executive's race yesterday.

State Sen. Aaron Reardon, D-Everett, accused a Democratic rival in the county-executive primary of defaming his character by producing a critical campaign ad.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Betty Neighbors filed a police report suggesting Reardon had stolen some of her campaign signs and stashed them in a union-hall closet.

Democrats Reardon, Everett Shipyard President Kevin Quigley and Snohomish County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Millie Judge are vying for County Executive Bob Drewel's job, as are three Republicans: businesswoman Neighbors, Edmonds City Councilman Dave Earling and building official Bob McCaughan. Drewel is stepping down after 12 years because of term limits. The primary election is Sept. 16.

Reardon said an anonymous and disgruntled Quigley staff member left the campaign flier in an envelope on his front porch Wednesday night.

The front of the flier says "Aaron Reardon lied," and the inside part accuses him of taking illegal campaign contributions, accepting illegal gifts from lobbyists and using campaign money to take family vacations to Hawaii.

"It's a fiction novel," Reardon said yesterday. "There's no fact in here."

Reardon said he gave back over-the-limit contributions from the Teamsters in 1998 and said a supposed Hawaii vacation was a conference paid for with surplus campaign money. And it was in Detroit.

Quigley took credit for the flier, which he said his campaign mailed out yesterday. But it was in response to dirty campaigning by Reardon's staff, he said. Quigley said Reardon supporters are trying to recruit Quigley supporters by exaggerating a 1995 ethics violation Quigley committed as a state senator. The Legislative Ethics Board formally reprimanded him for having sent a letter to his Seattle law firm offering to introduce clients to lawmakers.

Quigley, who stands by the statements in his flier and says they are true, doesn't believe Reardon got the flier from one of his staffers.

"I think that the Reardon campaign has been searching through our recycling, to tell you the truth," he said. "I think there was a little Reardon monkey business going on."

The attorney for the Snohomish County Democrats wrote in a letter to Quigley yesterday that the flier "appears to meet a defamatory standard even in the case of a public figure," and wrote, "this type of campaigning is condemned by the party."

Meanwhile, the Neighbors campaign filed a police report this week saying some of her signs had disappeared from the front of the Machinists Union Hall in South Everett — only to be found later in a closet with Reardon suspiciously nearby.

An anonymous phone call from a union member disappointed "with his fellow brethren" tipped off the Neighbors campaign, according to Neighbors' press release.

Reardon said he was there using the union's phone bank when police responded to Neighbors' complaint.

Neighbors' signs were probably removed from the property by union officials, who allow only signs representing candidates they've endorsed, said Linda Lanham, the political director for the International Association of Machinists District 751, which is endorsing Reardon.

Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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