DA’s wife crashes opponent’s campaign meeting

Valerie Wright doubts openness of Hummel campaign

By Shelby R. King / The Bulletin

A Sunday strategy meeting for John Hummel’s campaign to become Deschutes County District Attorney included several potential volunteers and one unwanted guest.

The Vote Hummel campaign hosted a meeting for interested volunteers at their headquarters and, in order to drum up attendees, campaign manager Erin Foote Marlowe sent an email to nearly every attorney in Deschutes County asking them to attend and volunteer to campaign for Hummel, who is challenging incumbent Patrick Flaherty.

Foote Marlowe didn’t anticipate that Valerie Wright, an attorney and Flaherty’s wife, would show up. But she did.

The email sent to attorneys invited “lawyers and other community members” to come “learn how you can help get John Hummel elected,” offering “an anonymous way to ensure the change you’re hoping to see at the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office.”

“If you invite me, don’t be surprised when I show up,” Wright said. “I wanted to engage in a discussion, and to me there is no incorrect forum for having a discussion.”

The meeting was to go from 5 to 7 p.m. and was intended to recruit volunteers and develop a strategy for campaigning, Foote Marlowe said.

“It was definitely a volunteer meeting. We asked her if she was interested in volunteering and she said she wasn’t,” Foote Marlowe said. “To be the wife of the opponent and come to a strategy meeting was really inappropriate.”

Wright said she didn’t think it was inappropriate for her to be at the meeting, given that she received an invitation.

“If someone was invited to a meeting and didn’t support Patrick but wanted to ask questions and engage in a discussion then they would absolutely be welcome,” Wright said.

Wright and Foote Marlowe spoke for about 10 minutes before Wright agreed to leave, though reluctantly, Foote Marlowe said. Wright fired off an email to Hummel and Foote Marlowe the same night.

“I was curious about people’s experiences with the current D.A.’s office and whether they had any stories to recount about public safety not being served under Patrick Flaherty’s administration of the office,” she wrote. “You both made the decision that my presence at the meeting to which I was expressly invited was not welcome. Rather than cause you additional discomfort, I left.”

The email sent asked for volunteers who wanted to help “restore integrity to this critical office,” a phrase Wright didn’t like.

“When I read that I think to myself, ‘That offends me,’” she said. “I didn’t realize it was missing. Tell me where the lack of integrity is.”

Flaherty knew his wife received the invitation, and he knew she planned to attend the meeting, Wright said.

“I don’t know if I’d say he supported me going, but he didn’t discourage it,” she said. “He didn’t get an invitation. If they sent invitations to all the attorneys in Deschutes County he should have been on that list.”

In her letter to Hummel and Foote Marlowe, Wright went on to say the experience of being asked to leave made her “doubt the very openness to ideas and communication” she claimed the Hummel campaign promotes and hopes the campaign will one day “welcome a discussion.” Foote Marlowe said she was unsure what Wright was referring to with that statement but said Hummel is looking forward to discourse with Flaherty.

“We can’t wait for the opportunity to talk with Patrick and communicate about the concerns we have with public safety and the District Attorney’s Office.”

Wright said the Flaherty camp also looks forward to engaging in a discussion with Hummel.

“I think that’s a really great opportunity, if you’re open-minded and want to learn about the differences between the candidates, to see them side-by-side,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This story has been clarified due to incorrect information supplied to The Bulletin. In the original version, the attorneys who received the email from Erin Foote Marlowe was unclear.