Campaigns for local office are typically low-key, but Sharry Edwards’s race for City Council and Tenya Magruder’s run for the school board were the exception as both were noteworthy for their choices that created controversy. But there was also a notable contrast to their experience and style.
Edwards has been a visible part of the community political structure. She has run for council twice, and had a short-lived run for the state Legislature. She was appointed by her mentor, Mayor Jim Ferrell, to chair a committee on homelessness, and prior to that co-chair , with Susan Honda, who is now her political opponent, another committee. She has been active with the Democratic Party until recently when they censured her, and now says she is an independent.
Magruder also claims to be an independent. This is her first run for public office, and though we still don’t know much about her, she has made it a memorable one.
Edwards has advantages in her race. She is well-known, and has access to Ferrell’s political and fundraising contacts, his campaign knowledge, along with likely support from the Democrats. But she made several mistakes along the campaign trail, including her choice to run against Honda who had previously run against Ferrell.
Edwards then accused Honda of taking bribes from the supporters of having pot shops in Federal Way. The money was not a bribe, and was properly listed as campaign contributions. Then rather the drop the matter, Edwards continued, suggesting Honda should apologize for taking a legal donation. Accurate or not, it gave the appearance that the race was more about Prop. 1, with a little score-settling from Ferrell, than who would be the best council member. Honda won the primary comfortably.
Like Edwards, Magruder is challenging an incumbent, Luckisha Phillips, who was appointed to the school board and has served about a year.
But that’s where the comparison may end, other than Magruder’s own controversy. The public simply does not know much about Magruder. She claims she is an independent, not a Republican, despite information to the contrary. Only Magruder can determine what her affiliation is and the school board is a non-partisan position.
But we have several candidates running in local elections this year who are active Republicans or Democrats and say so. Knowing a person’s political identity is only one piece of the picture, but it helps the public understand a candidates basic philosophy.
Magruder donated several thousand dollars to Republican President Donald Trump’s campaign on approximately 10 occasions, and another $2,500 to his Make America Great again campaign. She has donated to the Republican National party twice.
According to a letter to the editor, she was a speaker at the Republican summer picnic, and was also listed on the 30th District Republican agenda for their September meeting. She says she was invited. Many of those supporting her campaign are active Republicans. Magruder is absolutely within her rights to make these donations and still claim to be independent, but to an impartial observer it raises questions about if we are getting a full picture of who she is? Why such an effort to avoid being cast with a party? She is a conservative and will get Republican votes. Is she trying to attract Democratic and independent votes?
But the bigger controversy is that on three occasions, she made donations totaling $900 to Paul Nehlen, a white supremacist. Magruder acknowledges the donations to Nehlen, and stated to the Mirror: “I wasn’t pleased with Paul Ryan,” the former Republican speaker, whom Nehlen ran against.
She also said “sometimes you take a chance and find out it maybe wasn’t the best move.” Magruder can donate money to anyone she wants. But the Federal Way School District is among the most diverse in the country with over 100 different languages spoken by students and parents. The recent Mirror forum would have been a good opportunity to publicly apologize, or at least explain her reasoning further. She didn’t take that opportunity. When questioned, she blamed the media for not vetting Nehlen, but isn’t research up to the check writer? Preferably before they write the check.
Then after that episode, it became clear someone with political knowledge may be advising her as she moved to change the narrative away from her political contributions problems by attacking the Mirror staff. Some have speculated former Republican state Sen Mark. Miloscia is helping in her campaign. That would be smart as he is seasoned. Magruder would not comment on whether Miloscia is involved or not.
Our expectations of our elected officials are high and should be. The public needs to know as much as possible about each candidate for public office and how they make their decisions. Public officials should be able to demonstrate they are thoughtful, tempered and unlikely to overreact because someone displeases them. Giving $900 to a person that you haven’t done any research on is not a good formula for making decisions.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.