A brouhaha over whether the Jeff Golden for Senate campaign has received an unfair advantage from the local Democratic Party has led to the resignation of party campaign chairwoman Julie McFadden and cancellation of a candidate forum Tuesday night.
Kevin Stine, one of four Democratic candidates for the Senate District 3 seat, questioned Golden’s integrity and called for him to bow out of the campaign, saying his opponent has breached his party’s trust.
“Jeff Golden should put the Democratic Party above his own ambitions and announce that he will no longer seek the nomination for Senate District 3,” Stine said in a prepared release Monday.
Golden’s campaign manager, Cathy Shaw, said there is no truth to the claims made about the Golden campaign.
At issue is a list of neighborhood leaders who help get out the vote, and some Democrats think it was obtained by the Golden campaign from McFadden to gain an unfair advantage to influence voters. Partially because of McFadden’s departure, the Democratic Party canceled the candidates’ forum.
“We didn’t get any list,” Shaw said. “We didn’t get it, and we don’t want it.” In fact, she said, both Stine and candidate Julian Bell could get copies of the list because they are both neighborhood leaders.
Shaw said she has written various books on campaigning and has a wealth of information about area voting habits, so the neighborhood leader list isn’t of concern to her. She said she supports the neighborhood leader program as a neutral get-out-the-vote effort to benefit all Democrats.
Shaw said she thinks Golden has been singled out because he has run an effective campaign.
“We do have an unfair advantage because we’re organized, and we have a candidate who is working really hard,” she said.
Shaw said McFadden was forced out of her position by some local Democratic Party leaders.
“They think Julie has been secretly working for the Golden campaign, which is not true,” she said.
Stine said he didn’t “buy” Shaw’s response that she didn’t receive anything from McFadden.
“If she (McFadden) didn’t pass any information, there wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
Golden said his campaign has not relied on training or data from the local Democratic Party.
He said he would like to see some hard evidence from Stine to support the allegations being made before making heavy-duty calls for him to step aside.
“I think Kevin’s email is kind of sad since we’re in the midst of a healthy issue-based campaign,” he said. “I would invite Kevin not to take a page from the national campaigns.”
The claims of unfair advantage, though, have prompted some Democrats to liken it to the furor among Bernie Sanders supporters over Hillary Clinton receiving a voter list from the Democratic Party in the presidential campaign.
“The Jackson County Democratic Party is neutral in the primary campaign,” stated Joyce Puccini Chapman, chairwoman of the Neighborhood Leader Program Committee, in a recent email. “So, please, please do not share your turf or voter list with any candidate or candidate campaign.”
She also stated, “You may have already been asked for this information. I hope you didn’t share it. If you did, please let me know but do not do it again.”
McFadden, who offered training and assistance to candidates as part of her position as campaign chair, said she resigned from her volunteer post because of sensitivity over the perception that something might be amiss.
However, she insists she didn’t pass any information to the Golden campaign.
“I was a Bernie Sanders supporter, and neutrality is of utmost concern to me,” she said.
In an email follow-up, she said an action she took could lend itself to the perception of bias and distract from the qualifications of candidates. She didn’t specify what the action was, though.
“Personally, I do not believe that any candidate received any actual strategic gain through my actions, nor is there evidence of any,” McFadden said.
After the Jackson County Democrats executive committee expressed concern about “heightened sensitivity around the issue of neutrality,” she submitted her resignation last Thursday.
McFadden said the list of neighborhood leaders would be available on the Jackson County Democrats’ website to any candidate or person who signed up as a neighborhood leader.
The neighborhood leader program is set up so a key person in a neighborhood gets in touch with 35 neighbors as part of a get-out-the-vote effort, she said.
McFadden said the leaders are instructed to remain impartial. “They’re not allowed to give advice about how you’re supposed to vote,” she said.
Candidate Julian Bell said he thought McFadden was very helpful to candidates and that anything she provided was public information.
“I was told there was some disagreement about what Julie was doing and what the Democratic Party has in mind,” he said. “It didn’t seem like to me she had done anything mischievous.”
Candidate Athena Goldberg said she’s been too focused on her campaign and hasn’t been able to take time to assess the information.
She said she views the controversy as more of a distraction as voters get ready to receive their ballots.
“I would really not want anything to distract them and make them not vote on May 15,” she said. “I would encourage Democrats to vote.”
David Roadman, chair of Jackson County Democrats, sent out an email alert Sunday that the candidates forum was canceled.
“I am concerned that recent developments and changes within the Party concerning our campaign committee staff have made the forum logistically problematic, in addition to hampering the ability of our candidates to speak about their campaigns and platforms,” stated Roadman, who could not be reached for comment Monday.
Nathan Soltz, vice chair of Jackson County Democrats, sent party members an email attempting to explain why the candidates forum was canceled.
“As far as canceling the forum goes, that’s not part of what I was instructed as being the point of contact on,” he stated. “I promise you that you are not alone in wondering what’s going on; we’re trapped somewhere in vague bylaws and a complex 700-page procedural book. I think it’s safe to say that you’re not the only one unhappy with it.”
Soltz, in an email response Monday, stated, “After a robust discussion of our executive committee, we have made committee changes because of concerns about how access to internal party data has been used,” without specifying what the concerns were. He did say the concerns about access to internal party data have been raised by several people but said it has become a distraction to the goal of electing a Democrat to the Senate.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.