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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Big money in Spokane races already breaking campaign records

With more than a week to go before the August primary election, fundraising records already are being broken in Spokane races.

Mayor Nadine Woodward has raised more money than any candidate ever has for public office in Spokane. That record used to be held by former Mayor David Condon, who raised $318,000 by the November general election in 2011 and $395,000 in 2015. Woodward already reports raising over $420,000, and there are 15 weeks to go before the general election on Nov. 7.

On Tuesday, the Woodward campaign touted her record-shattering fundraising as evidence of strong support for the mayor’s re-election.

“I believe in governing through public engagement and relationship building, as I did my first term,” Woodward said in a news release. “Because of this, the community is showing up to support me in re-election, and I’m excited to keep delivering results for them.”

Woodward opponent, longtime Democratic politician and former state Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown, challenged this narrative. Brown, who has raised over $250,000, noted that her campaign has received donations from more people, while a significantly larger portion of Woodward’s backing are from business interests.

Indeed, Woodward has received the maximum allowable donation from 51 individuals, political action committees and businesses, compared to nine who have maxed out for Brown. Those big-dollar donors alone contributed over $122,000 to Woodward’s campaign.

Brown has received significantly more small-dollar donations, both in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of her overall fundraising. Small-dollar donors contributed over $31,500 to the Brown campaign, around 12% of her overall war chest, compared to $15,143 or less than 4% for Woodward. Even former fire union president Tim Archer, who has only raised nearly $28,000, has received a higher percentage of his funds from small donations.

Independent expenditures still haven’t gotten up to full steam, though over $235,000 has been spent by the National Association of Realtors and the Spokane Good Government Alliance to buoy Woodward and sink Brown. In the 2019 race between Woodward and then-Council President Ben Stuckart, independent expenditures topped $650,000. Those organizations have spent smaller amounts to support Councilman Michael Cathcart’s re-election campaign in the northeast council district and educator Katey Treloar in the district representing south Spokane.

While contributions have ballooned in six weeks, the general pattern remains largely unchanged.

Conservative candidates have attracted large donations from builders, Realtors, property management companies, large property owners, hospitality executives, finance industry professionals and self-storage companies.

That well-moneyed financial support has put conservative candidates well ahead in fundraising in nearly every race, as have donors who have maxed out their contributions and donors whose businesses also made sizable donations. Fritz, Jeanie, Alvin and Eugenia Wolff, as well as several affiliated corporations, donated maximum amounts to several conservative candidates, for instance.

Liberal candidates tend to dominate when it comes to small donations, both in raw numbers and as a portion of their overall fundraising.

The campaigns of liberal candidates have garnered the financial backing of organized labor, educators, government employees and progressive political organizations or those affiliated with them, such as Don Barbieri and Sharon Smith of the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund. They have received far fewer maxed-out donations.

Many have attracted contributions from Democratic lawmakers, such as state Sen. Andy Billig, state Rep. Marcus Riccelli or County Commissioner Amber Waldref.

Donations from Smith and Barbieri also help easily identify liberal candidates for City Council. The political-minded philanthropists have gone all in on one candidate in each race: Brown for mayor, Betsy Wilkerson for city council president, Lindsey Shaw to represent northeast Spokane, Paul Dillon to represent south Spokane and Kitty Klitzke to represent northwest Spokane.

Mayor’s race

Since she announced last year she would run for re-election, Woodward’s campaign contributor list has been packed with Realtors, developers, property managers, hospitality groups and security companies, as well as the owners of those companies. In her campaign and in office, Woodward has positioned herself as a champion of business, development and public safety, likely contributing to the overwhelming support.

Scores of donors have contributed the maximum $1,200 to her campaign for either the primary or general elections, and 51 have maxed out the $2,400 allowable for both. Nearly half of those maxed-out donors are residents and businesses located outside of Spokane, largely from Liberty Lake or Spokane Valley.

