A long-term 24th Legislative District lawmaker is winning one campaign funding race but losing another to his Republican opponent as the Nov. 3 general election approaches the finish line.
Port Townsend Democrat Steve Tharinger has more $2,000 donors but fewer individual contributors than Carlsborg Republican Brian Pruiett, according to the latest state Public Disclosure Commission filings by both candidates as of Monday, the last reporting date.
The 24th Legislative District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and half of Grays Harbor County, with Clallam and Jefferson counties comprising more than 79,000 of the district’s 108,000 voters.
Tharinger outpolled Pruiett and two other candidates in the Aug. 4 primary with 46 percent of the vote districtwide to Pruiett’s 27 percent.
The five-term incumbent and Democrat Darren Corcoran had 55 percent of the vote districtwide to Pruiett’s and Republican Jodi Wilke’s 45 percent. Wilke withdrew from the race two weeks before the primary.
A former Clallam County commissioner, Tharinger also has more money on hand but has spent less in seeking re-election than Pruiett, who has $72,419 in contributions compared with Tharinger’s $150,223.
Tharinger’s war chest includes a $29,484 starting balance that he’s added to since filing for re-election with the PDC on Jan. 11, 2019.
Pruiett, who filed with the PDC on April 2, had the largest single contribution of any of six 24th Legislative District candidates in the election, a $28,117 in-kind donation from the Washington State Republican Party, which spent $3,333 on Pruiett canvassers and paid for mailers.
Pruiett also donated $3,520 to his campaign and has $1,372 in loans.
He had 24 contributors from Clallam and Jefferson counties who donated between $200 and $1,000, compared with three in that category for Tharinger, who had 25 donors give him $2,000 each, including the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
Pruiett had two other such donors who gave him more than $2,000 — the House Republican Organizational Committee and the Jefferson County Republican Central Committee.
The bulk of contributions of $200 to $1,000 to Pruiett’s campaign were from Clallam County, including one $1,000 contribution, from James Barbarus of Sequim.
Pruiett’s advantage over Tharinger in volume of 24th Legislative District contributions “is definitely an affirmation that people want change,” Pruiett said Tuesday.
Pruiett has concentrated on radio advertising, spending $18,000 with radio stations districtwide and nothing on newspaper or TV ads.
He reflected on his first run for political office while taking a quick break from doorbelling at nearly 2,000 addresses this election season.
Residents have said over and over again that “they want Steve gone,” Pruiett said.
“Look at some of the individual contributions, the $10 and $25, that’s your sign right there.”
Tharinger has spent $34,436, largely to his treasurer and for five joint mailers with his fellow 24th Legislative District Democrats, state Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles and state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim, both of whom are in contested races.
Those expenditures do not include $70,000 counted as campaign costs that Tharinger transferred from contributions to a surplus account. He can draw funds from the account for political organizations and nonprofit organizations, but not individuals.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to not do more promotion,” Tharinger said, adding he has the name recognition that Pruiett does not.
“It was just a kind of not taking advantage of the opportunity,” he said.
Tharinger pointed to what he said was a diversity of contributors, including the health care and construction industries and labor groups, adding it “speaks to the balance and open-door policy I have as a legislator.”
Tharinger said he had enough money, anyway, to run a campaign, adding there’s an “industry” that has been built up around campaigns and elections.
“I didn’t feel that it made sense to send out a fundraising letter so people could choose to spend their money elsewhere or choose not to send it into the campaign and election industrial complex,” he said.
“We’ll see on Tuesday whether it was a mistake or not, that maybe I should have been more thorough with my advertising.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].