Olympia Shatters Campaign Cash Record; $370k and Counting

The 10 candidates vying for five Olympia City Council seats in this November’s general election have raised an eye-popping total of $329,670 they hope will carry them into office. Add in the bucks raised by the four who lost primary elections, and the grand total is just a bit more than $370,973 so far.

The previous record was $176,659 in 2009 when four seats were up.

The most expensive race to date and likely the most closely watched is between incumbent Jim Cooper and political newcomer Spence Weigand. Between the two of them, they’ve raised $117,819 and spent $81,652. Weigand still has almost $25,000 in the bank, but state records show he owes debts totaling $13,400. Cooper has almost $11,500 left to spend in the next two weeks and no campaign debt.

The election is on November 2.

Here’s a position-by-position look, based on the state Public Disclosure Commission records The Olympia Tribune reviewed on October 15. The links take you to contributions and expenditures the candidates have reported to the PDC.

Position 2: Total raised: $61,422 Total spent: $41,563

Yen Huynh is in her first run for public office, having been appointed by the council in January to fill the left vacant when Jessica Bateman was elected to the Legislature. She’s raised $33,443, most of it in individual contributions, and spent just a little over $15,300, most of it on campaign literature and mailing costs. 

Robbi Kesler also is in her first run for public office and was a finalist for the seat Huynh was appointed to.  She’s raised $27,979, most of it from individuals and spent $26,249, most of it on campaign literature and signage and mailing costs.

Position 4: Total raised: $23,540 Total spent: $11,245 

Clark Gilman is running for a second full term on the council, where he now serves as mayor pro-tem, running the meetings if the mayor is unavailable. He’s raised about $14,000, with a couple of $1,000 donations from labor organizations and the rest in smaller, individual donations in this low-key race that had no primary and he’s spent about $4,000 for advertising and political consulting.

Candace (Candi) Mercer is in her first run for public office, and has raised $9,769, mostly in small individual donations (she has one $1,000 donation from a former small business owner), and has made an $846 loan to her campaign. She’s spent $7,335, including hundreds on the production of her recently released music video.

Position 5: Total raised: $63,936 Total spent: $45,519 

Lisa Parshley is running for a second term on the council. She’s raised $38,457, including her own donation of $5,000, and has strong financial support from labor organizations. She’s spent $28,864, most of it on advertising-related items.

Talauna Reed is a first-time candidate whose fundraising has been brisk for a political newcomer. She’s received four donations of $1,000, but the bulk of her contributions are amounts of $100 or less. She’s spent $16,654, mostly on yard signs and other advertising expenses.

Position 6: Total raised: $62,932 Total spent: $42,507

Corey Gauny also was an applicant for the Position 2 seat. He has raised $35,166 (including six $2,000 donations and five of $1,000 to $1,500) and spent $23,032. PDC records show campaign debt of $4,761. 

Dontae Payne was a finalist earlier this year for the Position 2 seat. He has raised $27,806 (including several $1,000 to $1,900 donations from labor organizations) and has spent $19,474, mostly for advertising-related expenditures.

Position 7: Total raised: $117,839 Total spent: $81,653

Jim Cooper, the longest-serving council member, has raised $35,049, including seven $1,000-plus donations from labor organizations, and spent $23,620, mostly for advertising-related expenses.

Spence Weigand, a political newcomer, has raised $82,770. Twenty donors have chipped in $1,000, many of them from people associated with the real estate and development community; Wiegand himself is a residential Realtor. He also loaned his campaign $5,000 back in February. He’s spent $58,033, a lot of it on digital and other advertising.

An earlier analysis by Joe Hyer, a political consultant, former council member, and long-time campaign number-cruncher, showed this year-by-year fundraising: 

  • 2019: Three seats up, $159,502, (60% in the mayor’s race)
  • 2017: Four seats up, $155,959
  • 2015: Three seats up, $95,018, (38% in the mayor’s race)
  • 2013: Four seats up, $81,506
  • 2011: Four seats up, $133,833, (53% in the mayor’s race)
  • 2009: Four seats up, $176,659 (previous fund-raising record)
  • 2007: Three seats up, $106,304, (32% in the mayor’s race)

Hyer noted that of the 21 contested races in those years, 17, or 80%, were won by the candidate with the most contributions. 

By Mindy Chambers

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