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Despite opponent’s claim, Kneller not taking party money


City Council Position 3 candidates Tony Markey, left, and Sarah Kneller.

Contrary to her opponent’s claim, City Council Position 3 candidate Sarah Kneller has not “taken party money for her campaign,” according to a review of campaign contributions.

Candidate Tony Markey made the claim in his response to a Mukilteo Beacon Q/A series question on the City Council’s decision earlier this year to adopt a “welcoming city” resolution. Markey said that issue is partisan in nature and not within the council’s purview, adding: “Council members should be non-partisan.”

Markey apologized for any inconvenience to his opponent, but said his accusation was reasonable based on the 21st Legislative District Democrats’ endorsement of Kneller coupled with undisclosed contributions to Kneller’s campaign made though the online crowd-funding platform Crowdpac, which is powered by donation processor Democracy Engine.

“Given the lack of information and the fact that the Democratic Party had endorsed her, I think it was a reasonable assumption,” Markey said. “It turned out to be wrong.”

According to Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) filings, Kneller’s largest contributions – $1,355.47 in total – appear to have come from Crowdpac and Democracy Engine, which Markey mistook as party money.

“A lot of people seem to confuse the words democracy and Democrat,” Kneller said, “so I can see how at first glance, without further research, it can be confusing.”

In fact, those filings represent monthly totals of several smaller donations made by individual donors through the non-partisan fundraising platform, but that was unclear as Kneller had failed to fully disclose the individual donors to the PDC.

“I was following the instructions from Democracy Engine,” Kneller said. “We were doing what we assumed was accurate.”

PDC spokesperson Kim Bradford said Kneller has since provided complete lists of her donors, which show no party-affiliated money. Still, Bradford said the oversight should serve as a reminder to candidates that each contribution must be reported.

“The rule has always been to identify the source of the money, not the method by which it was collected,” Bradford said of the use of Crowdpac to collect donations. “But in this case, I don’t have any sense that they were trying to do anything but the right thing because they are working to get the reports corrected.”

Local Democrats have endorsed Kneller, as well as Position 1 candidate Riaz Khan, who said he hasn’t received any party money, either. Christine Schmalz, the party’s vice chair, said the party regularly endorses candidates in non-partisan races.

“We don’t endorse anyone who doesn’t want to be endorsed,” she said, noting that candidates must request an endorsement. “I reached out to many of the candidates and most didn’t want to be endorsed. I think a lot of candidates locally don’t want to associate with any party because the race is about local issues.”

That’s exactly why Markey said he hasn’t sought endorsements from any political parties.

“I’m choosing not to engage in those politics, not to engage in anything that smells like the party, because non-partisan politics should be above that,” Markey said.

“If someone is endorsed by a party, they are going to be more inclined to think about issues that are not a part of city government as something that city of government should address.”

Federal immigration enforcement, for example. Markey said he wouldn’t have voted for the “welcoming city” resolution because of a lack of evidence to support the claim that crime would otherwise go underreported.

“That’s a take on that issue that has nothing to do with a party,” he said. “My idea of being non-partisan is to be more rational and reasonable and get to the truth of a matter rather than falling into party lines.”

Kneller said she considers herself non-partisan despite her Democratic endorsement. In fact, she said when applying for the endorsement she intentionally noted no party affiliation, instead describing herself as “a progressive woman running for non-partisan office.”

“It has been really important for me to be non-partisan,” she said, “but I also think it’s important to connect with groups that are active in the community. That means connecting with everybody, indiscriminate of party, and hearing everybody’s concerns.”

Kneller said she also plans to request an endorsement from the Snohomish County Republican Party.

Kneller and Markey are seeking Council member Randy Lord’s open seat. Lord has endorsed both ahead of the Aug. 1 primary election as fellow candidates Maxwell Chen and Troy Gray have not been actively campaigning.

“Both I feel have a really good, strong sense of the city’s finances and how to make long-term decisions rather than seeking short-term political gain,” Lord said. “Tony has been on Long-Range Financial Planning committee, and Sarah has been an outstanding student of the budget, so she knows it inside and out.”


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