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January 10, 2011 at 3:03 PM

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State Senate rejects attempt to deny Democrat Nick Harper a seat

Posted by Andrew Garber

There was some unusual drama on the opening day of the state Legislature Monday when Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, unsuccessfully tried to deny Nick Harper, an Everett Democrat, a seat in the state Senate.

The move stemmed from a controversial August primary in which a liberal political consultant failed to report sources of third-party campaign spending that aimed to benefit Harper.

The state Attorney General has sued consultant Lisa MacLean of Moxie Media and others in the case.

Kastama argued on the floor that if the Senate seated Harper, senators were essentially telling voters "no matter how bad the election was, no matter how corrupt it was we will seat the person with the most votes."

Sen Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, disagreed, saying the matter should be left to the courts. "Who are we to tell the (people who voted for Harper) that they didn't know what in the world they were doing when they were voting," she said.

Kastama's effort was defeated 23 to 18 in a test vote.

Kastama said it was nothing personal against Harper. And Harper said he doesn't hold any grudges. "I think this issue was very personal for a lot of people," he said. "I'm very happy with the result and ready to get to work for the district."

Moxie Media was hired by unions and trial lawyers to defeat moderate or conservative Democrats and replace them with liberals.

The group created shell campaign committees with names like "Conservative PAC" that attacked incumbent Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, as being too liberal.

Berkey finished third in a three-way race in the August primary, against Harper and Rod Rieger, who identified himself as a member of the "Conservative Party" and raised just $800 for the campaign.

Harper, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, went on to win in the general election.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.