A sharp contrast in general election campaign spending highlights Democratic state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege’s efforts to retain his seat and Republican challenger Connie Beauvais’ TV-ad-fueled drive to replace him on Nov. 3.
As of Friday, Beauvais had outspent the one-term incumbent and former five-term House member, $82,238 to $53,867 in 2020 as their campaigns approach Election Day on Nov. 3.
Ballots mailed out to 108,000 voters district-wide Oct. 14 are due in drop boxes or county auditor’s offices by 8 p.m. Nov. 3.
The district includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and half of Grays Harbor County, with Clallam and Jefferson voters comprising 73 percent of the district’s electorate.
Beauvais, a Port of Port Angeles commissioner and manager of the Joyce-area Crescent Water Association, has generated $96,343 in contributions, less than half of what Van De Wege, a lieutenant with Clallam County Fire District 3, has generated over four years since he was first elected.
The Joyce resident announced her candidacy in January, a week after being sworn in for a second term as port commissioner, a position she would resign if elected.
Her expenditures have included $16,600 on a cadre of doorbell ringers hired by Vanguard Strategies of Austin, Texas, who canvased the district before the Aug. 4 primary to get a head start on the general election.
“They were paid to knock on 10,000 doors,” she said Friday.
They wore — and Beauvais wears — a health mask when doorbelling, standing 8 feet away from residents, Beauvais said.
Van De Wege outpolled her 55 percent-45 percent in the primary, winning Clallam County with 51 percent and losing Grays Harbor but winning Jefferson County 71 percent-29 percent.
Beauvais also is blanketing the district with 29-second “Where’s Kevin?” TV ads featuring Van De Wege on a milk carton, like a missing child.
The TV ads, produced by a branch of the New York media giant Comcast, reflect a consistent theme, along with the standard GOP message of less taxes, that Beauvais has pounded on since early summer in mailers and, currently in in the ads on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, The Weather Channel and Dish TV.
“I’m Connie Beauvais. I’ve been talking to a lot of struggling residents, and the most common question I get, is where’s Kevin? Where’s Kevin?” Beauvais says in introducing the TV spot.
The refrain is repeated by a small group of volunteers, including two children, who throw up their hands while shouting out the question on Port Angeles City Pier.
“As I’ve gone out and talked to people, they say, ‘So who is the senator?’ or ‘Who is Kevin?’ No one’s ever seen him. That’s the crux of the whole thing,” she said.
“He’s not out and about during the session or out of session, going around to different communities and talking to people and service organizations like I have done as a port commissioner, Beauvais said.
“That’s a very important part of being an elected, is putting broken links together. To know where the links are broken, you need to know where everyone is in terms of where the needs are.”
As of last Monday, she had spent $10,320 for the TV ads and will show an additional expenditure of $10,000 when she files her next statement this Monday, she said.
Van De Wege said Beauvais is being “dishonest” by depicting him as a lawmaker out of touch with the district.
It’s true he has not gone door-to-door seeking votes, unlike his opponent, who vowed to doorbell until Election Day.
“We are in a pandemic,” he explained Friday in a text message.
Van De Wege said in an interview that he freely gives out his cellphone number, participates in Zoom meetings with constituents, and comes face to face with issues affecting the district every day through his job.
He said he has not seen the “Where’s Kevin” ad but has heard about it.
“She’s attacking me for being a firefighter and working for the public,” Van De Wege said.
“The founding fathers intended the Legislature to be part-time and for you to return to your family and work at home out of session.
“I’m not doing this job for the pay, I’m doing this job because I care deeply about the district.”
Beauvais said she would quit her position as port commissioner with three years remaining and her job at the water association, where she would work as a consultant for fewer than five hours a week.
“I believe we need a full-time senator,” she said.
It’s not that Van De Wege does not have a war chest to compete with Beauvais on the spending front.
The full-time Sequim firefighter-paramedic has amassed $222,964 over nearly four years preparing for re-election to the four-year 24th District position since registering for the election with the state Public Disclosure Commission Jan. 11, 2017.
He has relied so far this year on a standard fare of newspaper and radio ads combined with mailers targeted toward Election Day.
“We are going to spend a lot of money and continue to spend a lot of money,” he said Friday in an interview, not revealing his plans with 11 days to go until Election Day.
Van De Wege registered to run for the position with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Jan. 11, 2017, two months after he won the seat.
His largest single expenditure since then, not including $90,903 in transfers to his surplus account, was a Sept. 21 reimbursement of $7,228 for newspaper advertising he purchased.
Van De Wege reported $53,867 in 2020 expenditures as of Monday, the weekly financial reporting date for candidates.
The state Senate position pays $56,881 a year.
As a fire district supervisor with 20 years experience, he earned about $130,000 in 2019, he said Friday.
He participated in one campaign forum by cellphone, from his car.
Van De Wege and his wife, Jennifer, principal at Roosevelt Elementary School in Port Angeles, have a high-school-age son and college-age daughter.
Their son and daughter have accounted for $10,208 in campaign expenditures for payroll and taxes from May, just after the filing period for the position with the state Secretary of States Office, through Sept. 29.
The Legislature holds 105-day and 60-day sessions in alternating years. Van De Wege chairs the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks committee and is on the Health and Long Term Care Committee and Ways and Means Committee.
Van De Wege’s biggest contributor since he first filed with the PDC is Weyerhauser of Federal Way, which gave him $2,500.
Twenty-eight contributions of $2,000 each include two $1,000 contributions from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe of Sequim, and $1,000 contributions from Pfizer Inc. of Memphis, Tenn., and Anheuser Busch Companies of New York.
Of 101 contributors who donated $1,000 or more each, the Jamestown Tribe was the only one from Clallam or Jefferson counties.
Van De Wege said he has glanced at Beauvais’ expenditures and said her contributions are heavily weighted to Republican Party organizations.
Of Beauvais’ $96,343 contribution total as of last Monday, $21,809 was from the Washington State Republican Party and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, which has been heavily involved in campaign strategy.
“Doing something this big can be a little daunting for a person to go out and get a handle around,” Beauvais said.
“You really need to have a campaign team with some experience there.”
She said she had far more contributions from the 24th District as a percentage of her total number of contributors than Van De Wege.
“Mine are from all over, from McCleary and Ocean Shores, Forks, Port Townsend, all over,” Beauvais said.
Her largest contributions include $1,500 from former state Rep. Jim Buck, defeated by Van De Wege in 2006 for Van De Wege’s first House term.
Forks-area Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach donated $2,000 to her campaign.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].