Mistaken identity turns into a bad thing

September 11, 2009 2:51:44 PM PDT
As a candidate for judge, Joe Wilson didn't mind sharing the name of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Now, he says, being mistaken for a South Carolina congressman who heckled President Barack Obama has given him a backhanded bump. Wilson opened his nonpartisan campaign for a vacant seat on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench Thursday, the day after his 49th birthday -- and also the day after Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson gained notoriety by blurting out "you lie" during Obama's health care address to Congress.

Despite the five-term congressman's subsequent apology, the judicial candidate's page on the social networking Web site Facebook.com has been deluged with angry posts, campaign manager Jennifer Rinaldi said Friday.

Initially, "it was quite funny," Rinaldi said. "Joe was, like, `Look at all those people who are interested in my campaign.' "

Campaign workers have had to scramble to remove all the 200 or more misdirected posts, "starting with the ones with obscenities," she added.

Practically everyone who mistook candidate Wilson, an Everett native whose father was a judge on the same bench, for the congressional heckler has been from outside the state, "from back east to Alaska," Wilson said.

During a campaign for the bench last fall, he said, he encountered former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, known for his criticism of the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq. After that criticism, the identity of the ambassador's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative was leaked, ending her career with the spy agency.

Any confusion then did Wilson the candidate little good, but he said publicity over the mixup with the congressman has given his current campaign a boost just from heightened exposure.

"I think it's good," he said. "It's interesting to see all this concern about civility in politics, especially in this kind of a race, where you expect there to be plenty of civility anyway."

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