Big bucks spent in some local legislative races
With Election Day fast approaching, candidates for office are making their final pushes to pick up undecided voters in the campaign's last week.
In western Washington County's legislative districts, some races — and candidates — stand out more than the rest for their prodigious fundraising.
Senate District 15
Alexander Flores leads the pack. The Hillsboro Republican is trying to unseat state Sen. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro, in Senate District 15, which covers most of Hillsboro plus Forest Grove, Cornelius and North Plains. He's doing so with the help of more than half a million dollars in campaign contributions during the 2017-18 election cycle.
Of the $517,856.74 Flores has hauled in over this year and last, he's spent $451,612.71 and is sitting on an estimable $66,269.63 in cash on hand, according to campaign finance information from the Oregon secretary of state's office as of Monday, Oct. 29.
Flores' totals well outstrip the incumbent Riley's, but the first-term Democratic senator has hardly been a fundraising slouch. His campaign counts $338,055.39 in contributions over 2017 and 2018, and Riley has spent $317,173.44. The Riley campaign has left less money in the coffers as of Monday, with $27,658.85 cash on hand, campaign finance records indicate.
Close to half of all the money that's been contributed to the Flores campaign has come from the campaign account of the Oregon Senate Republican deputy leader, state Sen. Fred Girod of Salem. Girod has channeled $258,000 in aggregate into Flores' campaign coffers this year, according to ORESTAR, Oregon's campaign finance activity tracking system. Major support has also come from The Leadership Fund, a committee set up to support Republican Senate candidates, and No Supermajorities PAC, a political action committee that is run by Republican legislative staffers.
Riley's biggest donors are the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund and the Democratic Party of Oregon. Campaign finance reports show that they have plowed approximately $190,000, combined, into Riley's campaign this year. From non-party sources, Riley has also received significant contributions from the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and several labor unions.
House District 32
Flores has an unlikely rival for massive campaign spending: Tiffiny Mitchell of Astoria, who won the Democratic primary in House District 32 in an upset over an establishment-backed candidate and another candidate vying for the "progressive" mantle. Mitchell, a social worker, has raised $460,134.88 just this year, according to campaign finance reports, with a burn rate much higher than Flores. The Mitchell campaign has spent $444,997.80 and reported $25,053.11 in cash on hand as of Monday.
With support from the likes of Citizen Action for Political Education, an arm of powerful labor union SEIU 503, which has contributed $138,795 in campaign funds, Mitchell is trying to keep HD 32 in Democratic hands. Along with the state employees' union, she has also gotten significant campaign support from House Democrats' Future PAC, the Democratic Party of Oregon, the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, among others.
Longtime Rep. Deborah Boone of Hamlet is retiring, and Republicans have rallied behind Seaside educator Vineeta Lower to try to flip the mostly rural district — which sprawls from the North Coast into the easternmost reaches of the Tualatin Valley, including communities like Gaston, Gales Creek and part of Banks.
Lower has raised $167,155.79 and spent $157,319. She claimed $9,999.82 in cash on hand as of Monday. Her biggest backers include House Republicans' Promote Oregon Leadership PAC and No Supermajorities PAC, although none of her donors have contributed nearly as much in aggregate as Mitchell's largest financial supporters.
House District 31
In HD 32's sister district, Columbia County-anchored House District 31, incumbent Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, has dramatically outraised and outspent his Republican opponent, Bethany businessman Brian Stout.
Witt's campaign has taken in $166,088.87 during the 2017-18 election cycle, record show, and spent $173,313.11.
Witt's single biggest supporter in this election cycle has been the Oregon Beverage PAC, which has given him $7,500 in campaign contributions this year. Among other campaign expenditures, Witt has directed $20,000 to Future PAC since the start of 2017 to support other Democratic candidates for the Oregon House of Representatives.
Stout's $17,214.82 in contributions and $9,567.43 pales in comparison to Witt's campaign finance activity. Despite running in a district that has been trending rightward and actually went narrowly for President Donald Trump in 2016, Stout's campaign spending trails all other major-party legislative candidates running to represent western Washington County this fall.
House Districts 29 and 30
The gap isn't quite as dramatic between a pair of districts that are contained wholly within western Washington County (together comprising Senate District 15), but it is still noteworthy.
In House District 29, state Rep. Susan McLain, D-Forest Grove, has raked in $125,395.73 in campaign contributions since the start of 2017. The McLain campaign has spent $115,176.96 and maintains $14,540.57 in cash on hand.
Forest Grove Republican David Molina, a small businessman running to unseat McLain in the Democratic-friendly district, has raised $35,655.30 and spent $34,588.40, with just $1,366.90 in cash on hand — the second-lowest amount in the campaign coffers among western Washington County's legislative candidates.
