Satterberg GOP cash is issue for Sherman
Seattle Times staff reporter
Democratic candidate Bill Sherman says opponent Dan Satterberg's willingness to accept donations from the Republican party undermines Satterberg's pledge to keep partisan politics out of the King County prosecutor's office.
But Satterberg says a $17,500 donation he received earlier this month from the King County GOP, as well as any additional party money that could come his way, does nothing to soften his stance on partisanship.
Satterberg vows to lobby the Legislature next year to make the prosecutor's office nonpartisan in future elections — a bill Satterberg said would be sponsored by one of his Democratic supporters, state Sen. Adam Kline of Seattle.
"I'm happy to have support from anywhere," said Satterberg, who was appointed interim prosecutor after the May 24 death of longtime Prosecutor Norm Maleng, a Republican.
"It doesn't change my fundamental outlook of running a professional and nonpolitical office."
Sherman also is pointing to Satterberg's acceptance of donations from spouses of deputy prosecutors as a clever way around Satterberg's edict that office employees not donate to or publicly endorse his campaign.
But Satterberg says the policy, a carry-over from Maleng, does not bar spousal contributions.
Sherman, a deputy prosecutor on leave to campaign for the top job, also pledged not to accept contributions or endorsements from co-workers.
"To me, it's a commitment with meaning, not just words," Sherman said. "Accepting support from a spouse may follow the letter but not the spirit of that commitment."
Spouses of three deputy prosecutors have donated $3,700 to Satterberg, according to campaign finance records.
One of those deputy prosecutors, Nelson Lee, donated $10,000 to the state GOP earlier this month.
Sherman suspects that Lee's donation — as well as other large donations to the party from key Satterberg supporters — eventually will be spent to benefit Satterberg's campaign.
"What appears to be a state Republican Party stockpiling of cash is, I think, intended to help Satterberg," Sherman said.
Lee, a deputy in the criminal division and an office employee for 14 years, dismisses the suggestion that his donation to the party is an end-run to funnel money to Satterberg.
"It's given to them [the party] for whatever purpose they deem appropriate," Lee said.
Lee said he's never given a lot of money to a political party or candidate before, and he did not consider it fair to have to explain his decision to donate to the GOP.
"I have friends who are in the Republican party and they have approached me in the past, as have people in the other party," Lee said.
Lee's wife, Yvonne, and cousin, Benjamin Lee, have each donated $1,400 to Satterberg, and Benjamin Lee's company, Foreign Sources, has donated $800.
Satterberg said he was unaware of Nelson Lee's $10,000 donation.
"I never asked Nelson for money," he said. "He is aware of the policy."
Satterberg said he didn't know why the Republican party would spend money on his race when he has made clear his position on nonpartisanship and his plans at the Legislature.
"It may be out of respect for Norm Maleng," said Satterberg, who was Maleng's chief of staff for 17 years. "Or maybe the party would rather have me running a nonpartisan office than have my opponent run a partisan office."
Michael Young, chairman of the King County Republicans, said the party has not taken a position on Satterberg's vow to make the office nonpartisan.
"If that becomes an issue, we'll take a position," he said. "For now, our interest is in supporting someone who can carry on the tradition of professionalism in that office begun by Norm Maleng. And we have found that person in Dan Satterberg. He's running as a Republican, and we're proud of that."
Sherman also has pledged to keep partisan politics out of the office. But in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans, he is asking voters to consider party affiliation when assessing the candidates' values and priorities.
Sherman so far has accepted small donations from Democratic party groups, as well as free access to the voter database maintained by the county party. He said he would accept bigger checks from the Democrats if the party wants to write them.
"Given the sudden and startling infusion of cash into Dan's campaign, and given that he already has outraised me by about a 2-to-1 margin, I would welcome support from the Democratic party to close that gap," Sherman said.
Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or email@example.com
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