Benton continues to outraise, outspend Probst in Senate race

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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In one of the most competitive legislative races in the state, Republican Sen. Don Benton continues to raise and spend more money than his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tim Probst.

The two Vancouver lawmakers have raised far more money than any other legislative candidates in Clark County. Benton has brought in more than $263,000 for his campaign, while Probst has raised more than $142,000, according to each candidate's Aug. 31 fundraising and expenditures summary, which were due to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission on Monday.

Probst has spent more than $89,000 of his campaign money, while Benton has spent more than $148,000, according to the reports. The amount of money raised and spent includes some in-kind contributions, such as donated political signs or event catering. The reports turned in on Monday include information through the end of August.

Probst said he doesn't plan to play catch-up with Benton when it comes to fundraising.

"I recognized I'm running against the ranking Republican on the banking committee, and he's going to have a lot of money," Probst said. "We only need to raise enough to get our message out."

Probst said the people in his district know him and what he stands for, and "all the money in the world won't change that."

Rather than run for re-election in the House, Probst decided to challenge Benton. There are 54 days until the Nov. 6 general election.

In other legislative races being fought in Clark County, incumbents are out-raising their challengers by a significant margin. In races where there is no incumbent running, fundraising winners and losers tend to reflect each legislative district's political makeup.

Open seats

The closest campaign cash contest is in the 17th District race between Republican Julie Olson and Democrat Monica Stonier. Both candidates have raised more than $60,000, with Stonier nearly $1,000 ahead of Olson, according to their PDC reports.

So far, Stonier has spent more than $41,000, while Olson has spent more than $38,000. They are vying for the House seat Probst is vacating.

In the open 49th District Senate race, Republican Eileen Qutub has raised less than Democrat Annette Cleveland in a legislative district that typically votes for Democratic candidates.

Qutub has raised more than $29,000 and spent nearly $27,000; Cleveland has raised more than $79,000 and spent more than $72,000.

In the 18th District, which typically prefers Republican candidates, Republican Liz Pike has brought in more than $52,000 and spent about $23,000. Her rival, Democrat David Shehorn has raised more than $8,000 and spent more than $5,000.

Pike and Shehorn are running for the House seat currently held by Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who now resides in the 20th District after legislative boundaries were redrawn.

Cortes fundraising lags

In another open race, Republican House candidate Adrian Cortes trails fellow Republican Brandon Vick. After dropping out of the race in June, Cortes announced on Aug. 24 that he was back in.

But he had raised only about $1,400 by the end of August, according to his latest PDC report. Since Aug. 31, however, more donations for Cortes have come in, and he has nearly $3,000 in his campaign account, according to data on the PDC's website.

Meanwhile, Vick had raised more than $16,000 through Aug. 31, and another $1,000 after that, according to the PDC.

"It's not an insurmountable amount," Cortes said of the difference between his and Vick's fundraising. He pointed out that Vick has spent more than $9,000 of his campaign contributions so far.

When Cortes dropped out of the race, he missed the withdrawal deadline, so his name still appeared on the Aug. 7 primary ballot and his candidate statement remained in the voters' pamphlet. Voters chose Vick and Cortes to advance to the general election.

Since re-entering the race, "I've just been calling all of my supporters -- the ones who urged me to get back in (the race) -- and asking them for assistance," Cortes said. He's also had the mayors of Washougal, Camas and Battle Ground offer to help organize fundraisers for his campaign.

Cortes is a Battle Ground City Council member and has served as chairman of the city's planning commission.

Vick, a former chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, did not return a call to The Columbian on Wednesday.

County races

In county commissioner races, District 1 Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke, a Republican has raised nearly $18,000 in his campaign for re-election, according to the latest fundraising and expense reports. Mielke's Democratic challenger, Joe Tanner has raised nearly $87,000, including $16,000 of his own money.

In the District 2 race, incumbent Republican Marc Boldt has raised more than $58,000. Meanwhile, his challenger, Republican businessman David Madore, had raised more than $140,000 by the end of August. That amount has since bumped up to more than $166,000 and includes $155,000 of Madore's own money.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics