By MALLORY GRUBEN
Russell Brent, a candidate for Port of Vancouver commissioner, made a big blunder with a tiny logo. On campaign signs, Brent used an unofficial copy of a “union bug,” a small label that signifies a union printer made the product. His signs have a little oval in the bottom right corner with the words “union supporter printing.” But it’s not a real union bug, and he didn’t use a union printer.
Brent is challenging union-endorsed incumbent Port Commissioner Don Orange. Orange noticed the bug and criticized Brent for misleading voters with the label during a joint interview with the Columbian’s editorial board Oct. 10. Orange told the Labor Press the mistake speaks to Brent’s character.
“I don’t really care if my opponent is pro-union or anti-union. What I care about is he’s trying to fool people. He’s lying to people,” Orange said. “He also thinks we are too dumb to know the difference between a fake union label and a real one.”
By phone on Oct. 24, Brent told the Labor Press that the fake bug ended up on his signs as an honest mistake. Throughout his campaign, he’s tried to meet with union leaders to learn more about the labor movement. He’s running a campaign that relies on unofficial or private advisers and helpers — usually friends and family. Brent said the union leaders he talked to stressed that he should put a union bug on his campaign materials, and he relayed that to his supporters. Brent says an “overzealous” volunteer handled the printing and must have misunderstood the request.
“I didn’t even know what the union bug looked like … so I was under the impression that I was using a union vendor. It turns out this isn’t the case,” Brent said.
Brent promised to fix the mistake by covering up the fake bug. The Columbian reported on Oct. 14 that there was still at least one large sign with the fake bug almost a week after Orange pointed out the error. The fake bug was still visible Oct. 23 at the intersection of Fourth Plain Boulevard and Northeast Andresen Road, and on two yard signs placed in a median along Fourth Plain Boulevard about a mile west of the intersection.
“He did this when people weren’t paying attention, he got caught at it, and he took two weeks to start to correct it. And he blames it on overzealous campaign member,” Orange said. “So if he does something wrong at the port, will he blame it on staff?”
Brent says it took more time than anticipated to cover up the signs because he wanted to first check with union leaders on the best way to fix the error, and then he had to track down where his signs were located because many were put up by volunteers. He asked that anyone who sees a sign with the fake bug notify him so he can cover it up.
“In speaking to the union leaders I did, they said very few people will know what that (union bug) is, but to the union people it’s very important, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson,” Brent said. “I do feel a lot of shame for this, and it’s difficult for me to even talk about. It’s a painful point. I’m hoping for forgiveness.”