Jul 25, 2022 - Politics

A new push to combat harassment of Black candidates and staff

Illustration of a campaign button cracked in many pieces.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

State political leaders are discussing how to protect Black candidates and staff after a campaign worker was harassed on video and a legislative candidate reported being shot with a BB gun.

Driving the news: Carey Anderson, a Democratic candidate for state House and a pastor, was putting up yard signs July 15 when he felt a sharp pain and realized someone had shot him with a BB gun, he told police.

  • Anderson, who wasn't injured, is Black.

Separately, state Rep. April Berg (D-Mill Creek) posted a video this month of a man telling her campaign field director — a young Black and Ecuadorian man — to "get the (expletive) out of my neighborhood."

  • That was after Berg, a Black woman, found one of her campaign banners spray-painted with a white supremacist symbol in May, according to a police report.

The latest: The string of incidents is prompting Democratic party leaders to develop new protocols for handling racial harassment, state party chair Tina Podlodowski told Axios.

  • That includes a better system for reporting and tracking incidents, as well as recommending that campaign workers follow precautions like going out in pairs, Podlodowski said.

Yes, but: Anderson said in the days since the BB incident, House Democratic campaign leaders haven't offered him much besides words of support.

  • Anderson, who is in a competitive four-way race in the 30th Legislative District, told Axios he has had to dedicate extra staff to guard him whenever he goes out campaigning.
  • That's taking away resources he could be using to reach additional voters before the Aug. 2 primary, he said.

Meanwhile, Berg told Axios that after the May hate symbol incident, she spent several evenings Googling safety tips for her staff.

  • She said she asked the House Democrats' campaign committee for help, but, "there was really nothing they could send me."

What they're saying: Crystal Fincher, a political consultant who works with Democrats, called the lack of attention to security issues "a glaring omission," especially given how involved the caucus committees are in other aspects of campaigning.

  • "This is more work for Black candidates and campaigns," Fincher told Axios, after posting a list on Twitter of steps the party should take.
  • "It is just another barrier, just another thing that puts them at a competitive disadvantage."

The big picture: Harassment of candidates and campaign workers of color isn't new, said Olgy Diaz, president of the National Women's Political Caucus of Washington.

  • But lately, more incidents are being recorded — and media outlets are increasingly willing to report on them, she told Axios.
  • Diaz said she also thinks former President Trump "galvanized" more people to express racist sentiments publicly.

Of note: Legislative Republican leaders John Braun and J.T. Wilcox condemned the attack on Anderson, saying violence and hate speech have no place in politics.

Zoom out: Republicans have experienced a pair of concerning incidents this year, too — one of which involved a gun being pulled on someone who was campaigning for a Black candidate, Wilcox told Axios.

  • Wilcox said he has asked the state Republican Party to act as a clearinghouse for reports of violence or threats, similar to one of the changes Democrats are making.

What's next: Podlodowski said Democrats plan to offer more safety training to candidates and campaigns in the future.

  • That will include instruction on deescalation and how to respond to confrontations, she said.
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