GOP ahead on campaign contributions

S.W. Washington Democrats not worried about fundraising gap

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Research campaign contributions to legislative candidates: Public Disclosure Commission

OLYMPIA — Even accounting for their numerical superiority on the primary election ballot, Southwest Washington Republican legislative candidates are outpacing Democrats so far this year when it comes to campaign contributions.

Nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats appeared on last week's Clark County primary ballot. But those Republicans have raised more than three times the amount of their Democratic counterparts.

Though Democrats are outpacing Republicans statewide, Democrats vying for seats in the five legislative districts that compose Clark County had raised about $400,000, while their opponents had raised $1.46 million.

Michael King, executive director of the Senate Democrat Campaign Committee, said he's not too worried about the big gap in fundraising. He's especially comfortable with the races in the 17th and 49th districts, he said.

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, who's running for re-election in the 49th District, has outraised his Republican opponent by nearly $70,000. However, Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, running for the 17th District Senate seat, has raised less than half the amount raised by incumbent Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. Benton, always a top fundraiser, had attracted $323,360 to his re-election fund, compared to a little more than $100,000 for Probst's Senate campaign fund.

But this doesn't faze King, who said Probst's ability to raise money quickly (he started accepting contributions in April) is proof of the candidate's solid chances.

"We are feeling incredibly positive about the 17th District," King said.

Benton, however, said the explanation for local Republicans' success in fundraising is simple: Voters want to see Republicans in office.

"The citizens are fed up with the party that's been in charge for the last 10 years," he said. "The citizens want a change. It's that simple, really."

The state Senate has been controlled by Democrats for eight years, Benton noted. The possibility of a Republican governor is likely, he said. And assuming Benton retains his seat in the 17th, he says, there's a good chance the Senate could go to the Republicans.

King scoffed at this idea. "If the Republican chances are resting on Don Benton, we feel as confident as we ever have," he said.

King added that as Election Day nears, campaign contributions for Democrats in the closer races — such as the race for the 17th — will likely catch up with funds raised by Republicans.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, partially agreed. The playing field will even out, he said. Schoesler, chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, said Democrats will most likely get funds from unions, even if it's indirectly.

Simply looking at contributions to individual candidates doesn't represent the big picture, he said.