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Thursday, April 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Condon builds fat stacks of campaign dollars

With about two months until Election Day, the elephant in the room is the mayor’s money.

Mayor David Condon has outstacked the fat stacks he put together four years ago, raising $345,000 as of the most recent filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission. That’s more than he raised four years ago, when he held a 2.5-to-1 fundraising edge over incumbent Mary Verner. It’s more than any candidate for city office in the state has pulled together this year, and it’s more than anyone running to be Spokane’s strong mayor has ever raised.

No one else running for a Spokane office is close – notably not Condon’s challenger, Shar Lichty, who faces a 20-to-1 funding disadvantage at this point.

Condon, who began raising money almost immediately upon his election, says his fundraising is a reflection of broad support and comes from all points of the political spectrum. He says campaigning is expensive – especially media buys on TV and mailers – and that he is taking nothing for granted.

“To me, it’s pretty obvious that people believe in what I’m doing for the city and want to be a part of that,” he said.

His plan is not to end the race with a surplus. “My intention would be to use it,” he said.

Lichty said Condon’s cash distorts the race and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by discouraging potential donors to her campaign.

“Some people who support me with their vote might not support me with their dollars, because they take a look at his war chest,” she said.

She said many of her supporters are low-income, and can only afford to donate $20, if that.

“A lot of people support him who have a lot of money,” she said. “I know that’s not all his supporters, but he does have a lot of support from people who can max-donate $1,900.”

That reflects the donation limit of $950 in the primary and general election cycles.

Among all city candidates, Council President Ben Stuckart runs a distant second to Condon, with almost $93,000. He also faces a challenger, John Ahern, who has raised little money. It’s almost as if Condon and Stuckart are running against each other, with the big givers on both sides investing in their side’s faction at City Hall.

Condon has drawn donations from lots of the usual suspects for a conservative candidate – but it’s also true, as he points out, that he has gotten support from outside that world. Stuckart has drawn donations from lots of traditional sources for a liberal, but he’s gotten money – and an endorsement – from the Spokane Home Builders Association.

The campaigns will only intensify from here. But the most recent filings with the PDC give us a good sense of where the financial support is going for now. You can examine these in more detail at http://www.pdc.wa.gov/.

Mayor: Condon’s campaign has reported 102 donations of $900 or more, though he’s also received scores of donations of $50 or less. His top donors are businesses and corporations, such as Avista, Comcast and Huppins; individuals including Avista CEO Scott Morris, Condon’s city administrator Theresa Sanders and Jim Cowles and his wife, Wanda; and organizations such as the associations of Realtors and home builders. (Cowles is the chairman of the Inland Empire Paper Co., which is owned by the same company that owns The Spokesman-Review.)

Unlike his first campaign, he has not received any money from the state Republican Party, though in his first bid for mayor the $63,000 he got from the state party came in the last two weeks in the race.

Lichty has raised $17,223, and has reported five donations of $900 or more. Her top donors are unions or union PACs, such as the Pacific Northwest Council of Carpenters or the Spokane Committee on Political Education, and the county Democratic Central Committee. Her top individual donors include Breean Beggs, former head of the Center for Justice and candidate last year for county prosecutor, and Unitarian pastor Todd Ekloff.

As of the latest reports, Condon had spent $236,000, with major expenditures on marketing, consultants and renting event space. Some have speculated about whether he would use his fundraising advantage to support council candidates he has endorsed, and he and his wife have made individual donations to LaVerne Biel. But it would be illegal to use his own campaign funds to contribute to other campaigns; in cases where candidates have shared expenses – such as fliers or community events – they are supposed to divide the cost proportionally, according to the PDC, and Condon says his campaign has followed these rules.

Council president: Stuckart’s fundraising advantage over Ahern is almost as big as the mayor’s – nearly 13-to-1. Stuckart’s top donors include the Third District Democrats and several unions, as well as Avista and the Spokane Tribe. Top individual donors include Lisa Brown, the former state senator who is now chancellor of Washington State University-Spokane, Don Barbieri and Sharon Smith.

Ahern has raised $7,275, almost entirely of smaller individual donations.

Council races: The three races are each very close in terms of money, though the scale differs.

In District 1, incumbent Mike Fagan has raised $15,057, and challenger Randy Ramos has raised $13,236.

In District 2, where LaVerne Biel and Lori Kinnear are competing to replace Mike Allen, Biel has an edge.

She’s raised $33,387, while Kinnear has raised $29,213.

Karen Stratton and Evan Verduin have each raised $37,000 and change in the District 3 race.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@ spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

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