VERIFY: Vancouver port mailer error at issue in contested race

The campaign mailer showed Vancouver, BC

VANCOUVER, Wash. – A conservation group that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Vancouver Port Commission race recently sent out a mailer they thought included a beautiful panoramic picture of Vancouver.

But when Vancouver residents opened their mail, they likely noticed a big error: The pamphlet showed a picture of Vancouver, British Columbia, not Vancouver, Washington.

KGW has verified the pamphlet was produced and mailed out by a Seattle-based group called Washington Conservation Voters.

“It was an unfortunate mistake,” Washington Conservation Voters president Shannon Murphy said about the picture mix-up.

Murphy said her group was moving fast to get the pamphlet out and didn’t notice the mistake. She said the pamphlet was designed by a third-party agency.

“In a rush to respond to the hundreds of thousands of dollars of oil money this happened,” Murphy said.

The two candidates vying for the open port commission seat have combined to raise more than $1 million in cash and in-kind donations. The election will likely determine the fate of a proposed oil terminal in Vancouver, which has fueled the extreme spending.

The lion’s share of the money has come from groups based outside Vancouver.

The pamphlet from Washington Conservation Voters supports candidate Don Orange, although he was not directly involved in producing it. Orange said he never saw the pamphlet before it was mailed out.

“It’s a stupid mistake but I don’t think people are going to vote based on somebody making a goofy mistake like that,” Orange said.

Orange’s opponent, Kris Greene, was quick to jump on the gaffe. His campaign sent out a press release highlighting the mistake.

“This mailer underscores that Mr. Orange is supported by interests outside of our community who don’t care enough to even get a picture of our port right,” Greene’s campaign manager said in a statement.

Both candidates have received huge donations from outside groups.

Washington Conservation Voters is Orange’s biggest financial backer. Most of their support has come in the form of in-kind donations, including door-to-door canvassing in Vancouver.

Greene’s biggest financial backer is a group called Vancouver Energy, which is a joint venture of Texas-based Tesoro and Utah-based Savage.

Vancouver Energy currently leases land at the Port of Vancouver and is trying to build an oil terminal on that land. Greene has said he would continue that lease while the state decides the fate of the terminal, while Orange has said he would end the lease.

Both candidates have accepted the donations while trying to convince voters they’re not controlled by outside interests.

“It’s a lot of money, I understand that. But I have to get my word out,” Greene told KGW last week.

Orange said the mistake from an outside group underscores the need for strong local port commissioners.

“We need to make our own decision on what Vancouver will look like, whether we’ll be an oil town,” he said.

Do you have something you want to get verified by the KGW News team? Contact us at verify@kgw.com.

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