OLYMPIA — A former wife of state Rep. Luis Moscoso obtained a domestic violence protection order against him in 1987 following a tense encounter in which she claimed he pushed her down and nearly broke her wrist.
Now, 29 years later, the order and related documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court have emerged as Moscoso, a Bothell Democrat, is embroiled in a tough primary campaign for a seat in the state Senate. People in his own party are concerned.
Moscoso is competing with Democrat Guy Palumbo, of Maltby, and Republican Mindie Wirth, of Bothell, in the 1st Legislative District. The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 2 primary will face off in November, and the winner will succeed retiring Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe.
Moscoso, 66, is in his third term in the state House. He said Friday the allegations that he assaulted his ex-wife are untrue. As far as he could remember, the court issued a mutual protection order that applied to both he and his ex-wife, he said.
“This wasn’t about my behavior. What’s been alleged never happened,” he said. “These were angry allegations made during the divorce.”
He questioned the motives of those disseminating the documents.
“This has never come up before,” he said. “Twenty-nine years later, someone puts a spin on this. My God.”
While Moscoso didn’t sound worried, the same can’t be said for the leader of the Senate Democratic caucus.
Democrats are trying to pick up two seats to regain the majority and there is nervousness the revelation could cost the party a seemingly safe seat McAuliffe has held since 1993.
“My concern is the Republicans will use anything that they can to win,” said Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, who is also chair of the caucus’ campaign committee.
Moscoso’s second wife obtained the domestic violence protection order in October 1987. The couple had been separated for three months and in the process of a divorce that would become final in 1989, according to court documents.
The couple, who married in 1985, had two young children. They lived with Moscoso, who said he had full custody.
His former wife went to court following an incident on Oct. 23, 1987. According to her handwritten affidavit, she went to his Everett residence “to take care of our children as I usually do” per “an agreement” the couple had.
She said he didn’t honor the agreement that day and when she turned to leave “he grabbed me, pushed me down in a struggle and proceeded to reach in my coat pocket for my money, bending my arm back almost snapping my wrist.”
Moscoso said, “I don’t remember any of that. It absolutely didn’t happen. She was not coming over to watch the kids. They were in day care.”
Records show a judge signed the protection order Nov. 6. Three months later, his ex-wife went back to court and a judge modified the order to bar Moscoso from contacting her at home or work. It also required Moscoso to participate in family counseling. The modified order was effective through February 1989, according to a copy of the record.
Moscoso became a legislator in 2011. The protection order never came up in his three House races. A photocopy of the affidavit and other documents were emailed anonymously to reporters and bloggers July 1. That sparked hushed conversations on the campaign trail after a blogger published some of the records online.
“What’s the motivation of digging this up and spinning this out now?” Moscoso said Friday. “Clearly it is a character assassination.”
Nelson said she first heard of the protection order last week and sent a member of the political committee staff to the county courthouse in Everett to gather the pertinent documents. She then phoned Moscoso.
“I told him we had pulled together the record because it might become an issue in the campaign and we needed to be aware of it,” she said. “He seemed confident that he would be able to address it with voters.”
Moscoso is considered the better known of the two Democratic candidates with a good chance of advancing out of the primary. Some Democratic senators worry the issue could be used to defeat him in November.
“That seat is incredibly important to us regaining the majority,” Nelson said. “The domestic violence order is the one issue that could cause us the most concern in the general election.”
As of Friday, neither Palumbo nor Wirth had raised the issue. Palumbo, in an email, said he would not.
Meanwhile, Moscoso said he has accepted responsibility for incorrect information about his educational background that has appeared in previous voter pamphlets.
“I own it,” he said. “It’s embarrassing.”