Kirby Wilbur, the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, called a news conference Tuesday to discuss what he says is systemic corruption in government caused by largely one-party rule in state offices over the past 30 years. He also unveiled a new Washington GOP ad campaign highlighting unethical behavior by state Democrats, leaving few state-level candidates unscathed.
He took a more moderate view, however, of the race for the open 5th District Senate seat being vied for by Republican Brad Toft, of Snoqualmie, and Democrat Mark Mullet, of Issaquah.
When asked if ethical questions raised about members of his own party, such as those posed about Toft in recent months, were an issue, Wilbur said those matters were largely in the past. But he said he urges transparency from both parties, saying it is better to "clear the air."
After filing for office, Toft sought to seal records of past legal action against him, The Associated Press reported in July. In a message to the court, Toft said he had come across the case while searching for his name, and that he had not before had contact with the plaintiff, but shared a name with the defendant. He sought similar action in several other trials, all dating back to the late 1990s, the AP reported.
After Tuesday morning's press conference, Wilbur told Patch he believes Toft's recent history and community activism outweigh past legal issues, though Wilbur said he's only met Toft himself a couple of times.
"We all can change, reform and repent," Wilbur said, and it's current behavior and the candidate's position on the issues that voters should consider. (Brad Toft regularly posts political issue-based Local Voices blogs on Sammamish-Issaquah Patch.)
"The voter has to decide, are these allegations about Toft enough to disqualify him," Wilbur said, noting that the legal actions against Toft are far in the past. He said it comes down to a choice between an "ethical person who disagrees with me or an unethical person who agrees with me on all the issues."
"If he’s a corrupt guy, in four years you can vote him out," Wilbur said.
What do you think is more important when evaluating a candidate: how you feel about his or her personal character, or whether you agree with the candidate on most issues? Tell us in the comments.