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Seattle's the bogeyman in this state Senate race

The political attack ad starts with the image of a dirty heroin needle. 

"Heroin destroys lives and threatens our community," the narrator says. “Now Seattle politicians wants safe injection sites around King County.” 

This attack ad is talking about a pilot program to open two sites in King County, where users can take drugs legally, partly to limit heroin overdoses and to contain used needles.

One site is slated for Seattle. The other location is still to be determined.

The ad continues:  “Who agrees with them? Manka Dhingra."

The target of the ad – Democrat Manka Dhingra -  is a King County prosecutor, and a candidate for the state Senate's 45th district, which is on the east side of Lake Washington. 

But Dhingra said she isn’t in league with “Seattle politicians” to bring legal drug injection sites across the bridge to Redmond. 

"I know Seattle's interested in getting a safe consumption site, and more power to them if that's what they want,” she said. “But that is not something that is coming to the Eastside, it is not really an issue in this race.  They only time I hear about it is from my Republican opponent.” 

Dhingra goes door-to-door to drum up votes in Redmond and so does her opponent in the race, Republican Jinyoung Englund.  Nobody brings up legal drug consumption sites at the doors.

So I had to ask. 

Redmond resident Joseph McDonald said it sounds like a good idea. “You see paraphernalia on the ground, that's a problem,” he said, “as well as people need a place to do that. It's a prevalent thing in our community right now."

Resident Josh Decker said he is opposed.  "It's a band-aid fix for a longer term problem.” Decker said. “If you make it easier for them to use drugs and more acceptable by society for them to use drugs, you're going to keep people from finding an exit strategy.” 

Legal drug injection sites are clearly a hot-button issue for some voters, and that’s why a group called the Washington Leadership Councilis funding this attack ad. The council is an arm of the State Senate Republican caucus, but the money is pouring in from all over the country.

Campaign funding is going to help pay for attack ads against Englund.  But these ads point to a different kind of bogeyman:  Donald Trump. 

"Englund says she really respects Donald Trump?" says one woman in an ad posted to YouTube by a group called the Eastside Leadership Council. "That is just so sad to hear….the last thing we need right now is another Republican that doesn't share our values."

But for her part, Republican candidate Englund said she didn't vote for Trump.

So, if this state Senate race isn't really about Donald Trump, and it's not really about drug injection sites or Seattle politicians, is there a substantive issue?

Yes! Taxes. 

Democrat Dhingra said Washington state needs more money for education, and she supports a capital gains tax to help fund it. Englund is opposed. She calls it a capital gains “income tax.”

But for big out-of-state donors, this race is about more than who controls the state Senate – it’s a national battle.

Republicans currently have total control of the government in more than half the states. If Democrats win this race and flip Washington's Senate, they’d have total control in seven states. 

So beyond what the candidates themselves are saying, when it comes to political advertising, each side will do what they think it takes to win.

Year started with KUOW: 2004