OLYMPIA — Jessica Gavre, who accused Tacoma Democrat Rep. David Sawyer of sexual harassment and then raised money to unseat him in the primaries this August, has turned her attention to another embattled Washington politician: Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Cle Elum.
“This was a logical next step if what we’re trying to do is to change a culture and to make Olympia a safer place,” Gavre said in an interview Sunday. “For me as a Democrat, I needed Sawyer to not be there, but it also means that other legislators that are unsafe for women to be around need to have consequences for their actions.”
Manweller has also been accused by a legislative staffer of sexual misconduct, as well as by his university and high school students, and this Friday was called on by state House Republican leadership to resign from the legislature amid new allegations of statutory rape. Previous allegations had ranged from statutory rape to offering to exchange sex for grades.
Gavre, leading the South Sound Women’s Leadership PAC, raised over $90,000 in its efforts to unseat Sawyer. The money was spent and classified as independent expenditures and not tallied in the campaign contributions of Sawyer’s opponent, Melanie Morgan, but the funds still constituted a significant boost to Morgan’s successful bid during the primary. Morgan had raised only about half as much for her own campaign before the Aug. 7 primary.
Similar expenditure in the 13th Legislative District could significantly change the landscape of money in the race; Hammond has raised over $53,000 and Manweller over $120,000 during the election, according to the most recent reports from the Public Disclosure Commission.
“I think these races make a huge difference for whether or not women come forward,” Gavre said. “How we respond, how we responded to Sawyer and how people are going to respond to Manweller, it all builds the groundwork for whether women are going to come forward in the future.”
Gavre is joined in her campaign against Manweller by Stanford University Professor of Law Michele Dauber, who gained national prominence after she led successful efforts to recall the judge who sentenced swimmer Brock Turner to six months in prison for attempted rape, as opposed to the six years called for by the prosecution.
Together, Dauber and Gavre are spearheading the Enough is Enough PAC, a Washington state group separate but similar to a broader national PAC of the same name. Dauber said the broader goal for both groups is the same: to make violence against women a voting issue and to raise awareness about credible allegations of sexual misconduct against public officials.
“We’re putting rape culture on the ballot nationwide,” Dauber said. “Our goal is to have no abusers on the Supreme Court, no abusers in state legislators, no abusers for dog catcher — no abusers in public office.”
To that end, the national campaign includes a section to “Report A Candidate,” where voters can bring stories about public officials to the attention of the PAC. Dauber said that the group will investigate stories they receive with a “high level of scrutiny” and potentially open a campaign against the figure if the story is credible.
“It’s another channel to amplify the voices of survivors,” Dauber said.
It is unclear, however, how necessary the campaign against Manweller will be after Friday’s call for the lawmaker’s resignation. Manweller has not publicly commented on the decision by party leadership or indicated whether he will resign, but he is expected to release a statement Monday afternoon.
“Hopefully Manweller will do the right thing and resign, but if he doesn’t, we’re prepared to continue the campaign and inform every voter of the allegations made against him,” Dauber said.