Campaigns for both the Democrat and the Republican in the race for the 48th Legislative District have denied responsibility for a misleading "push poll" that masks as an impartial survey while trying to influence voter opinion.
Democrat and Republican , who want to replace , claim to be upset over last month's phone survey of voters in the 48th Legislative District, which includes Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland.
The poll asked provocative and insinuating questions about both candidates, according to people who have heard the poll. Recently-retired Redmond City Council President said he received the call and was unable to decipher who was behind it.
“Normally these things are pretty obvious, but whoever did this carefully camouflaged it,” Cole said, adding some of the questions "were just outright lies."
Cole, who is working for the campaign of Democrat Laura Ruderman in the 1st District Congressional race, says he's staying neutral in this race because of the time he and Myers served on the Redmond City Council together.
A woman who identified the polling firm as Mountain West Research wrote to the Redmond Reporter that the poll started out being "merely insulting to candidate Cyrus Habib, then became viciously racist," and called for Myers, a Republican, to criticize the phone call, which the letter writer believed was being done on Myers' behalf.
The King County GOP, in response, issued a news release last week accusing Habib or his supporters of commissioning the poll to cast aspersions on Myers.
Habib, a Bellevue attorney, and Myers, a Redmond City Council member, both say that neither of their campaigns had anything to do with the phone survey, which asked questions that could have been construed as critical of Habib's ethnicity and of Myers' financial history.
Such surveys have been called "push-polls" and are typically less about collecting people's responses to the questions than they are about influencing opinions with loaded survey questions.
Myers said it wasn't his camp and that he is concerned the poll will lead to personal attack ads.
"It’s a mystery to us. We haven’t heard from the other side, but we know that it was not me and that it was not any Republican organization,” Myers said. "The real issues are on tax policy and the role of government in people’s lives.”
Habib said that neither his campaign nor his supporters paid for it and that he doesn't condone push polling tactics.
"I didn't authorize nor do I condone push polling. I am not aware of any push polls from supporters and would urge any supporter to not engage in such activity. I feel strongly, as I hope my opponent does as well, that moving our state forward on education, transportation and job growth should be the focus of this race, not insinuations regarding my ethnicity," Habib said in a statement.
When asked by Patch over email how the King County GOP came to the conclusion that it was Habib's supporters who commissioned the poll, executive director Lisa Shin said in an email:
"We do know that it is the Democrats since it’s not coming from us or any of our friends and the firm is known for being a Democrat firm," she said.
King County Democrats communications and technology chairman Andrew Villaneuve said the county Democrats did not commission the poll, and the county party is against push polling.
"No, we have no involvement. We don't do that kind of thing, ever," he said. "We've spoken against it in the past."
Although Mountain West Research was recently fined for a push-poll done on behalf of a Democratic Senate candidate in New Hampshire, according to a 2010 Mother Jones magazine article, Mountain West and another polling company to which it is linked, Western Wats, have been employed by both Republicans and Democrats—and in some cases by political interests that were never identified.
Sleazy phone tactics are not unheard of in this state, said Washington State Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson, describing a candidate who once commissioned a midnight phone call purporting to be from the opponent, in the hopes of upsetting voters.
The next Washington State Public Disclosure Commission filing deadline is July 17, she said, and if a campaign or a political action commitee hired Mountain West Research either directly or as a subcontractor, then it would have to be itemized as an expense.
However, with the description of the poll as being critical and supportive of both candidates, it could be described as neutral and, might not be reportable under the guidelines that require campaign disclosure, Anderson said.
Redmond Patch editor contributed to this report.
Editor's note: This story was updated on July 3 to include comments from former Redmond City Council President Richard Cole.