Clint Didier's complaint against a campaign volunteer for congressional opponent Dan Newhouse will be heard before the Nov. 4 election, but after ballots are mailed, a federal judge ordered Wednesday.
Attorneys agreed to hold a preliminary injunction hearing Oct. 29 in Spokane.
In a Wednesday morning conference call, they went over the motion Didier and his campaign filed against Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, the commission itself and Newhouse's campaign.
The Newhouse campaign has worked with Voigt and the potato commission to raise money through emails encouraging people to attend a fundraiser and donate, as well as using a potato commission vehicle to put up Newhouse campaign signs, according to documents filed by Didier. Voigt also promoted a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in an email.
Voigt's work implies an endorsement of Newhouse by the potato commission, according to Didier's motion.
The commission is not a state agency, doesn't collect any taxpayer money and is funded by potato growers, Voigt said in an email that was included in the documents. He also repays the commission for use of the vehicle.
But the Washington State Executive Ethics Board determined Sept. 12 after a preliminary investigation that there is evidence of Voigt using state resources to help the Newhouse and Murray campaigns, Didier's motion said.
Voigt's actions might have contributed to helping Newhouse gain an early lead in fundraising over Didier and the other 10 candidates in the August primary, Didier's motion said. The motion asks that Voigt and the Newhouse campaign not only stop their actions, but that Didier be awarded unspecified damages and legal fees because his civil rights were violated.
Setting a hearing date before the election is crucial, federal Judge Thomas O. Rice told attorneys Wednesday."The issue can become moot even before election day," Rice said, referring to voters who mail their ballots early. "The allegations demand a quick decision as to whether or not the injunction is issued."
Didier announced his complaint in a news release Sept. 19 and filed his motion a week later, but didn't serve Newhouse's campaign with the motion until Oct. 5, when it was delivered to Newhouse at a candidate forum, Newhouse lawyer Brendan Monahan of Yakima said in asking for more time to prepare his response. Monahan will ask that the case be dismissed.
The judge rejected the request for more time, but did order that Didier be deposed by Monahan before the hearing.
Attorneys were given the option of having the hearing either Oct. 28 in Yakima or the next day in Spokane. Didier's lawyer, Stephen Pidgeon of Seattle, said he was OK with either setting, but preferred the hearing be held in Spokane.
Voigt will have to submit an affidavit with his testimony before the hearing because he is scheduled to be on a trip to Asia sponsored by the Washington and Oregon departments of agriculture.
Didier and Newhouse, both Republicans, are running to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco. Didier got the most votes in the August primary with 31.8 percent, while Newhouse finished second with 25.6 percent.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom