OLYMPIA – Even without the final spending tallied, this year’s Washington governor’s race was the most expensive in state history, and outside independent groups spent record amounts trying to persuade residents to vote against Jay Inslee or Rob McKenna.
Post-election reports filed this week with the state Public Disclosure Commission show the Inslee and McKenna campaigns spent a combined $25.7 million to be Washington’s next governor. Including other candidates that were eliminated in the primary and money spent by incumbent Chris Gregoire before she opted out of the race, spending hit nearly $26.2 million, passing the record set in 2008 by nearly $1 million.
Inslee and McKenna still could list more spending in the next month or so because neither filed a final report.
Republican McKenna, a two-term state attorney general, spent about $13.6 million, just a bit less than Gregoire spent in 2008. Democrat Inslee, who resigned his congressional seat before his term ended, spent about $12.1 million.
Also up this campaign season was spending by independent groups both for and against the two candidates. Most of it went for television commercials that blanketed the airwaves in the fall.
Led by the Republican Governor’s Association, independent groups spent $9.3 million against Inslee. The RGA also contributed heavily to some $1.2 million spent for independent ads supporting McKenna.
A group called Our Washington, which collected large sums from the Democratic Governors Association and organized labor, spent almost $9 million against McKenna. Washington Conservation Voters and the Service Employees International Union led groups that spent more than $825,000 supporting Inslee.
Like past campaign years with statewide offices on the ballot, the governor’s race was the most expensive in 2012. Recognizing this, the PDC lists records for other races separately.
This year’s campaigns came close to setting records in the attorney general’s race between a pair of King County councilmen, Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn. As in the governor’s race, Ferguson spent a little bit less but won, $1.58 million to Dunn’s $1.61 million.
McKenna spent about $1.9 million in his 2008 run for attorney general, and a crowded field in 2004 spent almost $3.4 million.
But outside groups for or against Dunn and Ferguson did set a record for independent spending in a race outside of the governor’s office. An arm of the national GOP, the Republican State Leadership Committee-Washington, spent more than $2.5 million in an unsuccessful effort to stop Ferguson. The Washington Committee for Justice and Fairness – a group that says it “promotes discussion of interests critical to America’s middle class” and gets its money from the Democratic Attorneys General Association – spent about $900,000 against Dunn.
Spending on ballot measures was high but not a record. The most was spent on Referendum 74, where the eight different groups filing to run campaigns in support of same-sex marriage spent a total of $14.3 million, with the largest share, about $12.6 million, spent by Washington United for Marriage. Preserve Marriage Washington spent about $2.8 million trying to defeat the measure.