Politics & Government

Councilman pulls endorsement of Tacoma state House candidate over past protection orders

State House candidate Branden Durst, who is running in the Tacoma area 29th Legislative District against incumbent Democrat David Sawyer.
State House candidate Branden Durst, who is running in the Tacoma area 29th Legislative District against incumbent Democrat David Sawyer. Courtesy photo

Tacoma City Councilman Chris Beale said Thursday he has pulled his endorsement of Branden Durst, a Democratic candidate for state representative in Tacoma, after learning about temporary protection orders granted to Durst’s ex-wife several years ago.

Beale endorsed Durst weeks ago, which Durst celebrated on Twitter Wednesday.

Then, on Thursday, Beale reversed course, saying he read about the protection orders in a Wednesday story by The News Tribune about Durst’s opponent in the race, state Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma.

Beal said in an interview that the new information, plus calls from a handful of unhappy constituents, pushed him to withdraw his endorsement. Beale represents District 5 on the council, which overlaps with the South Tacoma area of the 29th Legislative District where Durst is running.

“I was unaware of his past history with domestic violence and the protection order” held by his ex-wife, Beale said. He added later: “I believe at this time I am going to rule out endorsing him again in the future.”

Tacoma City Councilman Chris Beale, who represents District 5. Courtesy Photo

Durst provided a written comment to The News Tribune and The Olympian on the condition that it be posted in full:

“While I wish Chris had stayed true to his word, like most politicians, he is cowering at the slightest bit of political pressure. My wife, my kids, my family and my friends know who I am. They know what I stand for. They know me to be a man of integrity and a servant leader. The fact that some people choose to believe differently is none of my concern. The politics of fear and personal destruction are a powerful thing, but my faith in God to help people see light in darkness is more powerful.”

Durst has long repudiated the circumstances in which the temporary protection orders were granted. They became a point of contention in 2016, when Durst unsuccessfully challenged Sawyer for state House.

His ex-wife was granted temporary protection orders for domestic violence and harassment following accusations Durst acted in a frightening and threatening manner toward her. A judge who later decided not to extend one of the protection orders cited testimony from Durst’s ex-wife that he never physically hurt her. Durst denies the events happened, and the most recent temporary order against him expired in December 2015.

Durst has since remarried and is allowed unsupervised visits with his children from the earlier marriage. He coaches soccer at Bethel High School and lives in Tacoma. From 2006 to 2013 he served in Idaho’s Legislature before moving to Washington.

Sawyer also has lost supporters after allegations he has behaved inappropriately toward women. Sawyer maintains he has acted professionally and lawfully.

Some within the party are actively recruiting other candidates to challenge Sawyer and Durst. Count Beale among those hoping for a third candidate in the election.

In a written statement Thursday, Beale said he is “extremely disappointed” that Sawyer and Durst were running for the state House seat.

“In the age of the #MeToo movement, we need to stand with the women of our community and change the culture of society,” Beale said.

The primary for the House race is Aug. 7.

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein