The race for Bellevue’s District 35 Metro Council seat has gotten downright bitter, with the incumbent launching a negative website attacking his challenger, and both candidates unveiling campaign material that takes jabs at their opponent.
Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell, looking to thwart a challenge from conservative former Metro Planning Commission member Tonya Jones, released a website over the weekend dubbed www.thetruthabouttonya.com.
On the site, Mitchell paints Jones as someone willing to raise property taxes, displaying a shortened clip from a recent candidates’ forum that shows Jones utter the words “tax increase.” The site also suggests Jones sleeps during planning commission meetings (at least at those meetings she attended) and that she was hypocritical on her stance regarding liquor stores in Bellevue. Unflattering photos of Jones appear on a page called “Out-of-touch Tonya.”
“I think that’s to be expected, I guess,” Jones said. “I haven’t gone to the site, but I’ve heard about it. I think it’s pretty inconsequential and trite when you list all the dates of absences at planning commission meetings.”
Jones characterized the property tax video clip as “scare tactics,” adding that she’s a “fiscal conservative down the line.”
“He cut and pasted those things,” she said. “The question that was asked was, ‘Would I be willing to raise property taxes for schools?’ My answer was, ‘No, that for 30 years we’ve been raising property taxes for schools and putting more and more money into them, and getting the same results.’”
But Jones said if schools continued a trajectory toward positive results, she would consider a tax increase.
Mitchell suggested the release of the anti-Jones website followed his opponent’s actions.
“Her attacks,” Mitchell said of the reasoning behind it. “Her just continuous untruthful attacks on me and my family. It just gets to the point where you have to respond to it, to let people know the truth and what their choices are between the two candidates.”
For her own part, Jones has sent a campaign mail-piece that says Mitchell is “in the pocket of unions” –– a photo shows Mitchell literally inside a giant pocket –– and that he stands for “more regulations” and “higher taxes.” The flyer claims Mitchell has lived in the district for fewer than five years.
“If you look at his financial disclosures, most of his money comes from union PACs,” Jones said.
Mitchell has taken particular exception to the claim about his years of residence in the district. He said he has lived there since 2003.
“It’s just a blatant lie,” Mitchell said. “You’ve got to respond.”
Still, when asked if the race has gotten nasty, Mitchell disagreed: “I knew from her supporters, from who’s supporting her, what it was going to be.”
The Bellevue incumbent, meanwhile, has released a negative mailer of his own that alludes to the so-called “Tonya Jones Campaign Playbook.” Featuring two photos that capture Jones with strange facial expressions, the campaign literature touches on many of the same themes as the website. It also alludes to a recent neighborhood cleanup in which Mitchell has accused Jones of improperly tapping Metro employees for campaign purposes.
“I’m not an ugly woman,” Jones said of the ad’s unflattering photos. “I thought that was really amazing. I walked around with it for two days, going, ‘Do I look like that? That’s Photoshop.’
“Mr. Mitchell has never gotten in his head that what we did in the Bellevue cleanups was through the drug courts,” she added. “They are totally funded by grants and donations.”
Jones also strongly rejected Mitchell’s assertions that she sought to redistrict Bellevue’s council boundaries so that she could run unopposed. During Metro’s expedited redirecting process, Jones had supported a plan that would have split Bellevue’s two council districts along Interstate 40. The plan failed, but Jones said the plan made more sense for the area.
“He has made such a damn big deal out of this; that’s why I did it,” Jones said. “I did it for the Bellevue community, and I’m so p---ed off that he’d string that around.”