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Money piles up for political campaigns

Money is key when you are running for political office. Local politicians are beginning to marshall that resource for the November election.

Reports from the Washington state Public Disclosure Office indicate that Islander Thomas Pugh has contributed $5,000 to Ira Appelman’s run for a City Council seat against incumbent Dan Grausz. As a result, the amount of money collected to date by Appelman has reached over $7,000, while Grausz has contributions of just over $2,000 to date.

The contribution by Pugh is in sharp contrast to the usual amounts given to local campaigns — contributions in the amount of $100 and $50 from individuals.

As of last Friday, candidates for the King County Executive position have raised a total of nearly $1.3 million for the position which pays a salary of $180,000. The amounts range from just over $200 by Lobdel to $404,684 for interim executive Larry Phillips. Sen. Fred Jarrett has $97,000 to date while his opponents, Dow Constantine, Hunter and Susan Hutchison have brought in $307,000, $227,000 and 254,000, respectively, for their campaigns. Of the expenditures reported to date to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, Phillips has spent the most — just over $136,000. (There is often a lag of several days between when a contribution is made and it is reported to the PDC.)

The money raised by the candidates running for King County Executive seems, however, to be more in line with the need to contact hundreds of thousands of voters. Candidates for office here must reach only a few thousand voters. Mercer Island City Councilmen are paid just $200 per meeting ($400 for the mayor).

During the hotly contested Mercer Island City Council races in 2007, a good deal of money had been collected by July. Builder Jon Friedman had already raised about $5,000 in his bid for office. That year, Maureen Judge, who ran for Position 3, had nearly $11,000 in contributions. Councilmember Steve Litzow, who ran unopposed in Position 1, reported $17,500 in contributions. Litzow later ran unsuccessfully for State Representative against Marcie Maxwell.

In 2005, the winners were not always the biggest spenders. Mike Grady defeated Brenda Finkenbinder but raised and spent $8,000 less, not even half of his opponent’s totals. Jim Pearman also defeated his challenger, Bob Baker, in 2005 with fewer dollars. Pearman only spent $2,430 compared to Baker’s $10,975.

In 2005, the contributions for six candidates reached $64,403.85 while they spent a total of $52,623.88. Grausz and his challenger, Lisa Belden-O’Meara, both spent about $12,000. On average, each candidate earned and spent about $10,000.

Ballots are to be mailed to King County residents beginning today through Friday, July 31. For information on ballots and voting, go to www.kingcounty.gov/elections/voting or call (206) 296-VOTE (8683).

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