School board races in Spokane County this year are drawing plenty of interest – and money.
Overall fundraising has far outstripped anything seen in recent memory, with two races for Spokane School Board attracting a combined $92,742 as of Wednesday.
By comparison, six Spokane school board candidates raised only $74,900 in 2019.
But individual candidates for Spokane School Board are behind the $36,040 raised so far by Mead school board candidate BrieAnne Gray.
Gray, a Spokane nurse practitioner, is more than doubling the $17,451 raised so far by her opponent, incumbent board member Carmen Green.
“It’s inspiring to see so many people fired up about education and getting active in the process,” Gray said Wednesday. “Like me, they are looking for a change.”
But Green’s campaign chest is eye-popping considering the history of campaigns in Mead. In the 10 years previous to 2019, no Mead School Board candidate opted to raise more than $5,000, the most a candidate can raise without having to report contributions. That trend stopped two years ago when Michael Cannon won a seat on the board after raising $10,500.
Green said once she learned she would have an opponent, she realized she’d have to raise money. But she’s been surprised how much her opponent decided to pursue.
“It doesn’t matter how she runs her campaign,” Green said. “I just have to be true to myself and be competitive at the same time.”
Green said she is concerned that the growing campaign chests in school board races could discourage good candidates from running, particularly if they don’t have a lot resources or connections to those who typically give money to campaigns.
“It felt more partisan,” Green said of the influx of money into the race. “It’s a nonpartisan position and having it get really partisan felt strange.”
In Gray’s case, support has come from conservatives who back Gray’s concerns about critical race theory, mask mandates and the state’s comprehensive sex education curriculum.
“Reaching every voter takes a lot of money, and I’m humbled and thankful to everyone who is generously helping me do that,” Gray said.
About three-quarters of Gray’s donations have come from private citizens, with the rest donated by businesses.
Another conservative, Kata Dean, is the top fundraiser among the four Spokane School Board candidates candidates, with $27,805 raised so far. Like Gray, most of Dean’s support has been drawn from individuals and local businesses.
However, her opponent in the Position 4 race, Riley Smith, isn’t far behind; as of Wednesday, he had raised $22,982.
The all-time fundraising leader in Spokane is board member Nikki Lockwood, who raised $29,200 during a successful bid in 2019.
Bedford, a professor at Eastern Washington University and former public school teacher in Nevada, has campaigned partly on the fact that the current board has no teachers.
Bedford has drawn $2,000 in support from the state teachers’ union, the Washington Education Association.
She and Smith also received contributions from the Democratic Party and other labor unions.
Bedford also has support from families of two current board members.
Jenny Slagle was the first person to donate to Bedford’s campaign, giving $100 on April 30. Bedford got $250 from Lockwood’s husband, William Lockwood.
Money doesn’t always bring victory, but it may help. In 2019, Lockwood, Slagle and Kevin Morrison all won after outspending their opponents.
But for all the money being raised in Spokane and Mead, activity has been low-key in the two races for seats on the Central Valley School District board.
All four candidates have opted for what the Washington state Public Disclosure Commission terms a mini reporting, with a cap of $5,000.
Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.
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