Sen. Pam Roach Sues Opponent Over Voters' Pamphlet Statement
Controversial Washington state senator Pam Roach (R-Auburn) has filed a defamation of character lawsuit against her Republican opponent Matt Richardson and Secretary of State Sam Reed.
Roach's suit references a relatively obscure law, RCW 29A.32.090, which mandates that a political candidate's statement "shall not contain false or misleading statements about the candidate's opponent." According to the Secretary of State's office, this is the first time a legal action has been filed under this RCW.
The case, which will be heard next week in Thurston County Superior Court, is delaying the printing and distribution of tens of thousands of voters' pamphlets for the August 17 primary in the 31st Legislative District and possibly beyond. A judge will have to determine if Richardson's words can remain in the pamphlet or not.
Specifically, Roach alleges that this statement in Richardson's candidate statement is "salacious and slanderous" and "knowingly false:"
Unfortunately, the permanent sanctions against Pam Roach prevent her from contact with senate staff, and more critically, from meeting with other Republicans. This severely impairs her ability to represent the people and the interests of our district. After her 20 years in office, another 4 years for Pam Roach will not be productive.
Roach has twice been censured by the Washington Senate Republican Caucus. In 2008, she was banned from all contact with Republican Senate Caucus staffers. Earlier this year, Roach was ejected from the Republican Caucus entirely. Roach has also faced other disciplinary actions. According to the Tacoma News-Tribune, in 2003 Roach was reprimanded and asked to seek counseling after staffers accused her of illegally obtaining employees’ e-mails, driving some to quit and brandishing a handgun at one.
Prior to Roach's recent censures, there had not been any censures in the Washington Senate for some 50 years. A censure is the equivalent of a legislative restraining order. Should Roach make contact with a Senate Republican Caucus staffer or attend a Senate Republican Caucus meeting, she could face arrest.
Roach's Democrat opponent, Raymond Buck made comments similar to Richardson in his candidate statement:
Our community deserves better than Pam Roach. For over a decade, the incumbent State Senator has made numerous headlines - from berating Senate staff to being kicked out of her own party's caucus. Internal investigations into her behavior have cost the state over $50,000. We deserve better.
However, Buck is not named in Roach's lawsuit.
Roach claims she can meet with any Republican she wants to outside of the caucus and that the censures aren't permanent. The censure Roach received earlier this year contained language that her ejection "may be revisited in one year with the mutual agreement of you and the caucus."
Richardson says Roach is "quibbling over words" and claims Roach's suit is politically, not legally motivated, because Buck wasn't included.
"Everything I have heard from Republican leadership and the media concerning Pam Roach's investigation and discipline indicates that the sanctions will be permanent," Richardson told me,"I'm just bringing this to the attention of voters more clearly."
Richardson continued, "Pam Roach continues to make herself the poster child of why Democrats tell voters not to elect Republicans. She may be a maverick, but she's the maverick in the china shop. Enough is enough. We need a statesman or stateswoman to do the business of the 31st Legislative district."
Richardson, a Navy veteran and current Sumner city councilman, was interviewed by Niki Reading of TVW at the recent Republican State Convention held in Vancouver. That interview can be seen here.