The state's actual million-dollar election

Posted on October 18, 2013 

Spending for Senate race dwarfs the coal-heavy Whatcom efforts

Ballots are in the mail and campaigns for local elected office are peaking. More spending reports will come in to the Public Disclosure Commission between now and Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 5, but there's no chance the four races for Whatcom County Council will add up to the most expensive election in the state this year.

The four races -- Browne vs. Knutzen, Buchanan vs. Kershner, Mann vs. Elenbass and Weimer vs. Luke -- aren't competing in the spending sweepstakes with any federal elections, or a governor's race or other statewide race (We're talking about elected office here, not initiatives. If those are included, the sweepstakes winner on the ballot is Initiative 522, which has attracted more than $20 million, most of it for the opponents.)

Despite the off election year, those four Whatcom races have raised and spent far less than one special election in the state Senate.

I'm still shaking my head at Luke Russert's "millions."

Total amount raised for the four Whatcom races (eight candidates) is $435,353.99. The total spent by the candidates is $287,829.64, and the total spent by independent campaigns (Washington Conservation Voters for the four progressives -- listed first above -- and Washington Republicans for the four conservatives) is $164,302.12.

Breaking it down further, the four progressive candidates have spent $215,491.24 and the four conservative candidates $127,249.38. Independent campaigns have spent $160,618.88 on the progressives and $3,683.24 on the conservatives. More is likely to come for the conservatives.

Not too shabby but less than the $1.88 million spent in total on a race for Senator in Legislative District 26 in the south Sound. The race has statewide significance because Republicans can pad their lead in the Senate if Port Orchard Republican Jan Angel can defeat Democrat Nathan Schlicher of Gig Harbor in the race to replace now U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer.

Republicans are working hard to elect Angel; state party Vice Chair Luanne Van Werven of Lynden said it was a top priority for the party this year. The Dem has attracted a little more money so far.

If money does indeed buy elections -- an overly simple analysis to be sure -- then the four progressive Whatcom council candidates have a big advantage. Unless the spending gap closes, these local elections will be a good measure of just what money does buy you (think I-522, too).

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