With four weeks left before the primary election, here’s a little bit of analysis on the four contested races. As usual, it’s a contest between reality and perceptions. In the County Exec race, the perceptions may be running differently than reality. If you were to ask who the strongest candidates are, most people would not list Jack Louwes and David Stalheim as the strongest two. It may be that this is the case.
A week ago, a small group of the politically obsessed denizens and hangers on at Northwest Citizen got together for an evening. As I’ve occasionally done in the past, I circulated a list the primary candidates and asked people to pick who they thought would finish first in each of the races. The results were remarkably in agreement. Of the eleven submissions, nine or more thought Doug Ericksen, Bill Elfo, Dan Pike, and Gary Jensen would be the top vote getters on August 16.
This is unusual because of the high degree of consensus. Usually there’s more difference of opinion in what people think is going on. It’s possible, in a small group of self-styled experts such as ourselves, we just talked each other into it. I suspect, however, that these expectations are mostly due to the normal effect of incumbency on elections. Re-election campaigns are frequently boring because the voters are usually content to plod along behind whoever is currently filling a position.
After a phone call from one of our more savvy elections observers, I logged into the Washington Public Disclosure web site to look at fundraising activity. My caller suggested that Doug Ericksen’s campaign was not generating the sort of money one would expect from all the attention he’s been getting.
You can check the reports yourself on the web. Pro tip: the locality column in the PDC database will begin with “Whatcom” or “City of” for the primary races.
The surprise of this season is that Doug Ericksen hasn’t raised any real money for this primary campaign. David Stalheim has sent out a fundraising letter to selected areas. Stalheim’s letter claims that Ericksen has $50,000 for the primary race. This is one of those things that might be true, but isn’t really the case.
Ericksen has a $50,000 surplus account from his previous legislative campaigns. Of this war chest, Ericksen transferred $10,000 into his County Exec race. In terms of actual fundraising, he’s been a slouch -- collecting only $1,123.45 in cash contributions from nine donors.
The leader in fundraising in the Exec race is David Stalheim. He’s raised a total of $16,026.00 with $15,485.00 from 115 cash contributors. Jack Louws has $15,146.83 with $13,170.00 from 50 cash contributors. Tom Anderson trails with $6,212.00, $4,975.00 from 39 cash contributors. The upshot is that it looks like Ericksen is resting on his laurels while trying to coast to victory on name recognition.
Just dollars alone don’t tell the story. This is why I’ve emphasized the number of contributors and cash contribution numbers. The number of contributors is often a very good indicator of the amount of campaign activity and the depth of support. Likewise, the cash contributions category tells more of the story than the total raised. This is because the total can include large chunks of money put up by the candidate himself, as is the case in Doug Ericksen’s campaign.
Also, looking at the donors list of individual contributions gives a picture of base the campaign is drawing on. In Louwes’ campaign, the contributors are coming from all over Whatcom County. This puts the lie to some of the whispering that Jack lacks support outside of Lynden. He’s been active in countywide issues and that activity shows in where his money is coming from.
In contrast, David Stalheim is raising his money from the Bellingham zip codes. Contributions from 98225 make up about a third of his total. The majority of his donors come from the three Bellingham area zip codes, 98225, 98226, and 98229.
Tom Anderson has a respectable number of contributors totalling 39. His money is almost entirely from the southern part of the county. To put things in perspective, Anderson has roughly four times the contributors and cash contributions compared to Doug Ericksen.
I’ll have more to say about the primary races later. But for now, the interesting anomaly is Doug Ericksen’s expensive Potemkin village.