As election nears, some candidates have campaign cash to spend

By Stevie Mathieu and Stephanie Rice

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With Election Day less than a week away, Clark County's legislative candidates have used most of their campaign contributions. But some candidates still have a significant chunk of money to spend as they head toward the Nov. 6 finish.

State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, had more than $62,500 in his campaign fund with one week to go before the election, according to his Oct. 29 fundraising and expenditures summary that was submitted to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission on Tuesday. The report also shows that he spent more than $127,000 on his campaign during the last half of October.

Benton's campaign expenses during that period included about $30,000 for television advertising, nearly $90,000 in printing and postage, and about $600 on automated telephone calls. Those expenditures include in-kind contributions, such as donated campaign services or supplies.

Benton's political rival, state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, spent more than $47,000 during the last half of October. Probst's expenses during that period included about $41,000 on printing and postage, more than $750 on phone calls, and about $2,000 on Web design and video production.

Heading into the last week of his campaign, Probst had more than $13,000 left in campaign contributions, according to his PDC report.

Probst and Benton are wrapped up in the highest-spending legislative race in Clark County. Benton has raised nearly $450,000 for his campaign while Probst has raised more than $280,000. Benton ranks fourth statewide when it comes to legislative candidates' fundraising; Probst is 12th.

'Last-minute voters'

State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, is another candidate with a significant amount of money on hand -- about $53,000. She'll spend some of that remaining cash this week on a joint mailer with 18th District Republican House candidate Adrian Cortes. The two plan to split the mailer costs 50-50, she said.

"We're going to hit those last-minute voters," Rivers said by phone on Thursday.

Rivers said she's met a number of people who are holding on to their ballots just in case they see something in the final election days that might make them change their mind about a candidate. As of Thursday, about 140,000 of the more than 242,000 ballots mailed had yet to be returned to the Clark County Elections Office.

"We are in the infancy of the postal ballot, so we don't have enough data to make generalizations" about why people are holding off, Rivers said, but "I think we're seeing another shift in the way people are doing business when it comes to voting. I just wanted to get those voters who tend to be undecided, and I wanted to make an impact there."

Rivers said she's been able to save money for the last minute in part because her challenger, Democrat Ralph Schmidt, hasn't campaigned negatively against her. So, she hasn't had to spend money defending herself.

Schmidt has raised about $4,400 in his campaign, while Rivers has raised more than $165,000. Schmidt has $405 left in his campaign fund, according to his PDC report.

Rivers said the rest of her money will likely go toward a future campaign or be used to cover the costs of any charitable events she attends.

State Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, said on Thursday that he doesn't plan to spend the rest of his $20,000 in contributions on his campaign for re-election. Instead, Moeller said he'll send some of it back to the House Democratic Campaign Committee. Moeller, who presides over the House voting process as the speaker pro tempore, said giving back to the campaign committee is customary for a legislator in a leadership position.

Moeller said he'll also probably use some of the surplus on travel costs for any conferences he might attend. Such expenditures are legal.

Moeller, who has been campaigning off and on for the past two years, has raised more than $101,000. His Republican challenger, Carolyn Crain, has raised nearly $11,000, and she had about $550 on hand one week before Election Day.

No regrets

While Rivers has a campaign surplus, another 18th District Republican House candidate, Brandon Vick, had spent nearly all of his $24,000 in campaign contributions with one week left to go. Although Vick said he wishes he had more money to spend, he added that he's happy with his campaign's spending strategy.

"I think every candidate wishes they had a bottomless war chest," Vick said. "I think we spent it very responsibly. ... We really maximized the budget. We don't have any regrets."

In the last two weeks of October, Vick spent about $400 repairing vandalized political signs and on a newspaper advertisement. He kicked off his campaign with a $3,000 personal loan and now has about $2,200 left in his campaign fund. If he's unable to repay the personal loan, he said he'll just consider it a donation to his own campaign.

Vick and Cortes are both vying for the 18th District Position 1 House seat. Cortes has raised more than $8,000 in his campaign and has about $3,000 left to spend, according to his latest PDC filing.

Commissioner races

In Clark County's commissioner races, the two challengers are among the top spenders statewide for a local office.

According to the most recent PDC reports, Vancouver Republican David Madore has spent $294,126 out of the $331,740 in his account. Madore's own money and in-kind donations from his company, U.S. Digital, account for all but approximately $10,000 of the total.

Madore's largest expense has been television advertisements.

Madore is running against Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt, a Hockinson Republican seeking his third term.

Boldt has spent $63,763 of $88,675 raised and has not used any of his own money.

In the other commissioner race, Ridgefield Democrat Joe Tanner is challenging Battle Ground-area Republican Tom Mielke. Tanner has spent $167,346 of the $182,552 he's had in his account. Tanner has used $31,000 of his own money and has loaned his campaign $10,000.

Tanner's largest expense has been signs.

Mielke, who's seeking his second term, has spent $21,054 out of the $26,403 in his account. Mielke has loaned his campaign $2,750 and spent $5 of his own money.