Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist’s bid to retain office is seemingly well funded and organized for a campaign two years away from the ballot boxes.
Despite being two years away, his re-election campaign has raised $29,000 since forming in 2015. Of that, $12,000 has already been spent on campaign printing, photographs and postage, as well as benefit dinners that range from $100 at the Firefighter’s Ball last January, $450 for the Pierce County Democrats Dinner and $200 for a Rainbow Center event last September as well as pizza tabs from Dominos and Abella Pizzeria. Those costs appear alongside the bills for website registration, monthly fees of $95.27 for email database management services by Constant Contact and $677 in Facebook advertising, according to Public Disclosure Commission filings. The postage for $1,500 in Lindquist’s holiday cards in December cost the campaign $312.23.
Top donors to his campaign include Peter Buck, lead guitarist for the rock band REM, and his wife Chloe Johnson, who both donated $2,000 each. They are followed by Todd Black, a LA-based producer behind the movies “Southpaw,” “Unfinished Business” and “Antwone Fisher.” The top local donor is a group called Active in Democracy at $950. The group is the political arm of the Tacoma Professional Firefighters Union.
Lindquist projects between 200 and 400 people will attend the Saturday fundraiser, which has a goal of raising between $15,000 and $20,000 at minimal cost to the campaign since the food and alcohol are being provided by donors as in-kind donations. Buck is appearing for free, although he is already a top donor.
“Peter is just somebody who is a friend,” Lindquist said. “It is not a Peter Buck concert per se. He is just going to show up and play a few songs.”
Buck will headline the event that will also include a set by the Beatniks, with hopes of adding to the campaign war chest and to thank supporters following what has been a year of controversy involving Lindquist and his office that included an unsuccessful recall effort by what Lindquist characterized as an organized campaign of critics.
“What they found out is that the community wasn’t buying what they were selling,” he said, noting that no one has yet formed a campaign committee to challenge his reelection.
And the time is ticking on that clock, since any viable campaign would likely need about a year to organize and raise campaign donations to even catch up with Lindquist’s campaign machine that already includes deep pockets, a roster of volunteers and a database of emails and addresses for campaign messages – all things a challenger would have to form from scratch. Raising money and organizing campaign messages for an election still two years away, he noted, not only removes the campaign crush for cash if a challenger emerges, but also thwarts potential opponents from filing a challenge in the first place.
“There is nothing you can do to stop irrational opponents,” Lindquist said. “This is not a high school election.”
Lindquist’s campaign consultant Alex Hayes points to the failed recall effort as proof that although there are critics, their effort to replace him remains isolated to a small group.
“There doesn’t appear to be a real effort to defeat Mark,” he said, noting that he never advices incumbents to assume they will run unopposed and therefore should always have an active campaign. That includes holding off-year campaign rallies.
That might be particularly sage advice since 2016 hasn’t been kind for Lindquist’s image, with a swirl of controversy, claims and counter claims against him and his office. Those allegations involve a complex and drawn-out legal fight that has yet to fully be resolved after five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money spent in legal fees.
Those claims have largely resolved themselves with wins in Lindquist’s column, at least so far. One notable exception is a judge’s ruling that Lindquist failed to disclose business-related text message after a legal challenge. That text cost $325,000 in legal bills at last counting and opened the county to yet-to-be determined fines. And four complaints to the Washington State Bar Association remain to be resolved. Most notable among them is a five-page complaint filed by the Pierce County Deputy Sheriff’s Independent Guild against Lindquist and a top deputy prosecutor. The filing details a complex pattern of alleged retaliations against deputies and concludes with a simple line.
“The only ‘client’ Mark Lindquist serves is himself,” the complaint stated. “He has so deviated from the required standards of conduct that he should be removed from the practice of law.”
Guild President Bill Westfall refused to comment on the filing other than to say it marks the only time he can remember in his 28 years of law enforcement that the guild has sought to disbar the prosecutor of the crimes they investigate.
“I don’t think anyone should read anything into it,” he said. “It is what it is.”
The prosecutor’s office has the dubious distinction of leading the state in prosecutorial misconduct cases, conviction reversals from legal missteps, according to reports.
Lindquist has been the Pierce County Prosecutor since he was appointed to the post in 2009 to finish the term of retiring Gerald Horne. He was then elected to a full term in 2010, when he was challenged by former deputy prosecutor Bertha Fitzer. Lindquist raised $65,000 for that campaign versus Fitzer’s $36,000, according the PDC reports.
Lindquist then ran unopposed in 2014. There has been some talk in legal circles – including members of Linquist’s staff – about efforts afoot so a repeat of that doesn’t happen in 2018. Those efforts remain hush-hush and involve “lots of other people who can tell you when they are ready,” wrote longstanding Lindquist critic and legal adversary Joan Mell when asked about potential challengers.
Nothing much of the campaign scene will happen until after the presidential election in November, after which Lindquist and any potential challenger will gear up their $50,000 to $400,000 campaign machines with calls for endorsements and donations for the 2018 election season.
“Two years is a long, long time in politics,” Lindquist said.