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County executive candidates debate cordially amid rancorous campaign

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
@NWHaglund
Published:
TULALIP -- Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon challenged his election opponent Friday to show any proven leadership experience, while Mike Hope questioned Reardon's ethics in office.
The direct questions between Reardon, a Democrat, and Hope, a Republican, came during a breakfast event for the Marysville-Tulalip Chamber of Commerce at the Tulalip Resort Casino. The all-mail election is Nov. 8.
"Don't accuse me of a lack of integrity when you don't always understand what that is yourself," Reardon told Hope during the forum.
Reardon asked whether Hope, as a state lawmaker, led any job-creating or budget-cutting efforts in Olympia, or whether he merely pushed a button to vote. Hope replied, "It's a great question and I have great answers."
The back-and-forth, while cordial, was the latest round in an increasingly rancorous, bare-knuckle contest. Each candidate has accused the other of ethics problems, distorting the public record and outright lies.
On Friday, however, both candidates agreed that jobs are the county's biggest priority.
Reardon said convincing the Boeing Co. to build the next version of the 737 jet, the 737MAX, in Snohomish County is his top focus. That alone would bring thousands of jobs, he said. He also called for further improvements to Paine Field.
"We build the airport of the future now and we can build the airplanes of the future tomorrow," he said.
Hope said a five-point jobs plan he released in August would bolster employment in the county. He called for collaborating with regional leaders, including local mayors. He also said creating more opportunities locally would help people who live in Snohomish County find work here, rather than in King County or elsewhere.
Throughout the campaign, however, name-calling, character attacks and petty antics by political operatives from both camps have drowned out debate over matters of substance.
This week brought evidence linking an aide in the executive's office to complaints filed against Hope at the Seattle Police Department and the State Public Disclosure Commission.
When the smoke cleared, Hope acknowledged that his personnel file at the Seattle Police Department contains records showing he was suspended briefly from his job in 2000 over his off-duty behavior while a passenger during a traffic stop in Mill Creek.
Documents offering details of Hope's suspension a decade ago reportedly were emailed to The Seattle Times by the same Reardon staffer who Hope accused of bringing the ethics complaints against him.
The Reardon employee in question is Kevin Hulten. Hope sent out a press release Tuesday noting Hulten's Granite Falls address appeared on a state Public Disclosure Commission complaint against Hope for appearing in a police uniform for photographs used on a campaign website. The state recently dismissed the complaint.
Hope accused Hulten of filing the complaint, but that actually was done by a Seattle man, John Chambers, who knows Hulten.
Reardon's administration said Friday that Hulten's actions have not affected his job. He remains on the county payroll and in good standing with the office.
The executive, during the debate, also took time to defend his employee. "It turns out, he didn't do what you accuse him of," Reardon told Hope.
Reardon said Hulten has no affiliation with his re-election campaign.
Hulten on Thursday wrote The Herald blasting Hope and the newspaper's coverage of the race, and also crowed over the role he'd played in getting records about Reardon's opponent in front of a Seattle reporter. Hulten noted that he was off work for the day, the inference being he was writing on his own time.
"So what are your readers going to think (when) the Seattle Times prints his disciplinary records and the Mill Creek Police incident tomorrow while you continue to reproduce Hope's press releases?" Hulten wrote. "They'll probably just read the Times, like I do."
Hope on Thursday spoke with The Herald about what happened in Mill Creek in 2000. He provided greater detail on Friday.
He acknowledged getting into an argument with a Mill Creek officer who had pulled over a woman that Hope was accompanying on a date. Hope, who was a passenger in the car, admitted that he became upset when the officer began investigating the woman for possible drunken driving. She was never charged.
"I had an error in judgment and had a little tiff with the officer," Hope said.
Hope said he never made threats to the Mill Creek officer about denying him backup. He said he was punished with a suspension, serving three days off-duty without pay.
"Was it unbecoming? Absolutely. Was it inappropriate? Absolutely," he said.
What happened along the road in Mill Creek years ago wasn't part of the breakfast time debate in Marysville on Friday morning.
Both candidates tried to direct attention to their contrasts.
"I think we've had enough of failed leadership," Hope said. "I think it's time for a change."
Reardon said voters need to compare his real-life accomplishments to Hope's words.
"You have record and you have rhetoric," he said.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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