As Filing Deadline Approaches, Campaign Finance Realities Sink In: Part 2


This is Part 2 of 2 in this month’s review of council campaign finances; see Part 1, Districts 1-5, here

Three months of reporting out from the August primary, council candidates’ campaign finance situations are starting to shake out. That goes not just for how much candidates are raising (although, spoiler alert: There’s still plenty of money in campaigns even with district elections, and the consulting business is exploding), but where they’re getting their money from, how well challengers are or aren’t keeping up with incumbents, and whether candidates have a strong base inside the districts where they’re running.

A quick note about this report: I’m focusing primarily on the top two or three candidates who I believe have a reasonable shot at winning in each race, because the unpaid intern army here at The C Is for Crank only has so many hours in the day for crunching numbers. And I’m focusing in this post primarily on numbers, not individual donors, because I think side-by-side comparisons can illuminate a lot about the how the candidates are doing in the weeks before the filing deadline.

With that said, on to the races!

District 6

Laid-back council incumbent Mike O’Brien didn’t not raise money this month, scooping up a casual $9,030 this month. That brings his total to $32,844 (super low for a sitting council member, but in line with his lack of a viable challenger), with $20,655 on hand. O’Brien owes himself $7,275, and is unusual in that almost none of his money (just 7 percent) is from out of town. More than a third of O’Brien’s money (36 percent) comes from inside his own district.

O’Brien’s opponent, neighborhood activist Catherine Weatbrook, brought in $2,775 for a total of $13,121, with $9,104 on hand. She, too, raised 36 percent of that from inside District 6, with just 6 percent of her funds from outside the city, and 8 percent from her own bank account.

District 7

Unless someone steps up by the filing deadline this Friday, incumbent Sally Bagshaw is basically running solo in this district (the first challenger, Deborah Zech Artis, just jumped in), and her fundraising strategy, like O’Brien’s, appears to be: Chill. Bagshaw raised just $2,910 this month, for a total of $55,157 and $19,888 on hand; she owes $11,859, mostly for consulting. Forty-eight percent of Bagshaw’s money came from inside her district, compared to 12 percent from outside Seattle–likely due partly to her lack of serious competition and partly to the fact that downtown money tends to dominate incumbents’ bank accounts anyway.

Position 8

In the first of two remaining at-large council seats, council incumbent Tim Burgess is fighting against an onslaught of opponents and a potential fundraising juggernaut in the form of Long Winters frontman John Roderick, who seems to have a firehose of out-of-state supporters ready to funnel $50 and $250 checks his way. Burgess, long known for his fundraising prowess (he’s kicked every opponent in previous election cycles out of the water), could be in trouble, money-wise. It’s worth noting, though, that out-of-state donors don’t  vote, so raising lots of money from them is only a partial victory.

Burgess raised $33,303 this month, bringing his total to $147,243, with $111,604 on hand. (That’s compared to around $170,000 at this point last election cycle, in 2011, when Burgess had only nominal opposition). He owes himself $6,200 for a campaign loan (personal loans can be forgiven at the end of a campaign cycle), plus $2,605 to Blue Wave Consulting for fundraising work. Fourteen percent of his money has come from outside city limits, and his largest proportion, 14 percent, from District 7. Burgess has funded 7 percent of his campaign out of his own pocket so far.

Roderick, for comparison, brought in $53,152 this month (his first month of fundraising), for a total of $55,585, and $38,921 on hand. Of that total, he owes $5,707, mostly for fundraising and consulting. A whopping 59 percent of his money so far comes from outside Seattle, with the next-highest percentage, 11 percent, from Capitol Hill’s District 3.

Tenants Union director Jonathan Grant, initially seen as left-of-center Seattleites’ best hope to unseat Burgess, stagnated this month, raising $2,530 for a total of $24,075, with $20,661 on hand. Fifty-one percent of Grant’s money is from outside Seattle, and the next-highest portion comes from District 3.

The third John in the race, longshoreman John Persak, was on par with Grant this month, raising $2,404 for a total of $23,335, with $9,291 on hand. Persak gave himself $5,541 in in-kind contributions, and owes $3,850, mostly for consulting work by Argo Strategies. Thirty-six percent of his money comes from outside the city, and the biggest chunk of his in-city contributions (10 percent) came from South Seattle’s District 2, which includes his own neighborhood of Georgetown. Persak himself contributed another 26 percent of his campaign funds.

Position 9

This open-seat race is a clash of insider-vs.-outsider, as Mayor Ed Murray’s legal counsel, Lorena Gonzalez, faces off against grouchy neighborhood activist and frequent developer opponent Bill Bradburd. Bradburd has the support from the area, District 3, where he lives and agitates; Gonzalez has the downtown money (as well as the money in general).

Last month, Bradburd raised a respectable $6,461, bringing his total to $47,529, with $26,943 on hand. Twenty-eight percent of that came from Bradburd’s home district, District 3, and another 22 percent came from out of town; Bradburd himself wrote a check for the rest.

Gonzalez pulled in more than three times Bradburd’s haul, raising $26,417 this month for $69,071, with $44,776 on hand. She owes $2,307, mostly for consultants, and raised 35 percent of her money from outside the city. Her biggest in-city source is, you guessed it, downtown’s District 7.

* And now that promised final note on consultants (this note appears in both parts of this report). New names have been popping up all over the reports this year, from Sawant’s parade of Socialist comrades (whose status as non-employees Josh covered here) to new upstart firms. Overall, I count nearly 24 consultants getting paid so far this year, including old-timers like Argo, Northwest Passage, and Winpower. I mention this not to denigrate the work of consultants, but to point out that one of the stated aims of district elections was getting money out of politics, yet consultants–the easy symbols of “everything that’s wrong in politics”–seem to be doing better than ever.

It’ll be interesting, at the end of the election, to tally how much all the candidates spent, and how much they spent on consultants; my guess is that it won’t be the victory over campaign funding district supporters were hoping for.