These double-maxed donors include Basalt Hospitality; Jennifer and Ryan Gee, as well as the Gee Automotive Holdings company; Leavitt Capital Companies; Karl Zacher Investments; Rudeen Development and Rudeen Management; John and Nada Stockton; Alvin and Jeanie Wolff, and two affiliated companies; and dozens more. The mayor has received maxed-out financial contributions from the Association of Builders and Contractors Political Action Committee and the Build East PAC.

On the other hand, Brown has received maxed donations from nine, including the Laborers International Union Local 238; Ellen Fergon, an administrator at the Seattle-based Burke Museum; Judith Jesiolowski and David Thompson, both wealthy philanthropists based in Yarrow Point who contribute tens of thousands to liberal candidates; and the progressive political group Fuse Washington. Dozens more have contributed at least $1,000, including the Spokane Tribe of Indians, Seattle-based investor Scott Shapiro, and Caroline Yu, a founding partner of property management company Millennium Northwest.

Democratic state lawmakers, local left-leaning former council members, unions and government employees contributed highly to Brown’s campaign contributions. This includes donations from state Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, former council members Phyllis Holmes and Candace Mumm, and the local United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters union and Service Employees International Union, among others.

Brown and Woodward have faced scrutiny for accepting donations from people who work for or own companies contracted with the city of Spokane, which appeared to possibly violate local electioneering laws. In Brown’s case, it was $500 donations each from Christine Varela and Michelle Hege, employee and owner respectively of Desautel Hege, a public relations firm that has a $233,335 contract with the city. For Woodward, it was a $1,400 donation from Larry Stone, who owns the warehouse leased by the city to house the Trent Avenue homeless shelter.

Range Media reported July 14 that city lawyers decided neither donation was technically illegal, raising questions about the strength of local electioneering laws. Both campaigns refunded the donations ahead of the decision.

Brown said Friday she won’t accept similar donations in the future, in order to comply with the spirit of the law; the Woodward campaign wrote in an email that it would now be open to receiving contributions again from Stone.

City council president

Big money is flowing into the city council president race as well, though it hasn’t broken any records yet.

Former small business owner Kim Plese reports raising over $160,000, with maxed-out donations from 22 sources, most of whom also provided the maximum legal donation to the Woodward campaign. While many conservative candidates have received strong support from self-storage companies, Plese blows them out of the water, receiving maxed-out donations from six different companies for a total of $14,400.

Wilkerson trails Plese significantly in overall fundraising, though she has been buoyed by maxed-out donations from six donors, including the Spokane Firefighter Union PAC and retired surgeon Jerry LeClaire. She has also received dozens of significant contributions from Seattle residents, many of which landed in her campaign coffers on June 30.

“When the money hit, I was pleasantly surprised,” she said. “And I’m glad my campaign generated that kind of excitement for 20 or 30 folks in the Seattle area that want to support progress in Spokane.”

Wilkerson has raised nearly $16,000 from small-dollar donors, or about 13% of her total contributions. Plese only reports raising $30 from small donors.

Rathbun, who has donated thousands to other conservative candidates, still has not reported raising any campaign contributions.

The Spokane Good Government Alliance has spent over $20,000 in independent expenditures to help Plese and hurt Wilkerson.

Northeast Spokane

Councilman Michael Cathcart continues to dominate fundraising in northeast Spokane, with nearly $56,000 in his war chest compared to $15,611 for environmental advocate Lindsey Shaw.

Because Cathcart and Shaw are the only candidates in a nonpartisan race, they will not appear on the August primary ballot. Candidates in Washington are limited to $1,200 each for the primary and general.

Cathcart has received that full $1,200 from 18 donors, including two self-storage companies, the Spokane Association of Realtors, the Spokane Home Builders Association, and George, Jennifer, Ryan and Theresa Gee, who are affiliated with the Gee Automotive Holdings company.

Cathcart has received $1,520 from small contributions, roughly 3% of his total contributions, while Shaw has received $1,185, about 8% of her total.

The Spokane Good Government Alliance has spent nearly $6,000 in independent expenditures supporting Cathcart. No independent expenditures have been made for or against Shaw.

