Stonier, Wilson raking in campaign cash

With $182K raised, 17th District race shaping up to be an expensive one

By Lauren Dake, Columbian political writer

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The two candidates vying to represent the people of the 17th Legislative District — incumbent Monica Stonier and former Clark County GOP Chairwoman Lynda Wilson — don't have to worry about losing in the primary, but their war chests are already growing at a pace that will put them on course to have one of the most expensive local legislative races.

Combined, the two have raised about $182,330. Stonier has brought in more than $100,000, including in-kind donations. Wilson is not far behind, pulling in about $78,900 so far.

The entire 98-member state House is up for re-election this year, and the 17th District is being targeted by Democrats, who want to maintain their control of the House, and Republicans hoping to pick up seats.

"It's a race many are interested in across the state," Wilson said.

Both candidates are bracing themselves for what could be a close race.

Stonier said her campaign "came out of the gate focused," in anticipation of a heated race.

During the 2012 election, Democrat Stonier won her seat by a mere 140 votes. The same year, Republican Don Benton won his Senate seat in the same district by 76 votes over his Democratic opponent, Tim Probst.

Because Stonier and Wilson have yet to engage publicly, their campaign narrative at this point is shaped by where their money is coming from.

Stonier, a teacher's instructional coach, said previously that she didn't like being cast as someone who is in lockstep with unions, though she has received contributions from a list of unions including the Washington Federation of State Employees and local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Service Employees International Union.

"I do have union support. … You'll also see I have support from the beverage association that is sometimes in conflict, because I work with both sides," she said.

Wilson, a businesswoman who co-owns DeWils Industries, a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company, has pledged not to take any donations from unions on the basis that their involuntary dues could fund political activity that doesn't align with all union member's views.

Wilson said she doesn't agree with the idea that union members must pay compulsory dues. She said she has a problem with union members' dues being used to support candidates with political views that don't "jive with their own."

She blasted her opponent for taking union money.

"The difference is, I'm having to raise it from individuals and businesses," Wilson said. "The unions are dumping money into her (race)."

Money is often key to a candidate's ability to communicate with the public through websites, advertisements and campaign mailers.

Stonier said she believes as the campaign dollars continue to roll in, it will become evident she is the candidate capable of working the middle ground. Stonier pointed to campaign contributions in previous election cycles where she was supported by both the teacher's unions and those advocating for education reforms.

Stonier in turn blasted her opponent as someone who pumped money into her own campaign from money out of her pocket.

"I know my opponent has a lot of personal money. I don't have that, I have to spend a lot of time on the phone to raise money and compete with that," Stonier said.

Wilson said she's received campaign contributions from a variety of sources, but added, "Why wouldn't I want to invest in myself? I believe in myself."

Let the race begin.