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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Asian Americans Wonder if Racism Persists on Rob McKenna's Campaign

Posted by on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Republican Rob McKenna is trying to court the Asian American vote. Half of the signs on his campaign headquarters—located squarely in the International District—are written in Chinese characters. But those gestures aren't persuading some key voters.

Alan Sugiyama speaks to reporters.
  • DH
  • Alan Sugiyama speaks to reporters.

About 30 Asian Americans, mostly wearing business attire, protested outside McKenna's International District offices today for failing to fire policy aide Kathlyn Ehl, who spewed a controversial anti-Asian blurb on Twitter. Although McKenna's gubernatorial campaign did, in fact, announce that Ehl was resigning this morning, the demonstrators argued that it was too little, too late.

"It's always going to be an issue that he may have racist people on his staff," said Alan Sugiyama.

Indeed, all of this would be easier to dismiss if the GOP wasn't a famously racist party with a modern-day agenda to suppress minority voter turnout and hassle immigrants. But now that the tweet is out, McKenna's previous attempts to portray himself as a moderate look more insincere.

McKenna should have taken the initiative to fire her when the news broke on Monday, they said, but McKenna's spokesman had insisted he was keeping Ehl on staff. It wasn't until after this group of protesters announced their plans late last night that Ehl "resigned" (after she was suspended without pay). Shari Song of the Korean American Coalition said, "McKenna's response wasn't swift enough. He just didn't understand the gravity of the situation."

"What it tells voters," explained protest organizer Frank Irigon, who supports Democrat Jay Inslee, "is that if this is what one staffer on the McKenna campaign believes, what about the other staff who didn't say it? That's what we need to keep in mind."

McKenna spokesman Charles McCray has refused all week to speak to The Stranger, even though we broke the story. When I approached him on the sidewalk this afternoon, McCray insisted that he had to rush into a meeting. But you could look right into the glass windows—the windows with all those signs—to see McCray and others milling about the office. They weren't in a meeting (certainly not any meeting so urgent that he couldn't answer one question).

But even without speaking to him, I can say this: McKenna is afraid of this story. They've been doing damage control for the last couple days, but they've only taken action in response to outside pressure. For instance, McKenna only issued a statement to other news outlets after the news blew up in the Associated Press and other outlets, and they only finally accepted Ehl's "resignation" after the protesters announced they would create a scene at their office. This doesn't show a campaign guided by its values about what's right and wrong. It shows a campaign that courts voters by reactionary pandering.


Comments (20) RSS

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I'm not sure McKenna is afraid of this story so much as hoping that if he and his staff ignore The Stranger you will go away. Hopefully all politicians are now on notice that in tapping into the vibrant enthusiasm of potential staffers they need to have a social media policy that includes "you must delete all potentially offensive content, recent or otherwise"

This over-sharing impulse, while lots of fun, is a political liability, and if you think it violates some free speech right, then you don't have to have the campaign work on your resume.
Posted by JAT on July 18, 2012 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Kinison 2
If he was really afraid of this story, he would have fired her right from the start, but instead suspended her and allowed her to resign.

This leaves people free to go through all the twitter and facebook logs of all his staffers (who are probably busy deleting their accounts) in hopes of finding some new dirt.
Posted by Kinison on July 18, 2012 at 3:17 PM · Report this
seatackled 3
How do we know if she was actually suspended without pay?

Anyway, I'm sure the campaign can't be racist against Asian Americans--there was an Asian American on that Twitter roster!
Posted by seatackled on July 18, 2012 at 3:22 PM · Report this
It's hard what to make of this particular story.

Do we now go through the background of every single person who works for a campaign? That this particular staffer was young and stupid does not serve McKenna well(attention young people: everything you think or do does NOT have to be on Facebook or Twitter for it to be fun).

However, leaving aside how deep and how wide any news organization should go to find "dirt" what IS the story is found in the last two paragraphs.

McKenna's people have shown themselves to be prickly and unwilling to communicate with the media. And when you are Governor, yes, you have to communicate with ALL the media. That he allows his staff to continually put up barriers speaks volumes about what he would do as Governor.

This lack of transparency and willingness to be questioned is troubling.
Posted by westello on July 18, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
seatackled 5
I'm thinking Ehl's next job will be with an organization fighting "voter fraud"--she might be aiming to be the next Lori Sotelo.
Posted by seatackled on July 18, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
balderdash 6


It shall forever remain a troubling mystery, unless we, you know, read the party platform.
Posted by balderdash on July 18, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Shut up and vote Inslee.
Posted by DOUG. on July 18, 2012 at 3:39 PM · Report this
"It's always going to be an issue that he may have racist people on his staff," said Alan Sugiyama.

It's equally dangerous to just assume that "racism" (and I use that term VERY loosely because it's the most overused word in America these days) is prevalent on his staff. Apparently burden of proof is no longer needed in society. Crying "RACISM" is a tired, lazy accusation that has no repercussions because there's no response to such accusations that could ever satisfy the group that is supposedly offended. I don't blame them for not responding.

At this point, I'm just shocked Guy Aoki hasn't set up a base of operations in the International District.
Posted by Chali2Na on July 18, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
The comment was dumb no question but is it racism or more just being insensitive?
Posted by Seattle14 on July 18, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
seatackled 11

Well, if you ask her, I bet Ehl will tell you she's not racist at all, so I'm sure it must not have been racism.
Posted by seatackled on July 18, 2012 at 4:20 PM · Report this
@ 11 Doesn't matter what she thinks, I just think racism gets thrown around too loosely sometimes and sometimes its a stupid, insensitive remark but not racism.
Posted by Seattle14 on July 18, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
Nice going Stranger, you got a new grad fired from a job for something she dumbly wrote before taking the position! All without ever talking to her. Then you speculate that McKenna's a racist! What cowards you are. (And I'm a Inslee fan.) Pulitzer hereby revoked, again.
Posted by shermanstribe on July 18, 2012 at 5:02 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 14
@13 - Did you not read the post? The Stranger article got her suspended without pay. The protesting Asians are the ones who got her fired.
Posted by Free Lunch on July 18, 2012 at 5:45 PM · Report this
balderdash 15
@8, yo, dipshit, as long as there are people being racist assholes, the word "racism" is not overused. Now, based on your position on the issue, I'm going to go waaaaaayyy out on a limb here and guess that racism has never been a problem for you. That being the case - it having nothing to do with you - you know what you can do, if you're tired of hearing about it?


Although by all means continue to whine to your real-life friends and family about how uppity minorities need to stop complaining, already. They deserve to know what kind of a person they're associating with.
Posted by balderdash on July 18, 2012 at 6:04 PM · Report this
McGee 16
@15 Oh of course racism has been a problem for him (cue crocodile tears about how the mean black guys in high school called him a cracker).
Posted by McGee on July 18, 2012 at 6:29 PM · Report this
Ya Sure Ya Betcha 17
Where are the Asian writers at the Stranger? The Seattle Times managed to employ a few. Actions speak louder than words.
Posted by Ya Sure Ya Betcha on July 18, 2012 at 7:10 PM · Report this
@11 Word.
Posted by give me pom on July 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM · Report this
I meant @17: word. But we cool too @11
Posted by give me pom on July 18, 2012 at 11:28 PM · Report this
I don't care if the gal was racist. I care if McKenna is so soft skinned he can't handle criticism and so politically tone-deaf he doesn't know how to manage a minor crisis quickly.

He let at least two new cycles get ahead of him before he did anything to control this story. So far this is his election to lose. If he's going to be such a bitch about tough questions and so unwilling to listen to his critics, he's going to make a shitty Governor.

Guess what McKenna: You know you need King County to win. The people in King County already don't trust Republicans. Why don't you give them a couple more reasons to assume the worst about you?
Posted by six shooter on July 19, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
Sorry for the rant, but this is amateur hour politics. You could have won a weekend of positive blow jobs from the Times by firing her and making a statement about how your campaign won't tolerate the old ways of thinking.

You could have made her issue an apology via Twitter and turned this into a news story about how your internet persona can follow you for the rest of your life.

But you circled the wagons and acted like the Stranger was out of line for vetting your staffers. If there's any trait more annoying than the Republican I'm the real victim here posture, I can't think of one.
Posted by six shooter on July 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Report this

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