Politics & Government

A tale of two Connellys: Name game underway in state House race

A South Sound candidate for the state House says his opponents are trying to confuse voters by comparing him to a former political candidate who has the same name, but opposite views on abortion.

Democrat John Connelly is one of five people vying for a House seat in the 28th Legislative District, which includes Steilacoom, University Place, DuPont, Fircrest and parts of Lakewood and Tacoma.

The 35-year-old from Lakewood shares the same name as John “Jack” Connelly, a Tacoma trial lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate as a Democrat two years ago.

Now – only a few days before the Aug. 5 primary election – the candidates’ identical names are becoming an issue in the race.

Supporters of Democratic candidate Christine Kilduff sent out an email blast last week alleging that John Connelly – this year’s candidate – is benefiting from Jack Connelly’s expensive state Senate campaign carried out in the neighboring 27th Legislative District. In 2012, Jack Connelly lost to Jeannie Darneille in what was at the time the most expensive legislative race in state history.

The email, which advertises a campaign fundraiser for Kilduff, was paid for by the campaign of state Rep. Laurie Jinkins, a Tacoma Democrat who is supporting Kilduff in the 28th district race.

“Remember two years ago when John Connelly ran against Jeannie Darneille and spent $1 million of his own money and couldn’t win?” the email reads. “Well, the awful thing is that his $1 million created name recognition around the name ‘Connelly’ in the neighboring 28th LD.”

Kilduff, the president of the University Place school board, now “has to overcome John Connelly’s false name recognition,” the email from Jinkins’ campaign says.

John Connelly said the email tries to conflate him with Jack Connelly, and is especially misleading because it refers to the 2012 candidate as John – not Jack, as he was commonly known in the 2012 race.

The comparison is particularly concerning given that the two men have different views on gay marriage and abortion, John Connelly said.

John Connelly said he is pro-choice and a supporter of same-sex marriage rights, while Jack Connelly said during the 2012 race that he opposes abortion and supports traditional marriage.

“No one knows Jack as John,” John Connelly wrote in an email to The News Tribune. “This piece was intended to confuse reproductive rights advocates in both the 27th and 28th (legislative districts) for the purpose of fundraising.”

The email from the Jinkins campaign mentions that electing more female lawmakers can help ensure policies that are more friendly to women, including “better laws on choice,” but it doesn’t specifically mention either John or Jack Connelly’s views on abortion.

Kilduff said she did not approve the email that went out from the Jinkins campaign and doesn’t condone it.

“First of all, I was unaware that email was sent out and certainly don’t support confusing any of the candidates and the issues,” Kilduff said Wednesday.

Neither Jinkins nor her campaign responded to The News Tribune’s requests for comment Wednesday.

Kilduff and Connelly are among five candidates running for the open House seat in the 28th Legislative District. The others are Kevin Heiderich, an independent candidate who is a consultant for medical marijuana businesses; Republican Monique Trudnowski, a restaurateur; and Republican Paul Wagemann, a Clover Park school board member.

The five candidates are vying to replace state Rep. Tami Green, who is leaving the state House to run for the state Senate this November.