Democratic State Rep. David Sawyer continues to campaign and raise money to retain his seat representing the solidly blue 29th Legislative District as an independent investigation continues to look into allegations against him for allegedly inappropriate behavior with female staffers, volunteers and lobbyists. The district’s Democratic Party narrowly voted to ask him to resign.
He opted to ignore that call to step down and continues to doorbell, campaign and gather donations, now totaling $88,000, according to Public Disclosure Commission filings.
“I am committed to ensuring we have a safe work environment and I can’t comment about or politicize an ongoing investigation out of respect for all parties involved,” Sawyer stated.
Allegations against Sawyer bubbled up earlier this year when House officials began an inquiry involving professional-personal boundary issues. He has been restricted from working with his own staff since the allegations were filed. The investigation has also since expanded to now involve eight women, who allege that Sawyer acted inappropriately dating back to before he first took office in 2012. The details of the allegations have not been fully released, but they are said to involve inappropriate text messages and sexual connotations in comments.
The investigation is being conducted by an outside investigator at a cost of $20,000, with no resolution in sight as the campaign season kicks into high gear for the August primary.
With that election day looming, the 29th District Democrats sought to enter the campaign season without an investigatory cloud over the incumbent representative.
“The 2018 election cycle will be critical for Democrats as we work toward securing a Democratic majority in Washington for the legislative session beginning in 2019, and any type of investigation into David Sawyer’s character would be a distraction and could have a negative impact on the overall outcome of the election cycle were he to run,” the resolution read. “Therefore be it resolved, we wish to respectfully thank David Sawyer for the services he has provided and the good things he has done for the people of the 29th in the legislature, but it must be the position of the Legislative District 29 Democratic Party Organization to withdraw any and all support for David Sawyer as a representative, demand for his immediate resignation, and ask that he does not run for re-election.”
The resolution passed on April 2 by a 9-8 vote.
Two other Democratic candidates have entered the race to unseat Sawyer, namely Melanie Morgan, who gained support from Pierce County Democrats Chairman Tim Farrell, Tacoma City Councilmember Catherine Ushka and Rep. Laurie Jinkins.
Farrell and others dropped support of Sawyer after the allegations of misconduct were raised and have looked for candidates to challenge him. They found hope in Morgan, who is a member of the Franklin Pierce School Board and was previously a commissioner on the board of the Pierce County Housing Authority.
Sawyer, however, has some notable supporters on his side, namely former County Executive John Ladenburg. Sawyer, after all, works at the family’s law firm Sadler Ladenburg.
“This is all inside baseball stuff,” said County Councilmember Connie Ladenburg, who also supports Sawyer. “People don’t care about this. They care about what is happening in their neighborhood, in their district. Those are the issues they care about. He has done some good things in Olympia.”
Democrat Branden Durst and independent Janis Clark have yet to raise any money for their campaigns, according to campaign finance forms.
While high-ranking members of the party have split their endorsements, the district is not as divided as people might think, said 29th Democrats Chairman Austin Beiermann.
“It’s not like it has divided the party,” he said. “The district has been super blue and now it is just really blue.”
No Republican has filed yet to run for Sawyer’s seat, but the deadline is May 14.