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Kitsap races see wide disparity in financing

In general, Dems much better funded.

While two of this year’s countywide election races have evenly matched resources, the remaining two contests show a significant financial disparity between the respective candidates.

According to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, South Kitsap Commissioner candidate Charlotte Garrido has raised $50,041, compared to her opponent Tim Matthes, who has raised $39,043.

In the auditor’s race, Walter E. Washington has raised $17,184 compared to John Clark’s $13,332.

While there is a perceptible advantage in these races, the difference does not compare to that for the North Kitsap commissioner and Superior Court Judge contests.

In the former, incumbent Steve Bauer has outpaced Sandra LaCelle, $73,266 to $13,189. And judge candidate Bruce Danielson’s war chest of $20,058 amounts to only about 20 percent of Jeanette Dalton’s $96,882.

In all cases, the Democratic candidate has outraised the Republican. While the judge’s race is labeled as nonpartisan, support has clearly aligned itself along party lines, with Dalton raising money from known Democrats and Danielson getting contributions from the Republican party base.

Party members often spin their own viewpoints, using data to support their own point of view. Democrats say Bauer has outraised LaCelle only because he began taking contributions one year ago while LaCelle declared her candidacy at the last possible minute.

And Republicans claim they can still win underfunded races, as long as the candidates are able to personally connect with the voters.

Still, there is anecdotal support that the winner is not always the one who spends the most, raising the possibility that Danielson or LaCelle could actually prevail.

Consider how Jack Hamilton outspent Josh Brown in the 2006 Central Kitsap commissioner race $127,140 to $86,994, but Brown handily won the election.

“Just because you raise more money, it doesn’t mean that you will be successful,” said Hamilton, who is now the Kitsap County Republican Chairman. “The core issue in any election is individual voter contact. If you can get out there and meet enough people and get your message across, you can win.”

Dalton disagrees, in the sense that Kitsap is no longer a small region where one candidate can take a few months to meet everybody.

Additionally, she said her spending levels are in line with judicial races in other parts of the state.

“The goal of a campaign is to get information about the candidate’s qualifications out tot he voters so they can make an informed decision,” Dalton wrote in an e-mail message. “I prefer direct contact, but with over 137,000 registered voters in Kitsap County it’s impossible to have a conversation with each person.”

Dalton said her campaign is using signs, mailings and advertisements in different media. “This is where it costs money to get the information out.” she wrote.

Danielson has run his campaign on a shoestring, collecting small donations and limiting his mailings and signs. Still, he may have shot off his own fundraising foot in a sense by refusing to accept contributions from attorneys.

To do so, he said, would compromise his ability to rule objectively, as lawyers who contributed to his campaign would be appearing before him.

Dalton and attorney Greg Wall, who was defeated in the primary, both received substantial attorney donations.

Dalton has said repeatedly that she does not know exactly who has contributed to her campaign, and would not know if an attorney who contributed to her campaign were to appear before her in court.

Danielson does not believe candidates can successfully insulate themselves from this information, which has reinforced his resolve to not accept money from attorneys.

His opponents have criticized this as disingenuous, saying that local attorneys, who are better acquainted with Wall and Dalton, would not support Danielson in the first place.

Kitsap County Democratic Chairman Carl Olson acknowledges his party’s advantage, saying that in some cases a fund disparity represents candidate strength.

Still, he isn’t wild about the current structure, saying, “I’m part of this system, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.”

Olson favors the establishment of public financing, where candidates would not be involved in fundraising and would have certain services — such as advertising and air time — available to them at no charge.

“We need to go beyond what is available today,” he said, “and make the vote more reflective of what the public prefers rather than how much money can be raised.”

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