Shortly after mayoral candidate Karen Crane’s most recent campaign ad started appearing on door knobs and in mailboxes around town late last week, Assembly member Debbie White started getting calls she wasn’t expecting and didn’t want. She wasn’t the only Assembly member either.
“I found out about Karen’s flyer from somebody calling me saying, ‘I thought you support Ken Koelsch,’” White said in a telephone interview Monday.
The reason for the confusion: the choice of picture included in Crane’s ad. The photograph is a group photo of the 2014 Assembly, sitting in their seats at City Hall.
White, Assembly member Jerry Nankervis, Mayor Mary Becker and former Mayor Merrill Sanford — all of whom are shown in the photo and all of whom have endorsed Ken Koelsch — aren’t happy about it.
They’ve alleged, in a press release signed by all four, that Crane’s tri-fold brochure “misleads voters into believing Crane is supported by those elected officials”, at least four of whom have publicly thrown their support behind her opponent.
“We’ve all had a lot of people calling us who are very upset wondering why we’re having a special election if the entire Assembly is backing Karen Crane,” White said.
Crane said she understands the complaint, but misleading people wasn’t her intent.
“After the fact, I can understand their concern, but that picture is in the public sphere,” Crane said by phone Monday afternoon. “In my brochure there is nothing to indicate that anybody in the photograph supports me.”
The only explicit endorsements mentioned in the brochure are from former Mayor Greg Fisk’s son, Ian Fisk, and three other people, none of whom are Assembly members. She said she chose the picture because it shows her sitting on the Assembly.
In their statement, White, Nankervis, Becker and Sanford also questioned “the legality of the mailer” in their press release, saying that Crane didn’t ask for their permission to use the photo.
“I’m not happy that my picture was used without me being asked,” Becker said over the phone Monday. “I thought it was in very poor taste. I thought it was inappropriate, at the very least.”
The group of four said they will be contacting the Alaska Public Offices Commission at some point soon to ask if Crane’s ad violated any laws, according to Sanford, who appears half cropped out of the group photo in the brochure.
“The goal is to find out whether it’s legal to use it without permission,” he said.
“That really bugged me, too,” he added jokingly about being cut in half in the photo. “I was half cut out, and that was my best part.”
The group will also be asking APOC about the legality of using a government photo for political purposes, according to the statement.
White said that she doesn’t think this will ease tensions on the Assembly, which came to a head when the Assembly decided with a split vote to hold a special mayoral election.