It’s good to be an incumbent.
Just look at the numbers: In most Southwest Washington legislative races where a political newcomer is facing a current lawmaker, the dollar bills are stacked in favor of the incumbent.
Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, has raised more than $315,800 as of Friday.
Her Democratic opponent in the 18th Legislative District race, Eric Holt, has brought in just shy of $10,000.
In a statewide legislative race, incumbents have about an 85 percent chance of being re-elected, said Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.
That’s a pretty good rate of return.
“It’s not just, ‘I support the incumbent,’ it’s, ‘Oh, they are going to be elected and what committees will they be on’ … that brings out the supporters,” Moore said.
Money is a key for politicians to distribute their message and boost name recognition.
• Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, has raised about $183,600 more than her Republican opponent, Lewis Gerhardt, in the 49th Legislative District.
• Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, has brought in $122,820 to Democratic opponent Justin Oberg’s $3,467 in the Position 1, 18th Legislative District race.
• Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, is up nearly $72,000 on Democratic challenger Kathy Gillespie in the Position 2, 18th Legislative District race.
• Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, has brought in more than $100,000 in the Position 2, 17th Legislative District race. His opponent, Democrat Martin Hash, is reporting zero contributions.
• Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, has nearly $57,000 to her one-time opponent Kaitlyn Beck’s zero reported contributions in the Position 1, 49th Legislative District race. Candidates can raise up to $5,000 without reporting. Beck dropped out of the race on Friday.
There are a couple of open seats in the region that are also pulling in big money.
One of those races is the battle between Rep. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, and Democratic challenger and former legislator Tim Probst. The two are vying for the 17th Legislative District Senate seat held by longtime Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. The race could play a big role in which party holds the majority in the upper chamber this coming legislative session. Both Probst and Wilson have amassed robust war chests. Combined, contributions to their campaigns total close to $640,000.
“When a longtime incumbent leaves like Don Benton, there is pent-up demand for people to really focus on the race,” Moore said. “Democrats are thinking: ‘We have a chance.’ Republicans are saying: ‘This is important to defend.’ ”
Democrats and Republicans statewide are focusing on the 17th Legislative District.
Wilson has raised $355,671, with Probst close behind with $283,785.
Republicans hope the seat will help them keep a narrow majority in the Senate. Democrats are hoping Probst, who lost by a mere 76 votes to Benton in 2012, could help tip the scales in their favor.
Wilson has the backing of the National Federation of Independent Business, her family and the family business she co-owns, DeWils Industries. Probst’s campaign has received a boost from familiar names such as former local Democratic lawmakers Al Bauer and Craig Pridemore. Probst has also received support from several firefighter unions and the Washington Federation of State Employees.
The two Democrats vying to replace state Rep. Jim Moeller, Position 2, 49th Legislative District, remain in a tight money battle, with Monica Stonier at $89,339 and Alishia Topper reporting $107,876 in contributions.
The candidates hoping to take Wilson’s seat are also neck-and-neck, with Democrat Sam Kim reporting about $122,000 and Republican Vicki Kraft with $113,250 in reported contributions in the Position 1, 17th Legislative District race.