The challenger to Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington has far outraised her in 2022, state campaign finance records show.
The campaign finance committee of Beach Pace, a Hillsboro city councilor who is challenging Harrington for her seat, shows that she's garnered over $100,000 more in outside contributions than the sitting incumbent.
In 2022, Pace's campaign has seen over $150,000 in donations from individuals and outside groups, with nearly $85,000 left in the bank to spend. Harrington has tallied less than $30,000 in donations this year.
However, Harrington has countered by funneling tens of thousands of her own money into her campaign to have money on hand.
In April alone, she put two loans totaling $110,000 into her finance committee. On top of that, she had a previous loan from last June for $20,000.
Loans made this way don't work the same as a typical loan. There is no requirement to pay it back, nor is there any kind of interest rate applied. It's a mechanism allowed by Oregon law for a candidate to put their own money into their race with the option of getting some or all of it paid back from other campaign contributions.
Harrington says she isn't worried about paying herself back on those loans.
"First and foremost, I am focused on my work at the county level," she said in an email. "My priority has been to fulfill my duties as county chair and help lead Washington County to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic over campaign fundraising or paying myself back."
However, with loan amounts of this size, it's unlikely that Harrington will see all of it come back, anyway — especially since she's raised about $30,000 in other contributions in 2022.
She had a previous year balance of a little under $18,500 that rolled over to 2022, state records show.
Contributions to the Harrington re-election campaign include $10,000 from the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors in February. Other business contributions include $2,500 from Comcast, and $1,000 from the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland.
Other large contributions to Harrington's campaign come from labor unions, like the Liuna Local 737 that gave Harrington $2,500 last summer. She also received money from the Professional Firefighters PAC — a donation of $2,500 in April.
Harrington also has support from some trade groups like the Iron Workers District Council of the Pacific Northwest, which gave her $2,000; the Plumbers & Steamfitters PAC, which gave her $1,500; and the Pacific Northwest Regional Council Carpenters, which gave Harrington $1,000.
Harrington said her support from business coalitions and labor groups alike is a credit to the work that she's done at the county already.
"I do not trade votes for money — people contribute to my election campaigns knowing that my focus has been and remains bettering my community, so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive," she said. "I think it's pretty remarkable in this divided period in politics that I am a leader who has earned support from a broad coalition."
Even with these amounts, Harrington would trail her opponent by a lot if it weren't for the personal loans she gave to her campaign. She attributed this to pandemic slowdowns and a lack of in-person fundraising events during this election cycle.
"This has meant fewer opportunities to gather in-person as we have had in the past," Harrington said. "Has that impacted fundraising? Maybe, but my priority as county chair is carry out the work for Washington County over running a political campaign."
Pamplin Media asked Harrington if she thinks part of her low fundraising amount during this election is due to the controversy surrounding the allegations of her workplace harassment, which is outlined in a report released by an independent investigator about a month ago, and the trend of politicians and organizations rescinding their endorsements of her.
Harrington said she is choosing to focus on the support she does have.
"I'm the only candidate in this race backed by the Washington County Democratic Party, Pro-Choice Oregon, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC, former Governor Barbara Roberts, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, among many other local state representatives, mayors and city council members," she said. "I am focused on the overwhelming community support I have received and share their desire to keep fighting for progressive change in Washington County."
Pace ahas the support of sitting County Commissioner Jerry Willey, who has given her campaign $2,500; and former Commissioner Dick Schouten, who gave Pace's campaign $250, on top of the $550 given to Pace's campaign by his wife, Sheri Schouten, who currently represents House District 27 in the Oregon House of Representatives.
Those who have dropped their support of Harrington and have been interviewed by Pamplin Media all cite the same reasoning: concern over reports that Harrington mistreated county staff and fellow elected officials, and how Harrington has responded to those reports.
"I am supporting Beach because of the previous documented actions of the current chair," Willey said. "We cannot allow workplace harassment nor having bad relationships with other electeds."
Schouten said he supports Pace, but it falls to the challenger to prove to voters that she will be a better chair than Harrington.