The lowest amount belongs to Dorothy Merritt, a Hillsboro Republican waging a long-shot campaign against state Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro. According to filings with the secretary of state's office, Merritt has $172.75 in her campaign war chest after raising $18,698.90 and spending $19,300.43. Merritt has helped her own campaign out by loaning it $5,800, but she still trails Sollman in overall campaign finance activity.
That being said, Sollman has raised and spent less than half of what McLain has in neighboring HD 29. The House District 30 incumbent reported $59,025.32 in contributions, $48,641.42 in expenditures, and $25,467.40 in cash on hand as of Monday.
McLain has received her biggest contributions from the Democratic Party of Oregon, Future PAC and Oregon AFSCME Council 75; she's also sent $35,600 from her own campaign funds to Future PAC to help elect other House Democrats this campaign cycle, ORESTAR shows. Sollman's biggest backers include Stand for Children Oregon PAC and Oregon Soft Drink PAC; she has sent $10,600 off to Future PAC. Contributions from candidates to other political action committees are often seen as a sign of confidence that they are headed for victory on Election Day.
Molina has been advertising aggressively, though. He has gotten major support from Promote Oregon Leadership PAC, the House Republican political action committee, as well as No Supermajorities PAC; the Oregon Firearms Federation PAC, among other smaller donors, has also chipped in.
Meanwhile, Merritt is her own single largest contributor with the $5,800 personal loan, although she's also received substantial backing from two conservative political action committees, Oregon Right to Life PAC and Promote Oregon Leadership PAC.
House Districts 24 and 26
To the south, state Reps. Ron Noble, R-Carlton, and Rich Vial, R-Scholls, are favored to hold their geographically large districts, which extend latitudinally from the Hillsboro area to McMinnville and Wilsonville, respectively. Noble and Vial's edge over their challengers is reflected in their campaign finance activity.
Noble has raised $128,692.40 and spent $95,199.40 since the start of 2017, with $55,528.99 cash on hand.
Noble's opponent, Yamhill Democrat Ken Moore, reported $10,181 in contributions and $12,012.99 in expenditures as of Monday. He won the Democratic nomination via write-in campaign and had spent virtually no campaign money until recently. He still has $5,460.17 in cash on hand, as of Monday's campaign finance activity report.
Vial, a moderate Republican who faced a primary challenge from the right this spring, has hauled in $215,797.93 and spent $234,176.22. He reported $55,783.86 in cash on hand as of Monday.
Courtney Neron of Wilsonville, running against Vial, has put up respectable fundraising numbers for a candidate who did not run in the primary and was recruited by local Democratic leaders after the withdrawal of original nominee Ryan Spiker — although she still trails Vial by a considerable margin. She reported $39,803.31 in campaign contributions since entering the race, with $19,961.67 in expenditures. She is sitting on $20,061.64 in cash on hand.
Noble has received his biggest financial support from the Promote Oregon Leadership PAC — to which he has directed $31,154 of his own campaign funds — as well as political action committees for the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems and the Oregon Association of Realtors, plus $5,000 from individual donor George K. Austin Jr., owner and president of Newberg-based dental equipment manufacturer A-dec Inc.
Vial's single largest backer is Wall Street Industrial LLC, a Tigard-based professional services company managed by his son, Nic Vial. The limited liability corporation contributed $20,000 to Vial. Other major contributions have come from the Oregon Realtors PAC and Oregon Business & Industry Candidate PAC, among others.
The Moore campaign has received contributions mostly from individual donors. Neron's largest financial supporters include Future PAC and two labor-directed political action committees, Defend Oregon's Values and Citizen Action for Political Education. Her biggest individual donor has been Jason Grigsby, co-founder of Portland-based web developer Cloud Four. Clackamas County Democrats have also contributed $2,300.
Senate District 13
Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, is also favored to win in her Republican-friendly Senate district, which extends from the northern reaches of the Salem area up to South Hillsboro. She has raised $155,540.11, spent $173,910.07 and still has $20,510.56 on hand.
Sarah Grider of Newberg lost the Democratic primary, but she became the nominee when the winner, Paul Diller, withdrew from the race. She has reported $33,612.17 in campaign contributions and $30,834.65 in expenditures, with $2,777.52 in cash on hand.
The Leadership Fund, the Associated General Contractors of America's AGC Committee for Action, and the Oregon Firearms Federation PAC have made major donations to Thatcher's re-election campaign. Grider has received money for her campaign from the American Federation of Teachers' Oregon chapter, the Oregon School Employees Association and the Clackamas County Democratic Central Committee, among others.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated one House district number. Ron Noble represents House District 24. The story has been corrected.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
Follow me on Twitter
Visit us on Facebook
Subscribe to our E-News
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It can cost as little as 3 cents a day.)