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GOP still mulling complaint against Sen. Haugen

State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said this week the party may yet file a formal complaint against Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen for alleged misdeeds during her re-election campaign.

Earlier this week, Esser charged that Haugen, D-Camano Island, had used public funds to help her reelection bid for the senator seat in the 10th Legislative District. Esser said a special meeting of the Senate's Ways & Means Committee in Mount Vernon on Thursday was a "staged campaign event" and the latest example of Haugen using public funds to assist her campaign.

Haugen strongly rejected the accusation, and campaign supporters noted that Haugen is not a member of the committee and the meeting was actually being held outside the 10th District.

Officials with the state's campaign watchdog, the Public Disclosure Commission, also noted that no complaints had been filed against Haugen.

Esser told the Record that may change.

"We are likely to do some public records requests before filing any complaints," Esser said.

He declined to say when a complaint may be filed.

"We have been pretty busy with our state convention and lots of other activities, so I can't offer you a timeline. And frankly we don't always want to let the opposition — the Democrats, not the press — learn how and when we plan to proceed," Esser said.

The meeting of the Senate Ways & Means Committee was one of many the committee is holding throughout the state to hear from residents on property taxes.

The June 26 meeting, held by committee chair Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, and vice-chair Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, attracted a crowd of nearly 100. Haugen also attended, along with Sen. Val Stevens, an Arlington Republican.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee will hold additional meetings in Pierce County on July 14, in Vancouver on July 14, and in Spokane on Oct. 8.

Haugen bristled at the claim she had used public funds to assist her campaign.

"That's just not me," she said.

"I'm a person of high integrity. I'm a Christian. I'm just absolutely appalled that they would accuse me of using taxpayers' money."

Haugen predicted the mudslinging will likely continue, and she encouraged voters to contact her at home if they have concerns about claims they hear in the months ahead.

"I'm in the phone book; I'm always willing to talk to people about anything," she said.

Haugen is facing two opponents in the August primary, Oak Harbor Republican Linda Haddon and America's Third Party candidate Sarah Hart. The two candidates who earn the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election in November.

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