A Facebook page claiming to be that of a Democrat from Ephrata running for Washington state House, which local candidate Sylvia Hammond said is a crude impersonation of her, was created and managed by her opponent, incumbent Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg.
The page, “Sylvia Loves Seattle,” describes its owner as a “Politician in Ephrata, Washington,” and claims “I am running for the State Legislature as a Democrat.” Hammond said that before she filed a complaint to Facebook, the page also used photos of Hammond that the she had taken of herself, in violation of Facebook policies. The photos have since been removed by the website.
The account posted screenshots of posts made or shared by Hammond that paint the candidate as liberal on various issues. Hammond said that the “Sylvia Loves Seattle” page misrepresents her views on issues by taking them out of context.
“Sylvia supports all kinds of gun control,” one post reads, with several photos attached that Hammond shared in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings.
“Last year, with school shootings and mass shootings filling the news, my initial reaction was to call for a ban of semi-automatic weapons,” Hammond states on her campaign website. “As a mother and teacher, I could not and cannot believe that the solution is to do nothing.”
But Hammond said that research has caused her to evolve her position away from the strong reaction she had following a string of mass shootings.
“I do not believe a ban on semi-automatic weapons will lead to the goal of reducing gun violence,” Hammond continued on her campaign website.
Hammond said in an interview with the Columbia Basin Herald that she supports the Second Amendment. Instead of a ban, she called for stronger enforcement of existing laws, creation of safe storage laws to prevent child access and redoubling suicide prevention efforts.
“Sylvia loves Seattle” parodied Hammond’s stance on other issues as well. Another post said “Sylvia thinks Socialism can work in America,” attached to a photo Hammond shared that asked “Everyone OK with using socialism to clean up after (Hurricane) Harvey? Or shall we let the free market take care of things?”
Another post states that “Sylvia says ‘She is embarrassed to be white,’” attached to a photo where Hammond referenced the then-recent Alabama senate elections. After Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore lost his election bid, exit polls showed that Moore had been supported by a majority of white voters, despite being plagued by accusations of sexual misconduct with minors.
After exit polls went public, Hammond posted, “Thank you to the strong African American women and men who saved the day in Alabama. It makes me embarrassed to be white. The only things I can say in defense of my demographic is that I hope the blame lays at the feet of the southern confederate mentality and I hope that mentality is changing.”
Supporters of Manweller’s who spoke with the Columbia Basin Herald didn’t see the Facebook page as deceptive, as it got most of its ammunition from posts Hammond willingly made to her own account.
In an interview with the Columbia Basin Herald, Manweller said Hammond’s Facebook posts showed she is ill-equipped to represent the region, and that she would not act differently in Olympia.
Manweller also disputed that the Facebook page he created impersonates Hammond.
“It has my name on it, it’s not like it’s a big secret or anything,” said Manweller in an interview.
Manweller said that the page would only have been seen by voters through ads he ran that linked to the page. Those ads are all captioned, “Paid for by Friends of Matt Manweller,” which Manweller said was sufficient to inform voters that he created the account.
The Facebook page itself does not say that it was created, paid for or managed by the Manweller campaign, and Hammond said she was uncertain who created the page, though she had suspected Manweller was somehow involved. Before the account went mostly inactive in mid-April, Facebook users who commented on the page saying it was deceptive had comments deleted and their profiles blocked.
Dean Rupert, of Ellensburg, said he was one of the users who was blocked from the page after posting that it wasn’t genuine.
“I got deleted once I informed them they were all being trolled/triggered by a clearly fake page,” said Dean Rupert in a message over social media.
Hammond blasted Manweller’s campaign for the Facebook page.
“It really is unacceptable behavior from a campaign and it’s completely unnecessary,” Hammond said in an interview. “If people want to know what I believe then they should go to the source and go to my website, as opposed to listening to what my opponent may profess I believe, which may or may not be true.”