OLYMPIA — The chemistry of Jason Call’s progressive politicking has proven intoxicating among Snohomish County Democrats.
In 2016 and again last year, a majority chose him to serve on the powerful central committee which crafts the platform and strategy for the state Democratic Party.
Plenty have also had a toxic reaction to the Marysville Democrat’s brand of activism.
They don’t appreciate his blunt critiques of those he considers tethered too tightly to pragmatic rather than progressive ideas. His comments are often laced with expletives, epithets and other saucy language which they find jarring, harassing and intimidating.
A complaint filed earlier this year alleged Call’s behavior toward colleagues in the 44th Legislative District Democrats organization violated the state party’s Code of Conduct.
An investigation ensued. On Aug. 20, the state party’s executive committee concluded Call’s words and actions did cross the line. It voted to suspend him from taking part in central committee meetings and sponsored events for six months. This rarely pursued action cannot be appealed.
“Mr. Call has failed to treat colleagues with the respect expected by the Code when they disagree with him and failed to assume that others have good intent; he has attacked colleagues who hold differing views from his with ad hominem or belittling labeling including, in at least one instance, calling a colleague a Nazi,” reads the final resolution and violation description. It passed on a 17-4 vote.
It goes on to say Call “endorsed (rhetorically), if not advocated, on social media punching people with whose politics he disagrees (including but not limited to anyone labeled as a ‘Nazi’)” … and promoted on social media “that his act of personal vandalism is an example of civil disobedience that should be emulated by others and potentially extended to destroying personal displays” of support for President Donald Trump.
That act referenced in the resolution came in March when Call used a box cutter to remove a Confederate flag displayed on a student-owned pickup truck parked each day on a street leading to Lake Stevens High School.
Call said he spoke with the principal about how the flag represented an “intimidating symbol” of racism and slavery. He said he wanted the administrator to explain this to the student and ask them to remove it. A week later when he saw the flag still on the truck, he cut it off and tossed it in the back. Law enforcement was never summoned.
“In my mind, it was an act of civil disobedience,” Call said.
State party Chairwoman Tina Podlodowski, who recused herself from the investigation and executive committee action, said this is about more than the flag.
The suspension is the result of “a pattern of bullying, harassment and intimidation, coupled with Mr. Call’s own words, in person and in print, and in social media, that he would continue to behave in this manner as he saw nothing wrong with it,” she wrote in an Aug. 29 email to party leaders.
His actions “have had a chilling and fearful effect” in the legislative district organization, she wrote, adding that some have expressed concern about retaliation “and worse” and are unwilling to “ever return” to one of the group’s meetings.
Call is pushing back and says he may seek legal action. He argues the investigation was not conducted fairly and resulted in “character assassination.”
He acknowledged a testy exchange with a fellow Democrat from his legislative district last year in which he used profanity. Call said he considered the incident handled.
As far as a pattern of negative behavior, he said he doesn’t know what he’s done so he doesn’t know what not to do going forward.
“It was never my intention to harass, bully or make someone feel unsafe,” Call said. “What is it I do or say where people feel afraid? People may be getting their feelings hurt by things I said. I say what I say in public spaces. I do not invade people’s personal spaces.”
Call thinks this is about more than foul words and the Confederate flag.
Snohomish County Democratic Party Chairwoman Hillary Moralez of Bothell and Carin Chase, a state committee member from Edmonds, serve on the executive committee. Both opposed the suspension.
“I felt we didn’t have enough evidence to prove the claims listed in the initial complaint and was worried that this was an overreach of power without first seeking an amicable resolution at the LD level,” Moralez said in an email. “It felt like a precedent was set to direct local issues immediately to the state board, and I was hesitant to seek the strictest punishment recommended.”
Moralez said she’s not noticed any impact in the county party. She said she is focused on growing membership, including in the 44th District.
Podlodowski, in the conclusion of her email, seemed resolved to ensure Call behaves differently when the suspension ends.
“Behavior today does not define behavior forever,” she wrote. “But unacceptable behavior has to change.”