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Challenger Decker has the backing of a local philanthropist. Incumbent Barton raised funds within his own office.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton, right, and challenger Brian Decker, left, met at a debate last month in Hillsboro.Nearly $1 million has poured into the race for the top job at the Washington County District Attorney's Office, public campaign finance records show.

By April 30, incumbent Kevin Barton had received over $430,000 while challenger Brian Decker had received over $490,000, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Big money

Both Barton and Decker have hauled in six-figure contributions from wealthy Oregonians.

In December, the multibillionaire co-founder of Nike Inc., Phil Knight, gave Barton $100,000.

"I am very grateful for the significant financial support once again from Mr. and Mrs. Knight, two of Washington County's most well-known residents," Barton said. "While I am not in a position to speak for the Knights, I do appreciate their support."

Knight could not be reached for comment through his charitable foundation nor Nike offices.

Barton also touted the support of chief executives and founders of Columbia Sportswear, Reser's Fine Foods, Beaverton Foods and the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The Decker campaign faced a deficit in fundraising until philanthropist Aaron Boonshoft donated $225,000 in April. Boonshoft, whose source of wealth is not public, initially sponsored a ballot initiative to extend labor rights and protections to sex workers and decriminalize the business that was set to appear on the ballot in May. The measure was pulled from contention in January.

"I was inspired to get involved in Brian Decker's campaign when I heard the story about the women assaulted at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, and the current District Attorney didn't prosecute. I've donated money and been volunteering my time to the campaign. I'm a human rights advocate and I believe that all people should have access to health, safety and justice," Boonshoft said through Portland-based public relations firm Strategies 360.

Boonshoft was referring to a case in federal court that Barton's office declined to prosecute in mid-2018.

Boonshoft also gave $50,000 in the Marion County district attorney's race, where a progressive challenger is also looking to unseat an incumbent career prosecutor.

Decker has also drawn $37,500 from former state senator and representative Chip Shields, a Democrat who represented Southeast Portland from 2005 to 2016.

The Barton campaign also hauled in $33,000 from six local police unions — Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, as well as the Washington County Police Officers Association. The Beaverton teachers' union gave Decker $2,500.

Supporting cast

Mehta is the only full-time staff member on the Decker campaign, which includes two part-time staff and 10 volunteers who have been giving more than 15 hours per week, Mehta said.

In addition, Mehta said 250 volunteers have helped canvas and knock on some 15,000 doors, while 50 volunteers from Indivisible Cedar Mill and Hillsboro have sent 9,000 postcards. Decker has had over 748 individual donors, and Mehta said over two-thirds are county residents.

There are about 385,000 registered voters in Washington County.

Barton has at least 660 contributors. A number of them work in his office.

When the Pamplin Media Group contacted District Attorney's Office spokesperson Stephen Mayer to ask where to direct campaign questions, deputy district attorney Bracken McKey called and provided his personal email address. Barton then responded to the questions from his own personal email.

"My campaign spokesperson is me, so I'll address them individually here in this response," Barton told Pamplin Media Group. "No DA's Office personnel are employees of the campaign, but several are volunteering in their personal time along with their family members."

Barton has received campaign contributions from at least nine deputy district attorneys, who gave at least $1,000 each, including $2,500 from McKey and $5,000 from chief deputy district attorney Jeff Lesowski, for a total of $20,500.

Lesowski and several other deputy DAs have also submitted op-ed pieces to Pamplin Media Group in support of Barton. State law prohibits public employees from working to promote or oppose election petitions, candidates, political committee or ballot measures while on the job. Also, elected officials are forbidden from requiring public employees to do so.

"DA's Office personnel have the same right to participate in political activities in their personal time as any other community member," Barton said.

Both candidates finished April with about $250,000 still to spend.

So far, Decker has spent over $90,000 on Elevated Campaigns, a consulting firm that helped challenger and West Linn Democrat Rachel Prusak unseat Republican Julie Parrish in House District 37 in 2018.

For advertising, Barton has paid over $110,000 to PIP Communication LLC, which is owned by Julie Parrish's husband, Mark Parrish.

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