Monday, September 20, 2021
Sept. 20, 2021

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Money pours in for Southwest Washington legislative races

Two Senate seats, one House seat spur notably robust fundraising

By , Columbian staff writer

As Election Day looms, candidates in the running to represent Clark County’s legislative districts in Olympia are nearing the finish line in a robust cycle for campaign fundraising.

In all, the eight Democrats running for office in the 17th, 18th and 49th Legislative Districts raised $1.26 million over this election cycle, according to data reported to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. The 10 Republicans running in those districts raised $1.13 million.

While both Republicans and Democrats draw funds from a combination of different kinds of sources, the makeup of the donor list differs depending on the party. Contributors to Democrats were more likely to be individuals, while businesses were more likely to back Republicans.

According to the PDC data, Democrats received their largest portion of donations, or 33.59 percent, from individuals. Their other major donor categories were Political Action Committees (19.37 percent), businesses (18.08 percent) and caucuses (10.09 percent).

Republicans received their most sizable chunk of donations, 37.23 percent, from businesses. PACs contributed another 32.95 percent to GOP candidates, followed by individuals (17.72 percent) and caucuses (9.74 percent).

Top spenders

To gain insight into which races on the Nov. 3 ballot are likely to be most hotly contested, look to the money being raised and spent: The elections to watch are the Senate races in the 17th and 18th Legislative District, and a 17th District House race.

By far, the most expensive state race on the ballot in Clark County is the 17th Legislative District Senate election. The Republican incumbent, Sen. Lynda Wilson of Vancouver, has spent more than $343,000 to hang onto her seat for a second term. Her Democratic challenger, Daniel Smith, spent more than $291,000 in a push to defeat her Nov. 3.

However, the highest-spending single candidate is Democrat Tanisha Harris, who’s running against Republican Rep. Vicki Kraft of Vancouver in the 17th District. Harris has raised over $327,000 in her second bid for the seat and spent all but around $10,000 of it. Kraft, who’s seeking a third term, has raised around $111,000.

The last time Kraft and Harris faced off in 2018, the Republican incumbent margin of victory was narrow — she won by 1.4 percent, or 859 votes.

Both races caught the attention of Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, who visited Vancouver on Oct. 24 for a sign-waving event with Smith and Harris.

“These down-ballot races in (Southwest Washington) are key to being able to pass the governor’s third term agenda items,” James Singer, Inslee’s campaign communications director, told The Columbian. “These races are more competitive in this current environment because of the strength of candidates like Daniel Smith and Tanisha Harris who are running strong campaigns.”

The 17th District has been represented by Republicans in the House and the Senate since 2012.

The other race to watch Tuesday is the 18th Senate seat, but not for lack of fundraising from Sen. Ann Rivers, a Republican from La Center seeking a third term. Rivers has raised $255,405 and spent around $211,000. That dwarfs the fundraising numbers of her challenger on the ballot, Democrat Rick Bell, who’s brought in around $7,500.

The challenge, however, could come in the form of write-in candidate and former Clark County Councilor Tom Mielke, who’s running to the right of Rivers. He told The Columbian he’s trying to spoil the race for Rivers, who he thinks is too much of a centrist.

Mielke spent around $13,000 on his write-in campaign. He’s attempting to replicate an outcome that already played out in the August primary: There were two Republicans on the ballot who split the vote, and the top vote-getter ended up being Democrat Bell.

“At least we know how a Democrat votes. A moderate Democrat will do a better job than Ann Rivers,” Mielke told The Columbian in early October.

Other races to track

Another potentially close race to watch is in the 18th District, where Rep. Larry Hoff, a Republican, defeated Democrat and Washougal School Board member Donna Sinclair by 13 points in the August primary.

Hoff and Sinclair’s fundraising numbers have been relatively close — he’s brought in around $137,000, she’s brought in about $90,000.

In the heavily Democratic 49th District, Republicans’ best chance of flipping a seat likely rests on Rey Reynolds, the Vancouver Police Department officer running for the Senate. Reynolds trailed incumbent Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, by 16 points in the August primary, the closest of any race in that district, and has raised around $57,000 to her $297,000.

Columbian staff writer