Fundraising factors in Wallace's withdrawal

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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State Rep. Deb Wallace says she’s bowing out of the 3rd Congressional District race because her duties in Olympia will keep her from hitting the $300,000 fundraising mark she needs to achieve by the end of March to be taken seriously as a candidate.

“I’ve raised about $120,000,” the Vancouver Democrat said Monday. “Over the next six weeks, I need to raise another $180,000. It comes down to March 30. That’s when people look at who’s real.”

“If there were more time to do it, I think I could do it,” Wallace added. But she said serious fundraising would require her to be on the phone six to eight hours a day, and she’ll be fully occupied over the next three weeks as the Legislature makes critical decisions on budget cuts and tax increases.

State law allows legislators to campaign for federal office, but not for state office, during legislative sessions.

Wallace said she won’t run for re-election to her 17th District seat because she encouraged schoolteacher Monica Stonier, a Democrat, to seek the post. “I committed to supporting her in her endeavor,” she said.

Meanwhile, rumors swirled Monday that Republican Jon Russell, a Washougal city councilor , also is about to pull out of the 3rd District race.

Russell, who is running as a Republican, refused to confirm it. He said he would issue a press release today announcing his plans.

State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz said Wallace’s Sunday announcement was unexpected. “We were not pushing her in that direction,” he said.

The state Democratic Central Committee has not decided whether to nominate a candidate before the August top two primary, Pelz said. “It’s not that important to speculate on the question of a nomination. Our nomination doesn’t stop anyone from being on the ballot.”

The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the general election regardless of party.

Wallace, who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, said she had been advised to spend more time fundraising during the legislative session, but that’s not her style.

“I have people telling me I have to take more time from my legislative duties,” she said. “I have spent eight years working on budget issues, and I can’t step away from what I am doing here in the Legislature. I have a responsibility to the people of the 17th District.”

She said she asked herself, “If I can’t be viable, is there someone else who can do the job?” She did not talk to any other candidate before making her decision, she said, but she is leaning toward supporting Olympia Democrat Denny Heck.

Her top priority now, she said, is to elect a moderate, pro-choice Democrat to Congress. She said she believes state Sen. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver, the other Democratic legislator in the race, is too liberal to win in the moderate 3rd District.

“Deb Wallace’s voting record and mine are almost identical,” Pridemore retorted. “On the environment, there are only two bills I voted for and she voted against, electronics recycling and green jobs/green energy, neither of which were liberal bills. She talks more about business, but I would love to hear her examples of where I am too liberal compared to her.”

Pridemore added that he believes labels like liberal, conservative and moderate “are not relevant in this race. The issues are, ‘What do you intend to do for the people of the 3rd District?’”

Both Pridemore and Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-Camas, also are juggling service in the Legislature with running a congressional campaign.

“It’s very difficult,” Pridemore said. “It’s not impossible. We’re doing a lot of online fundraising and working evenings and weekends.”

He said he may not feel the same pressure to raise a lot of money quickly that Wallace did because he hopes to get support from traditional Democratic constituencies, including labor unions, teachers, environmental groups and pro-choice activists.

“I think we have a little more leeway,” he said. “I don’t want to presume what the outcome will be, but that’s the belief of the national party.”

Pridemore said he plans to campaign “16 hours a day” after the Legislature adjourns March 11.

Herrera said balancing campaigning with governing is part of the game.

“It is hard,” she said. “I knew going into this what it was going to be, but it’s still worth it. Congress is a full-time job and you still have to campaign because you get elected every two years. That’s 10 times the pressure, and you still have to present yourself to voters or you aren’t going to cut it in the big leagues anyway.”

Herrera will travel to Washington, D.C., this week for a fundraising breakfast hosted by former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Washington, and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Colville, her former boss.

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523; kathie.durbin@columbian.com.