Crime

Mark Lindquist recall backers battle for funds, signatures

Backers of a campaign to recall Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist say the road ahead is tough, but they still believe they’ll obtain the 38,642 signatures they need to bring the proposal to the ballot next year.

“We’re feeling pretty positive, but we still have hurdles,” said Fircrest resident Cheryl Iseberg, leader of the recall campaign. “I don’t think we anticipated everything being clear sailing. We’ve gotten over some of those hurdles, and we plan to be successful.”

Conversely, Lindquist and his campaign chairman believe the recall effort is headed for failure.

“I’m focused on making our community safer and serving the public,” Lindquist said Tuesday via email. “I speak with community groups regularly and most everyone tells me the same thing: ‘Keep up the good work. Keep putting away the bad guys.’”

Alex Hays, Lindquist’s longtime campaign chairman, said signs on the ground suggest the recall campaign is struggling.

“From what we’ve seen, the public support for Mark Lindquist is very strong, and it’s bipartisan,” Hays said. “We are seeing no success for the signature-gathering effort. It’s our expectation that it will fail.”

I’m focused on making our community safer and serving the public. I speak with community groups regularly and most everyone tells me the same thing: “Keep up the good work. Keep putting away the bad guys.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist

The recall campaign faces a Feb. 22 deadline to turn signatures in to the county auditor. Backers are using a mix of paid and volunteer signature gatherers. Monday, campaign coordinator Chris McManus and a pair of signature gatherers stood outside the Wal-Mart shopping center in Central Tacoma, flagging shoppers.

“You registered to vote in Pierce County?” McManus asked, as two women stepped out of the store and into the drizzle.

Both stopped and signed.

“Tell all your friends,” McManus said, directing the women to the recall website. “We need to wise up and get rid of him.”

The recall petition, filed in June, passed muster with Kitsap County Superior County Judge Jay Roof, who found legal and factual sufficiency for the charge that Lindquist engaged in a vindictive prosecution of a Pierce County woman in a long-running sex abuse case that later was dismissed.

Apart from the recall campaign, Lindquist faces other continuing troubles, including a recent whistleblower investigation that found he runs a politicized office and retaliates against employees who disagree with him.

Lindquist also faces an investigation by the state bar association into charges he and six staff members committed professional misconduct, and a separate investigation by the county’s ethics commission.

At the moment, he’s embroiled in a battle with County Executive Pat McCarthy over a lawsuit involving Lindquist’s personal phone records.

A successful signature drive for his recall would trigger an election in April. Backers believe 58,000 signatures will provide a sufficient cushion to overcome the inevitable invalid signatures associated with such efforts.

A successful signature drive would trigger an election in April. Backers believe 58,000 signatures will provide a sufficient cushion to overcome the inevitable invalid signatures associated with such efforts.

Monday, Iseberg declined to provide a hard count of signatures gathered to date, but she said backers are “about a third of the way” to their goal.

Raising money is another hurdle, Iseberg said, and she admitted it hasn’t been easy. The latest records from the state Public Disclosure Commission show the campaign has raised $20,000.

Iseberg said Monday the actual number is about $36,000, and the campaign is catching up on reports that reflect more recent contributions; but the tally is still short of the $150,000 backers believe they need.

Recall backers include the Pierce County Sheriff’s Guild, the union that represents 300 rank-and-file deputies. Some local attorneys have contributed money, including Bertha Fitzer, a former deputy prosecutor who ran unsuccessfully against Lindquist in his first campaign in 2010, and decried his tactics.

Still, the campaign needs more, backers said.

People are still afraid to give their money. There’s no getting around that issue.

Cheryl Iseberg, recall campaign president

“People are still afraid to give their money,” Iseberg said. “There’s no getting around that issue.”

She cited concerns she’s heard from Lindquist’s staff members. Some support the recall but fear retaliation from Lindquist if their names appear on contribution lists.

Meanwhile, Lindquist hasn’t opened a PDC file in opposition to the recall campaign, and hasn’t raised any money to that end; Hays, his campaign consultant, doesn’t think it’s necessary. If the signature-gathering fails, the campaign ends.

Fircrest attorney Joan Mell, also involved in the recall effort, sought permission from the PDC earlier this year to allow anonymous contributions from Lindquist’s staff members. The PDC declined.

Since then, the recall campaign has periodically sought small contributions under $25, which don’t require names to be associated with them.

“I think there is this kind of idea that the recall is happening and people don’t need to do anything, and everything will magically happen on its own,” Iseberg said. “We need their signatures and we need donations.

“This requires their support. If they really do support us, they can’t just rely on someone else to do something.”

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