South Spokane

Of District 2’s four city council candidates, only three have reported raising any funds.

Treloar, who ran unsuccessfully in 2019 for a seat on the Spokane Public School Board, has raised over $105,000, with 10 maxed-out donors. Her top contributors include pension analyst Clay Randall, Spokane Hardware Supply, John Stockton and his wife, Nada, two pharmacies and various developers and Realtors.

Dillon, former vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, has raised nearly $38,000. Only LeClaire has maxed out his donations, though Dillon has received substantial support from Smith and Barbieri, and consultant John Culton. Dillon has received smaller donations from Billig, Wilkerson, Stuckart, various unions, Fuse Washington and Riccelli.

U.S. Air Force honorary commander Cyndi Donahue has raised just over $24,000, with no maxed-out donors. Of that, over $6,000 comes from Donahue herself, members of her family and her business Vin & Yin. Other top contributors include real estate company Bornhoft Commercial and Tom Simpson, CEO of consulting company Ignite Northwest, where Donahue worked until recently.

Dillon has reported over $10,000 in small contributions, compared to nearly $4,700 for Treloar and none for Donahue. Small donations make up over a quarter of Dillon’s total campaign contributions, significantly more than most other candidates for local office in Spokane.

The Spokane Good Government Alliance and the National Association of Realtors have spent over $50,000 supporting Treloar’s candidacy.

Northwest Spokane

Donors continue to be shy in District 3, which has six candidates running for the same seat, the most crowded in the city.

Retired respiratory therapist Earl Moore, who two months ago had not a dime in her campaign coffers, leads the pack with over $33,500 raised. She only reports two maxed-out donors: Mark and Pamela Walker, of Walker’s Furniture. Other significant donors include Bill Bouten of Bouten Construction, Jerry Dicker of GVC Commercial Properties, the Association of Builders and Contractors PAC, and the Washington State Association of Realtors.

Klitzke, an environmental advocate and former army reserve medic, was similarly behind in donations at the start of the race, but with nearly $31,000 in the bank is now neck-and-neck with Moore. She has received a maxed out donation from the Spokane Firefighters Union PAC, large donations from Smith and Barbieri, philanthropist Nancy Schaub, nurse Bethany Bruner, Avista, and the local chapter of Laborers International. She has also received support from Councilwoman Karen Stratton and Stuckart.

Conversely, contributions to Esteban Herevia, who until recently served as president and CEO of Spokane Pride, have stalled in the last two months. At the beginning of June, he was the only liberal candidate in the city to lead his race in campaign contributions; as of mid-July, he’s in third place, having been passed by Klitzke and conservative-backed Moore. His top contributors include Electric Photoland, Michael Burke of Seattle and Joseph Peterson Fohrm Studio.

Christopher Savage, board president for Meals on Wheels Spokane, has raised nearly $9,500. He received no maxed donations, but significant support from Brett Ellis, a retiree from Winnsboro, Texas, and Mike and Lisa Fairburn, owners of Living Water. Smaller donations came from Bob Apple, who ran unsuccessfully for Spokane County Commission in 2022, Poole’s Public House, and former Spokane Councilmen Steve Corker and Mike Fagan.

Randy McGlenn, former chair of the state Libertarian Party, has raised over $5,500, though those numbers have barely budged since May. His top donors include Shawn Trissell, who works in information technology for the state of Washington; Kim Crumpacker, who works for a real estate firm owned by Stone; and retiree Debra Ryan.

Moore has raised over $5,000 from small-dollar donors, around 15% of her total contributions. Klitzke has only reported $600 in small contributions, around 2% of her total. Savage reports $650, or about 7% of his total.

Though McGlenn hasn’t raised much money, his campaign is far and away the most reliant on small dollar donations. With $1,768 raised, around a third of his contributions were small dollar.

The Spokane Good Government Alliance and the National Association of Realtors have spent over $47,000 supporting Moore’s candidacy.