Describing candidates in ads:

Incumbent is the person who is in the office now, regardless of whether the individual was appointed or elected.
Re-Elect means that the elected candidate holds the office now and is seeking another term in the same office OR  that the candidate was elected to the office in the past, but is not the incumbent, in which case the ad must clearly state that the candidate is not the incumbent.
Retain can be used for any incumbent.
Return represents that the candidate holds, or has previously held, the office being sought.
Do not falsely imply incumbency in a political advertisement about a candidate who does not hold the office.  Recommended format:  Elect Tracy Jones Auditor or Tracy Jones for Auditor.  

False political advertising:

It is illegal to sponsor a political ad, with actual malice, that contains a statement constituting libel or defamation per se* if the statement:

  • directly or indirectly implies a candidate has the support or endorsement of any person or organization when the candidate does not (unless the statement is made by the person or organization),
  • is a false statement of material fact about a candidate,** or
  • falsely represents that a candidate is an incumbent.

*See RCW 42.17A.335(2) for a definition of libel and defamation per se.

**Unless a candidate is making a statement about him or herself or the statement is made by the candidate's agent about the candidate.

It is also illegal to:

  • use an assumed name for sponsor ID in a political ad;
  • distribute campaign material deceptively similar in design or appearance to the voter and candidate pamphlets published by the Secretary of State, or
  • use the state seal or its likeness to assist or defeat a candidate.