Money, Money, Money: Candidates for Governor, Congress


Next week, the Washington State Republican Party gets together to formally endorse candidates for statewide offices and congressional seats. This is news in itself because the state GOP has traditionally waited until after the primary to back candidates. 

That hasn’t worked out all that well in recent years, as you can see in real time if you check out Klickitat County Deputy Sheriff Loren Culp’s increasingly unhinged presence on the platform formerly known as Twitter. The 2020 GOP field in the primary for governor was a clown car that spat Culp into the general election, where he took a historic beating while siphoning millions out of the wallets of small donors across the state.  

So party leaders are hoping to come out of this year’s process with some degree of unity, although the party still lacks the power to keep the losers from filing for office next month as Republicans. Jim Brunner broke down the traditional delegate-whipping aspect of this earlier this week at The Seattle Times. The big drama is whether Semi Bird, who’s running in the far-right lane and has been working the convention process hard, upsets former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert. That might create enough chaos to make Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet’s centrist campaign more than a thought exercise.   

One interesting wrinkle: The convention’s in Spokane, so the majority of the 2,600 delegates would have to take that long drive to vote. Counties with higher Republican turnout get more delegates per capita, but the populous Puget Sound region still has most of the people.

But if the party’s blessing is purely ceremonial, why should we care? Setting aside whatever cachet the endorsement might carry with voters, the answer, dear readers, is money. 

The party may not have the nominating wand, but it has the checkbook, at least in theory. Under state campaign rules, the party is allowed to give a candidate for governor $1.20 for every registered voter. That’s going to be well north of $5 million this year. It gets better: the party can raise that money in unlimited amounts from individual donors.1 That means one megadonor can write a $5 million check and the party can hand it off to the candidate. The Observer’s very first story back in 2020 was about Democratic megadonors pouring money through this loophole.

So what happens to that money if Bird wins the party’s endorsement but Reichert files anyway? This isn’t totally far-fetched. Bird already has endorsements from county-level parties in Snohomish, Spokane, Clark, and Kitsap counties, as well as a dozen smaller counties. That doesn’t mean he’ll win all the delegates from those places, but it’s a solid start. 

Would Bird get the party’s money ahead of the primary? Would Reichert get it in the fall even if he flouted the party’s push for unity and ran anyway, which is widely expected should he lose at the convention? He’ll need all he can get, as his most likely opponent is Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has been stacking money for this race for years and has a commanding lead in the campaign cash race. 

The answer is that the money almost certainly won’t be there for Bird. Major Republican donors are thus far conspicuously absent from the party’s balance sheet this year. In fact, things are looking a bit threadbare over there. Those same donors were out for the Loren Culp experiment; look for them to sit on their money—or use it to support Reichert via an independent campaign—if Bird gets the party’s nod. 

Some cash numbers in the governor’s race

Speaking of Semi Bird, the ousted Richland School Board member pulled in more than $51,000 last month, leaving him miles behind the competition. Bird has raised some $426,000 so far, most of it before Reichert got into the race. But he has burned through nearly the whole pile. The campaign spent $25,000 last month, mostly on campaign merch. 

State Sen. Mark Mullet tells us he raised about $100,000 since the fundraising freeze on current state officials thawed in early March when the Legislature adjourned. Mullet has brought in more than $1.1 million overall. 

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert has raised some $330,000 since March 1, which puts him around the $2 million mark in total money raised. Reichert doesn’t currently hold a state office, so he wasn’t subject to the freeze. 

Everybody’s trailing presumptive front-runner Bob Ferguson. The Democratic attorney general raised about $625,000 in March and has more than $4 million in hand.

A substantial haul in the 5th Congressional District 

Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner apparently knows where to look for campaign treasure. The Republican, a former state senator, hauled in more than $400,000 during the first month of his bid for the Eastern Washington congressional seat being vacated by longtime GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

There’s a GOP crowd in the race for the solidly red 5th District, including state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, who’s trying to retrace McMorris Rodgers’ steps from the Legislature to Congress. (Paul Queary)


  1. PACs, corporations, unions, etc., can only give $6,000 per year in “hard money,” cash that can be given directly to candidates.

This article first appeared in the writer’s political report, The Washington Observer.

Paul Queary
Paul Queary
Paul Queary, a veteran AP reporter and editor, is founder of The Washington Observer, an independent newsletter on politics, government and the influence thereof in Washington State.


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