One candidate has died, but the campaign continues.
Federal Way Rep. Roger Freeman was nearing the end of a close race for re-election to the state House when he died Wednesday at age 48, shocking and saddening Olympia politicians across party lines — but improving Republicans’ chances of taking his seat.
Democrats now hope for a posthumous win for Freeman that would allow them to appoint the next House member from the 30th District.
“They’re still campaigning and they’re doing everything they can to protect that seat,” said Federal Way City Councilman Martin Moore, a Democrat and a friend and ally of the late Freeman. The freshman lawmaker was diagnosed with colon cancer last year.
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Moore said ads for Freeman and against Republican Jack Dovey remain on television and in mailboxes, with Freeman’s supporters still waving his signs on street corners.
Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who leads House Democrats’ campaign operation, said phone banks had already been arranged and mailers were already at the post office when Freeman died. Democrats did opt to continue TV commercials, he said.
Republicans are scaling back, careful to avoid attacking the recently deceased Freeman.
Dovey’s campaign is still airing positive advertising about its candidate, a former Federal Way city councilman and mayor whose business makes phone holders for trucks. But it canceled the mailing of fliers highlighting disagreements with Freeman on Tuesday when it heard he was in the hospital, said Chad Minnick, Dovey’s campaign consultant.
“There are things that are more important than whatever we’re talking about,” he said, “and we don’t want some mail piece hitting two days later. It feels crass, and it is crass.”
Minnick said it would also be “a little disingenuous” if Democrats urge a vote for Freeman without telling people that a different Democrat will fill the seat if he wins.
If Freeman prevails, local Democratic activists from the district spanning Federal Way, Milton, Pacific, Algona and parts of Auburn and Des Moines will choose three nominees and the Pierce and King county councils will select one of them to serve until voters weigh in again in November 2015.
Several independent organizations tied to the political parties or interest groups had been helping either Freeman or Dovey.
Middle Class Values PAC, a group mostly funded by House Democrats, reported mailing independent ads on Wednesday. That was the group’s last scheduled mailing, said Christian Sinderman, who worked on the independent effort.
“The unfortunate reality was you had a great incumbent who is no longer with us,” Sinderman said. “It doesn’t mean that by default Dovey is the right guy for the job.”
Change Olympia, funded by House Republicans and responsible for ads against Freeman that were mailed as recently as Monday, said it canceled one printed and one planned ad.
“We’ll still encourage our voters to vote with turnout calls, but out of respect for the family and Roger we definitely won’t be dropping any more mail,” said Kevin Carns, who works with the group.