OLYMPIA, Oct. 18.—A big check from the state Republican Party and a curious new message from the state Democratic Party mark the start of the final phase of this year’s campaign season. Ballots are in the mail now to the state’s 3.8 million registered voters, and Washington can get set for the final blast of this year’s campaign.
If it seems like the airwaves are saturated now, just wait. And with one of the hottest gubernatorial races in the country under way right now, it’s safe to say that every mailbox in the state will be stuffed with mailers from Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna, from the state Ds and Rs, and from the big independent-expenditure campaigns that have been launched by interest groups on both sides.
Democratic Party Denounces ‘Olympia Politicians’
Ironies abound as the home stretch begins. Olympians might find a bit of amusement in the latest hit piece from the state Democratic Party – if they don’t take it personally. The state Democratic Central Committee is declaring war on “Olympia politicians” in an independent mailer directed at McKenna. The description certainly fits McKenna, who has been the state attorney general for the last eight years. And maybe Inslee has a degree of immunity – he spent 15 years in Congress, an institution that certainly has come under a tad bit of criticism of its own, but is safely located 3,000 miles away.
Yet Inslee himself got his start as an “Olympia politician,” serving in the state House from 1988 to 1992 as a representative from Selah. And if there is a problem with Olympia politicians, the same might be said of the 56 Democrats who hold the majority in the state House, the 27 Democrats who hold the majority in the Senate, and the Democratic governors who have resided in the governor’s mansion for the last 28 years. As a matter of fact, at the same time that the state Democratic party is attacking Olympia politicians, it is supporting many of them for re-election.
The Democratic Party’s mailer, clearly an attack on McKenna, nevertheless makes no distinction between Republican Olympia politicians and Democratic Olympia politicians. It refers to McKenna five times as an “Olympia politician,” and concludes, “Rob McKenna. Not a new direction – just another Olympia politician.”
Republican Party Cuts Big Check
Meanwhile, the state Republican Party has cut a whopping big check to the McKenna campaign, its first contribution in a battle that began in June of 2011. Actually, it wrote two of them. On Monday, state Republican chairman Kirby Wilbur signed a check for $1 million and another for $500,000 – which might make them a little easier to clear. Added together with about $260,000 for mailers and consulting work in the last month, that brings the state party’s contribution to $1.758 million.
The contribution doesn’t show up yet in the state Public Disclosure Commission database because reporting deadlines for contributions don’t hit until next Monday. Which is why this is first anyone has heard about it. But the whopping contribution is noted in an C-4 expenditure report from the McKenna campaign that was filed Tuesday night.
The contribution brings total fund-raising for the McKenna campaign to $12,001,848. Inslee, meanwhile, has raised $10,449,280.
Wilbur said the state Republican Party is stepping up to the plate only now because McKenna has been raising money at a brisk pace. “He didn’t need it for the primary. He didn’t want it early. So we’ve been raising money this entire time, and I don’t know if stockpile is the right word, but this is money that he’s been counting on and that we told him we could raise. It’s important now that the mail and media wars are about to light up.”
Helps in Final Stretch
Of course, there is an irony about the contribution. Since the launch of the campaign the McKenna camp has been pointing to the whopping contributions that Inslee has been getting from the state Democratic Party, as well as the enormous transfers that Inslee made to his gubernatorial campaign from his congressional campaign account. The state Democratic Party has given Inslee about $2.1 million, and the transfers from the congressional campaign fund amounted to about $600,000.
The key difference is that the Democrats’ money came early in the campaign, when it was necessary for Inslee to show big contributors that he could keep up with McKenna in fund-raising efforts, as a way of demonstrating viability, said McKenna campaign manager Randy Pepple.
“We’re proud to have the party support, and we’ve said all along that we would have it,” Pepple said. “The difference is that Jay Inslee had to use Democratic Party money to prop up his campaign and make it look like he was raising money at an adequate pace. We’re getting our money to help us in the last push of the election, now that ballots are going out.”
Of course, you could be sure that the other team would make note of it. The Inslee team put out a press release pointing out that the state Republican Party is now McKenna’s biggest contributor, though without mentioning that the Democratic Party is Inslee’s biggest contributor. “After months of falling behind in polls, it’s now McKenna who has to admit that he’s counting on his Republican friends to prop him up as we near election day,” said Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith. “For someone who spent a year decrying his opponent for accepting support from his party, this has ‘hypocrisy’ written all over it.”
Worth noting is the fact that polls appear to show the race is tightening. McKenna, who entered the race with considerably more name recognition, led until the beginning of summer, when Inslee mounted an ad blitz to introduce himself to voters in a state with naturally blue leanings. Inslee immediately leapt ahead. Since then most polls have shown Inslee with an advantage of one to five points. But the latest poll, released this week by KING-5/Survey USA, shows a slight narrowing — by its estimation Inslee is ahead 47-44.
Independent Expenditures Make a $40 Million Race
Meanwhile, if the two candidates have managed to raise about $22 million between them, you can nearly double that figure when you take into account the big independent expenditure campaigns that have been launched on both sides. The Republican Governors Association now has moved $11.4 million into its Washington-state campaign war-chest. Its Democratic counterpart, the Our Washington campaign, which is supported by labor unions and the Democratic Governors Association, has about $7.9 million. Also mounting independent efforts on behalf of Inslee are the Service Employees International Union and the Washington Conservation Voters.