Watkins ‘scaling back’ campaign, apologizes

By SUSANNA RAY

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Democratic legislative candidate Kerry Watkins doesn’t seem to know what he wants .

He said he wanted to run a positive, issues-oriented campaign, but then slammed his Republican opponent on the Web and in newspaper advertisements.

When he discovered that those charges were false, he urgently requested this week that The Herald run his apology letter, but he kept some of the negative attacks on his site, correcting the factual errors.

And Thursday, Watkins said he doesn’t think he has much of a chance of winning anyway, so he’ll be "scaling back" his campaign.

For several months Watkins accused incumbent state Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, of having accomplished nothing during his three terms in office. Watkins claimed that none of the bills Schmidt had sponsored since 1994 made it into law.

But Schmidt actually was the prime sponsor of seven bills in this year’s session alone that the governor signed into law.

"I’ve had so many (bills passed) I don’t even keep track anymore," Schmidt said Thursday, adding that he knew of the inaccurate charge but had decided to ignore it and simply outline his record on his own Web site.

Watkins said he discovered the error one night when he was looking at Schmidt’s site. He sent an apology letter to Schmidt and to The Herald’s editorial board.

"I would be very upset, very upset, if someone said something about me that was untrue, and I would want them to be held accountable," he said Thursday.

"Of course the apology is accepted," Schmidt said. "He just didn’t do his homework."

Watkins explained the mistake by saying his former campaign manager and the House Democratic Campaign Committee had done the initial research on Schmidt’s background.

Watkins said he may not have looked at Schmidt’s record correctly.

"I basically came to rely on the information given to me" by the Democratic committee, Watkins said, adding it has been difficult to campaign while working full-time at Boeing and for the Washington National Guard. Schmidt is not working now, but is still a reservist for the guard.

Watkins rips Schmidt in the first line of his statement in the state voters guide: "I’m running for state representative because Dave Schmidt has been too divisive in his approach and too extreme in his views."

Watkins wouldn’t divulge who considers Schmidt in that regard, but he said they were several key Democratic legislators.

When asked if he felt the charges were within the parameters of a positive campaign, Watkins said: "It’s marginally … in retrospect, and as we keep getting more information … we will probably keep going back and modifyingc it further."

Schmidt is socially conservative, but has not been an extreme crusader on social issues in Olympia. Instead, he has worked mostly on policy issues such as saving money through election reform and revising state government.

Watkins expressed frustration with campaigning .

"I’m used to the military, and giving my orders and having them carried out, not having to work with other people and listen to what they say if we want any support," he said.

When asked if that’s not exactly what’s involved in being a legislator, he clarified his comments: "I’m not a savvy politician. I’m not used to the games and them saying, ‘Kerry, you need to do this if you want to win.’ "

Watkins is not a greenhorn in the political arena. He ran for state Senate two years ago, but lost with less than 40 percent of the vote. He has been active in the party since then and is editor of the 44th District’s Democratic newsletter, "Donkeytales."

In the Sept. 19 primary, Schmidt received 58 percent of the vote, Watkins 32 percent and his Democratic challenger, Herb O’Bryant, 10 percent.

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