Friday, October 20, 2006

Jim Torrey uses grieving mother for political mudslinging

[Update added...see bottom of this post]

I'm not as familiar with the goings on in Senate District 7, currently held by Democrat Vicki Walker. Walker is opposed for the job by Republican Jim Torrey, former Mayor of Eugene.

As far as I can discern, Walker has done an admirable job of representing her constituents, to the point that in their endorsement of Torrey, the Register Guard can find nothing but glowing things to say about Walker.

Its my understanding from talking with some who I believe understand this campaign that Torrey could have left the country for the last three months and won this race.

The problem is, he didn't do that.

During their City Club debate in late September, Walker apparently drew blood when making note of Torrey's maximum contribution to George W. Bush's reelection campaign.

Torrey also took some shots from the audience on his support for the war in Iraq.

Walker has apparently sent out mailers and played TV ads playing up Torrey's support for Bush/Iraq--and its helped make the race tight.

Tight enough that Torrey decided to exploit a mom and the tragic murder of her son.

On October 4, the Torrey campaign sent a two page letter from Janyce Iturra whose son Aaron was brutally murdered in an apparent attempt to keep him from testifying against a gang member.

The letter is a lazy and nasty attempt on the part of the Torrey campaign to take a shot at Walker. Had Torrey's people bothered to research the claims in this letter, they'd have known them to be false.

But since they haven't, I'll have to do it for them.

From the letter:

"As an ordinary citizen, I made many attempts to contact Senator Walker during the 2005 session, with NO response."

According to 2005 session email, postal, phone and visitor records, Ms. Iturra contacted Senator Walker twice. Both times, Ms Iturra received a written response from Walker.

The first response to Iturra came after Iturra appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Senate Bill 435, which would have extended the "time off for good behavior" time from 20 to 33 percent, according to Crime Victims United. Ms. Iturra's appearance was April 12, 2005.

Walker sent Iturra a letter on April 19, 2005.

Iturra also gave written testimony to the Committee opposing SB435. According to Walker, that testimony is on file in her office along with Walker's handwritten notes from the Committee meeting. Walker noted that she proposed an amendment that would have kept the bill from applying to those who murdered Iturra's son.

Audio from Walker and Iturra's exchange in the committee can be heard here. Senator Burdick asks about a proposed amendment that would prevent the bill from applying to Iturra's son's murderers. Walker notes she was going to bring this up..and asks Iturra if this would change her mind on the bill. Iturra says "absolutely not". Iturra then thanks Walker for "hearing" her.

The bill apparently didn't move forward against Iturra's wishes. Walker then followed up with Iturra with the letter linked above.

Both computer records and Walker's constituent database indicate that this letter was sent to Iturra.

Other claims from the letter:

"I sent several emails"

The Legislative Information Systems Department staff did a search of all Senator Walker's sent and received emails as far back as 2004. They found no messages from Janyce Iturra. Messages from other constituents related to SB 435 were there, which did receive responses from Walker.

"And attempted to make an appointment"

Walker's staff keeps extensive logs of all visits and phone calls to her office. All appointment requests for the 2005 session are included. None of these logs show an appointment request by Ms. Iturra. However, Iturra was working with Steve Doell and Anne Pratt of Crime Victims United. Both Doell and Pratt met with Walker at their request and its documented in Walker's logs. Advocates against SB435 were also met with.

More claims:

I mailed her a certified letter in which I pleaded for her help. The letter required a return receipt with a signature that verified delivery to her Capitol office. I know it was delivered because it was signed for. Yet I still received absolutely NO response.

Walker's files inclued a letter from Iturra dated July 5, 2005 regarding HB 3037.

A letter was in fact sent to Iturra in response.

Computer records verify that the letter was created.

Walker even went so far as to comment specifically about Iturra in a speech on the floor of the Oregon Senate:

This has been a tough one for me. You know every once in a while in this session, almost every sssion, you get a bill that's really hard to figure out which way you're going to vote. Because there is a sense there is some unfairness in the way the death penalty has been applied. it can be--in this case, actually, Ms Iturra is in my district. She is my constituent. And it is her son who was killed. And it is her son who does not get the same justice as others who have been killed. But that's where I look to my own heart, and my own soul, and my own morality. And I have been opposed to the death penalty since I was old enough to make those choices...

I'm not blaming Janyce Iturra. She's a mother whose child was needlessly stolen from her. She's grieving and angry and hurting. The legislature didn't give her what she wanted and she wants to lash out. That's understandable under the circumstances.

Jim Torrey and his campaign have tried to use this woman's sorrow for nefarious and ugly political purposes. Either that or they were just too lazy to do the footwork to check this stuff out.

Neiter is an especially pretty picture.

Update: Saturday October 21, 9AM

I want to make sure all of the facts are as accurate as possible on a few minor corrections:

Iturra's contacts with Walker weren't just about SB435. They were also about HB3037.
Also, I may have inadvertantly mixed up which bill was being discussed in which meeting. I have an email out to check on that--and if there's a correction I'll make it as I know.

Torrey is stepping up the rotation on the Iturra ad as well, apparently not planning to back off of it. No wonder he admires W so much. Clearly he's willing to use Rove's tactics while he's campaigning. Lovely.

You can view the ad here. Its the one titled "She Walked Away".

Update: Sat 10:30AM: The meeting with Steve Doell and Anne Pratt from CVU was apparently about HB3037, not SB435.