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Money Hard To Come By For Governor Candidates Contribution Limits, Full Primary Ballot Have Hopefuls Scrambling For Dollars

New limits on campaign contributions and competition for scarce dollars is making for a tough primary season among the slew of candidates seeking the governor’s office.

This is the first year that statewide candidates have been subject to a voter-approved 1992 law limiting the size of contributions from individuals and groups. Gubernatorial candidates can collect no more than $1,100 from any single contributor before the Sept. 17 primary. There also is a $1,100 limit for the general-election campaign.

Combine that limit with a crowded field of what are said to be high-quality candidates among the eight Republicans and five Democrats, and dollars became more dear than usual.

“It is an unusally tough year,” Susan Harris, assistant director of the state Public Disclosure Commission, said Thursday.

“There are a lot of good candidates out there on both sides of the aisle and they’re all after the same dollar. A lot of contributors are unwilling to commit their money. They’re going to wait for the primary on Sept. 17 to see what happens.”

“This is a tough year to raise money,” agreed Robert Harkins, a spokesman for the campaign of Democrat Nita Rinehart of Seattle.

“People are kind of feeling their way around. Given these limits, it’s not easy. One of the problems with the limits is it changes the ability to raise money, but it doesn’t change the cost of communicating to voters.”

Records on file at the Public Disclosure Commission show that about half the gubernatorial candidates have respectable amounts of money, more than $100,000, still on hand. But the records reflect little in the way of expenditures yet on expensive media buys as candidates try to get their names and messages out.

With the Sept. 17 primary election just three months off, Republican Dale Foreman of Wenatchee has raised the most money - $468,292, with $118,355 still in the kitty.

But Foreman, the state House Majority leader, resorted to pumping about $62,215 of his own cash into the contest, according to the most recent campaign finance filings at the PDC.

Among other Republicans: Tacoma lawyer Jim Waldo has raised $445,823 with cash on hand of $133,223; King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng has gathered $359,429 and spent all but $40,505; Ellen Craswell of Bremerton has raised $347,902 but spent all but $8,607; Pam Roach, a state senator from Auburn, has raised $138,680 and spent all but $15,503; and Nona Brazier, a King County businesswoman, has collected $42,314 and spent all but $6,740.

Among Democrats: Seattle Mayor Norm Rice has collected $243,595 and spent all but $102,641; King County Executive Gary Locke has raised $236,725 with $156,464 still unspent; Bainbridge Island lawyer Jay Inslee has raised $217,434 and spent all but $105,066; Rinehart, a state senator, has raised $186,061 and spent all but $27,242.

Republican Bob Tharp of Vancouver, Democrat Bryan Zetlen of Seattle and Republican Nikou Gustobov of Seattle have raised virtually no money for their campaigns, records show.