Candidate for Mercer Island City Council Joy Langley claims that she is a graduate of prestigious Cornell University. The university states it has “no record” that Langley either attended or received a degree from the Ivy League school.
Langley has sailed through the controversy while bailing water by offering a smattering of statements to the media and battening down the hatches to keep key endorsers on board.
An email Langley sent to supporters on Thursday urged them to give her the benefit of the doubt and overlook allegations.
“I have been forthcoming about my credentials and professional qualifications,” Langley wrote. “I assume that there’s been an administrative error regarding my undergraduate matriculation. I am working to resolve that error and to get back to the work of reaching out to voters to connect about the issues that matter to them.”
In statements to the media, Langley has maintained that privacy restrictions she placed on her records are a reason for the absence of public information. Some may find flaws in that explanation; Cornell could not produce any records even after she made a direct request and Langley has herself publicized her Cornell alumni affiliation.
On her campaign website FAQ page, Langley tells the story of moving “the east coast to complete my undergraduate studies in Philosophy and Political [S]cience at Cornell.”
The voter pamphlet statement for Langley lists “MA Political Management, George Washington University; BA Philosophy Cornell University.”
Another page on her website tosses into the mix her time at Ithaca College (this is not disputed), stating she “concurrently received dual degrees from Cornell University and Ithaca College in Philosophy and Political Science.”
And although on Thursday a Cornell degree had disappeared from her LinkedIn page, now her profile once again lists a B.A. in Political Science from Ithaca College and a B.A. in Philosophy from Cornell University.
The Cornell University campus newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun, also reported that Langley does not appear in the 2004 Cornell yearbook.
Langley has not responded to our recent requests for information, though she did answer questions from the Seattle Times. The Times article in which her comments appear is worth reading because it includes the only statement of its kind – a friend who says that they went to Cornell with Langley.
In a phone interview, Dan Dimendberg, a partner with the San Francisco political consultation firm TBWB Strategies, said he went to Cornell and also to George Washington University with Langley. He said he has known Langley for years, and that he’s familiar with the stalking incident from her Cornell days.
TBWB Strategies is also Terris, Barnes and Walters, a San Francisco-based firm with a nearly 15-year record of paid work in support of Democratic campaigns in Washington state. The firm has not done work for Langley’s campaign, but they have been active in Washington politics during this election cycle. Terris, Barnes and Walters has been paid $41,507.41 by Planned Parenthood Votes WA PAC through the end of October for direct mail pieces, including more than $8,000 for mailers intended for voters in the hotly contested 45th legislative district state Senate race, according to disclosures filed with the Public Disclosure Commission.
Most of Langley’s endorsers hanging in, treading carefully, but one walks back support
According to sources, concerned island residents have been putting pressure on the individuals who have endorsed Langley, prodding them to reconsider, or even rescind their backing, in light of the lack of clear answers.
On Friday, a letter circulated that was signed by seven of Langley’s endorsers – Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett, Deputy Mayor Debbie Bertlin, Councilmembers Dan Grausz, state Senator Lisa Wellman, state Representative Tana Senn, state Representative Judy Clibborn, and Deputy King County Executive Fred Jarrett.
The missive from local civic leaders wagged a finger about the “rancor and vitriol against Joy,” and though it acknowledged the controversy over Langley’s Cornell degree has unresolved questions, they asked for patience in determining the facts.
“We should allow Joy the time needed to clear up this matter,” the letter states.
But one of the letter’s signers has already changed his mind. In a Sunday morning post titled “Enough is Enough past 2” to the NextDoor.com website, Grausz announced he was rescinding his endorsement.
“Under the circumstances we now find ourselves in, I have come to the conclusion that there are too many unanswered questions for me to maintain my prior endorsement of Joy Langley,” Grausz wrote. “I want nothing more than for Joy to refute what is out there and truly want to believe that she will do so.”
Another prominent Langley endorser is Rep. Adam Smith, Democrat representing Mercer Island and the Washington state 9th congressional district. Smith told the Marker by phone on Friday that he would stand by his endorsement, at least for now.
“I’ve worked with Joy on a number of issues and have a good working relationship with her. She’s a smart, capable woman with long ties to the local community,” Rep. Smith said.
Asked about the definitive statement by Cornell University that there is “no record of a person named Joy Langley … attending or graduating from this institution,” Smith wasn’t willing to disbelieve Langley’s assertion that the absence of records was the result of a clerical error.
“Until such time as more information comes out, I have no reason to change my endorsement of Joy.” Smith told the Marker. “With just [days] until the election, there just isn’t time to learn more.”