"She just has to campaign hard," Schouten said. "It's never easy to beat a sitting incumbent. I think these stories having laid out … a real problem, I think voters will have a choice to I think pick someone who might bring the same policy chops that (Harrington) has. And as far as I can tell, (Pace) is a hard worker as well, but who can work well with others."
Pace's largest contribution comes from Schnitzer Properties, a Portland-based commercial real estate firm, which gave Pace $20,000 on April 18. Pace also secured a $20,000 donation from the Portland Business Alliance PAC, which she says she lobbied for.
"I earned the support from PBA through conversations with their members and board about the positive leadership change I want to bring, the viability of my campaign and my willingness to be a collaborative leader if elected," she said.
Pace has also received $7,000 from the Washington County Police Officers Association, $5,000 from the NAOIP — another real estate development organization — and a collective $10,000 from the Washington County Chamber PAC. Fuiten West LP, operator of a private ambulance service, has also given Pace $7,500.
"Not everyone is in a position to donate to a campaign and, I say this with emphasis: opinions of people who have not donated matter just as much, if not more," Pace said. "I am building relationships on the doors canvassing, during meet-and-greets I've been holding around the county on Saturday mornings, and by attending various events. The folks I have met in these spaces inform my understanding of the needs of our community and which issues truly matter."
While Harrington touts the support of the Washington County Democratic Party, a rift has formed among party members over its endorsement of Harrington — issued weeks before the results of the county's investigation were made public.
During a meeting of party precinct committee persons on April 27, state Sen. Janeen Sollman of Hillsboro signaled her intention to bring a motion forward to rescind the party's endorsement of Harrington and Washington County Auditor John Hutzler, who also faces allegations of creating a poor workplace environment for county employees.
However, the vote to add that motion to the agenda failed, with 58 voting against altering the night's agenda and 54 voting to allow Sollman's motion — which would have required a two-thirds majority in order to rescind the party's endorsement.
Sollman has given $250 to Harrington's opponent, Pace, during this election cycle.
The following morning, at a campaign event hosted by the Westside Economic Alliance in Tigard, asked to talk about a mistake she had made as county chair, Harrington said she regretted not naming education lobbyist Lamar Wise to the Senate seat to which commissioners voted 4-1 in January to appoint Sollman. She declined to answer a question from Pamplin Media Group about whether that was a jab at Sollman.
One of Sollman's Democratic colleagues, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward of Portland, said on Twitter Tuesday, May 4, that she was pulling her support of both Harrington and Hutzler.
"With a heavy heart I have withdrawn my endorsements for Washington County Commission Chair Kathryn Harrington (and) Auditor John Hutzler's re-election bids," Steiner Hayward tweeted. "The reports on their harassment and mistreatment of employees are credible. Such behavior is unacceptable in any context."
With a heavy heart I have withdrawn my endorsements for Washington County Commission Chair Kathryn Harrington's & Auditor John Hutzler's re-election bids. The reports on their harassment and mistreatment of employees are credible. Such behavior is unacceptable in any context.— Sen. Steiner Hayward (@ESHforOregon) May 3, 2022
Other money has been taken off the table with respect to Harrington's re-election campaign compared to her first election for chair in 2018.
In the year she was first elected to serve as chair, she received $2,500 from the finance committee of Tom Hughes, a former Hillsboro mayor and Metro Council president. This year, Hughes has endorsed Pace over Harrington.
Pace said she thinks the news surrounding Harrington has led to a recent surge of money to her campaign.
"Yes, I have seen an influx of support and I think that is evidence of people who believe in my leadership combined with the timing of ballots dropping and the news coverage," Pace said in an email. "There is a sense of urgency because I am a great candidate with vast leadership experience and Election Day is rapidly approaching."
Tuesday, May 17, is when ballots are due. They must be postmarked or dropped off at an official ballot drop site before 8 p.m. that day.
If either candidate for chair receives a majority of votes — probable but not certain in a two-way race, since write-in votes count toward the vote total — she will be elected to a four-year term that begins January 2023. If both finish below 50% of the vote, they will face off again in a decisive November election.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.