Party donations seek to sway 42nd District races
November 2, 2022 at 5:55 a.m.
Among all 49 legislative districts in Washington state, none have attracted more campaign dollars than the 42nd District in north Whatcom County.
Including hopefuls from the Aug. 2 primary who have since dropped out, candidates in the 42nd — and independent campaigns either for or against them — raised $5.45 million as of Nov. 1. That was $95,000 more than the total in the 26th, another battleground district with Republicans and Democrats in tight races.
This analysis of campaign fundraising looks at two separate buckets of money, available online from the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC): contributions made to individual candidates, and what are called “independent expenditures” — money spent by committees unconnected to the candidates’ campaigns, either supporting that candidate or distributing negative messages about their opponent.
Add it all up, and the two candidates running for Senate in the 42nd Legislative District have attracted $2.94 million — money spent on swaying voters in the August primary and now the Nov. 8 general election.
Simon Sefzik, the 22-year-old from Ferndale who was appointed early this year to replace the late Sen. Doug Ericksen, has $772,000 in donations to his campaign, plus $658,000 spent by independent committees to either promote his reelection or diminish Democratic challenger Sharon Shewmake in the eyes of voters.
Shewmake has attracted less money to her own campaign — $595,000 as of Nov. 1 — but the independent expenditures working for her cause bring her total to $1.51 million, which exceeds Sefzik’s overall total of $1.43 million.
Both Senate candidates got significant contributions from their respective political parties. Republican groups gave Sefzik $323,000, or 42% of his total, while Shewmake received $248,000 (42%) from Democratic organizations.
Sefzik has spent $94,000 on broadcast and cable TV advertising, and $87,000 on management and consulting, according to the PDC. Shewmake’s campaign made a significantly larger investment in TV ads, spending $193,000.
While the campaign fundraising for state House candidates Alicia Rule and Tawsha Dykstra Thompson was neck and neck during the primaries, Democrat Rule’s contributions have spiked in the months leading up to the general election. Rule’s campaign has raised $497,000, compared to Thompson’s $306,000 — not including independent expenditures.
Rule has raised more money than any other House candidate this election cycle, per the PDC.
“People give to my campaign because they believe in my message,” Rule said in a prepared statement to Cascadia Daily News. “I'm proud to have one of the most diverse sets of donors of any campaign in the state — both business and labor, police and firefighters, small business owners, seniors and everyone in between.”
Rule has accepted $160,000 from several political action committees, or PACs, including Phillips 66, Chevron, BP and Microsoft. She also has donations from the dental, occupational therapy, auto sales and insurance industries. Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood and state Senate candidate Shewmake both contributed to Rule’s campaign.
Thompson’s donations came mostly from Republican Party organizations. She has received $173,000 from various party groups, or 56% of her total. Additionally, the Washington State Republican Party, under the banner “Evergreen Progress,” has spent nearly $53,000 on campaigns against Rule, while progressive PACs have spent $341,000 to support her. Evergreen Progress also has spent $42,000 supporting Thompson.
Both Rule and Thompson’s campaigns are buying TV ads. Rule has spent nearly $209,000 on broadcast and cable TV advertising, compared to Thompson’s $71,000.
“The price of television has increased dramatically from the first time I ran, in 2020,” Rule said in the statement. “That year, we spent $100,000 on cable TV, and it bought far more airtime than ... in 2022.”
In the other 42nd District House race, Democrat Joe Timmons has raised $379,000, which is the fourth-highest total in the state among House candidates. His opponent, Republican Dan Johnson, has raised $357,000.
As is typical in the 42nd, both candidates in this race are richly funded by their parties. Timmons has $235,000 from the Democrats, or 62% of his campaign total. Johnson received $227,000 (64%) from Republican organizations.
The race for the 40th District seat held by Democrat Alex Ramel appears to have been decided early, as Ramel took 77.9% of the vote in the August primary, compared to 19.6% for his challenger, fellow Democrat and labor leader Trevor Smith.
Even so, the two candidates have seen similar investments in their campaigns, including the money spent by independent efforts either for or against them.
A total of $208,300 is backing Ramel, including nearly $7,000 spent by outside campaigns to promote his reelection.
Ramel has significant support from labor unions, especially considering his opponent is the political director of Laborers’ Union Local 292. Some of Ramel’s top contributors include the regional chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union; the Teamsters; SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, which represents employees at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center; and the Washington Education Association PAC.
Democratic Party organizations have largely shied away from this race between two candidates who identify with the party. Offices at the state and county levels have given $2,677 to Ramel, or 1.3% of his total campaign haul.
The Washington State Democrats donated $782.94 to Smith’s campaign back in May — also 1.3% of the candidate’s total. (The state Dems hedged their bets, giving the same amount to Ramel two months earlier.)
Smith’s support amounted to $208,000, just a few hundred dollars less than Ramel’s, although only $60,610 went directly to the challenger’s campaign. A group calling itself Citizens for Legislative Accountability spent the rest — $147,400 before the August election on advertising and mailers supporting Smith or opposing Ramel. The committee’s campaign has been dormant since Smith’s poor showing in the primary.
The other race in the 40th is between incumbent Democrat Debra Lekanoff and Shannon Perkes, a Republican write-in who didn’t appear on the primary ballot. Lekanoff has raised $69,620; her biggest donors included numerous tribes and Indigenous interest groups. Lekanoff, a Samish Island resident, is the only Indigenous person currently in the state Legislature. Perkes, who qualified for the general election ballot with 1.69% of the vote as a write-in during the primary, had not reported any campaign contributions as of Nov. 1.
In the race for Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, the discrepancy in campaign funding bodes poorly for Republican challenger Dan Matthews. Democratic incumbent Rick Larsen’s contributions, which exceed $1.5 million, dwarf Matthews’ campaign haul, which stood at $59,200 as of Oct. 19, which is when funding was last updated for this race.
Larsen received large donations from the Tulalip Tribes, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the Lummi Nation. His campaign has also accepted contributions from numerous PACs, representing Amazon, BNSF, Phillips 66, American Israel Public Affairs, Google, Boeing, Southwest Airlines, the League of Conservation Voters and others. PACs contributed 64% of Larsen’s total campaign funding.
The incumbent has spent 99% of his campaign contributions as of Oct. 19, including $79,000 on a media consultant and $16,080 on printed campaign materials. Matthews has spent 66% of his total donations, including $4,495 on yard signs.
In the race for the Whatcom County District Court Judge Position 2, the campaigns’ finances are well matched. Jonathan Rands has amassed $72,900, compared to Gordon Jenkins’ $59,500. Both candidates have contributed more than $17,000 to their own campaigns.
Rands has received contributions, ranging from $30 to $3,500, from 27 attorneys across Washington state. Eleven attorneys from Whatcom County have contributed amounts ranging from $5 to $1,000 to Jenkins’ campaign.
Both candidates spent more than $26,000 on yard signs, campaign fliers and mailers. Rands also has spent more than $17,000 on newspaper and radio ads.
Rands’ campaign spent $544 on totes, $828 on frisbees and $1,200 on Seahawks tickets.