PORT TOWNSEND — Two Democratic Party activists who travel in similar political lanes employed different strategies in seeking an open seat on the Port Townsend City Council.
Libby Urner Wennstrom, Jefferson County Democrats vice chair, and Tyler Myles Vega, a Bernie Sanders supporter endorsed by Jefferson County Progressives, spent roughly the same amount in vying for the nonpartisan Position 5 seat vacated by Pamela Adams, who did not seek reelection.
Vega and Wennstrom are joining Ben Thomas and Cameron Jones, who are running for Mayor Michelle Sandoval’s Position 1 seat, on a general election mail-in ballot that must be postmarked by Tuesday. Sandoval did not seek reelection.
Thomas said the atmosphere was more collegial than competitive at the outset of the election, with all four meeting to discuss the races. And Wennstrom, from whom he sought advice, contributed $100 to Thomas’ campaign.
“Libby was sharing information with Tyler, and Tyler was sharing information with Libby,” Thomas said.
“That was more early on. I would say that’s gotten a little more heated, but it’s respectful, I think.”
Wennstrom and Vega generated just under the $5,000 limit for campaign contributions. Going over it requires regular reporting of donations and expenditures to the state Public Disclosure Commission (pdc.wa.gov).
Wennstrom raised $4,696, including $1,263 in in-kind contributions $2,933 in cash contributions and $500 of her own loaned funds, according to PDC reports she filed anyway.
“I chose to partly because I feel like the transparency is pretty important,” she said.
Vega generated $4,035, with no in-kind donations and four contributions of $500 each, he said Friday.
Wennstrom was fairly certain she would not exceed the $5,000 threshold unless the contest became heated, she said Friday.
“I’m glad neither of us felt we had to spend a fortune on this,” she said.
While Vega said his single biggest expenditure was a mailer, Wennstrom’s was newspaper advertising followed by the purchase of 100 yard signs — 30 of which Wennstrom said were stolen. Facebook made political advertising off-limits during the general election but not the primary, she added.
The four council positions are nonpartisan but the contest is not without monetary political-party ties.
Wennstrom counts Jefferson County Democrats as her largest contributor. It gave her a $500 cash donation and a $480 in-kind contribution consisting of a quarter-page endorsement newspaper advertisement.
Wennstrom said she recused herself from the organization’s votes on donations to her campaign.
She also gave her campaign a $408 in-kind contribution.
Wennstrom (libby4council.com) received an $81 in-kind contribution from Washington State Democrats and $75 from Jefferson County Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour, a Democrat.
She received a $255 in-kind contribution from Andrews Business Consulting, Port Townsend; $100: Democratic 24th District state Rep. Steve Tharinger, Jane Armstrong, Phyllis Camfield, Kirk Albright, Jonathan Langdon, Patricia Vaughan, Grace Dumenil, Martha Trolin, Deborah Stinson, Port Townsend, and Steven McGready, Portland.
Of her cash contributions, 59 percent were from the city of Port Townsend, 33 percent were from Jefferson County, 4 percent were from elsewhere in Washington (two from Seattle and one from Sequim), and 1 percent were from out of state donors who are two old friends, she said in an email.
Her campaign has had 52 individual donors.
Wennstrom’s $3,903 in expenditures include magnetic car signs, digital and newspaper advertising, rack cards, campaign buttons, business cards, $635 for 100 yards signs and $127 for appetizers for an Aug. 3 primary-election-night party. She and her supporters celebrated outdistancing with 27 percent of the vote her two rivals, Vega and Sky Hardesty-Thompson.
Vega’s 37 contributors included $500 each from Debbie Jhanke, Rick Jhanke, Janet and Larry Zimmerman, and Brenda McMillan, Port Townsend; and $100: Christian Lint, Sacramento, Calif.; Otto Smith, Cynthia Koan, Port Townsend; Elizabeth Carlson, Syd Locke, Olympia; Heather Wilcox, Port Angeles; Emily Saling, Hansville.
Vega said Friday he “leveraged” a July 30 Peninsula Daily News article on the Aug. 3 primary, “Wennstrom outpaces fellow Democrat,” that focused on campaign funding and which immediately generated $1,600 for his campaign.
Vega hand-painted 20 yard signs and put together his own campaign website (tylervega.com) but spent $2,500 on a mailer.
“The idea is we wanted to make sure every single person in town had a chance to engage, and see who I am, and the only way to do that was to mail one thing to every door,” Vega said.
“It was the best way to get to everyone, our one shot to say hello to every person in town.”
Wennstrom went in a different direction.
“I took a more broad-based approach, a more community involvement approach,” she said.
It included reaching out to voters with small events and planting dozens of campaign signs.
“I think that will bear more fruit that a single mailer,” Wennstrom said.
As of Friday, both candidates were fairly certain of the outcome of the general election.
“The primary results were pretty conclusive,” Wennstrom said. “It don’t know if they’ll be exactly the same, but I’m confident they’ll be similar.
Vega’s chances of overtaking Wennstrom “are relatively slim,” Vega said.
He gained 22.5 percent of the vote Aug. 3.
“The primary numbers were pretty telling,” Vega said. “By far, the more likely outcome is, she will win and I will not.”
In the other city council general election race, Thomas said he raised $3,330, of which $1,580 was his own funding.
Thomas’ other contributions of $100 or more were $500: James and Sarah Patton, Port Townsend; $200, Rebecca Kimball, Port Townsend; $150: Geoff Masci, Scott Walker, Port Townsend; $100, Stephen Webber, Forest Grove, Ore.; Timothy Cunningham, Florence, S.C.; Nannette Eaton, Escondido, Calif; Robert Friedman, Port Townsend.
Thomas said his main expenditures were a mailer that cost $3,085 and 20 yard signs that cost $245.
Thomas said he and Cameron Jones represent the same voters.
“Neither Cameron [nor] I are polar opposites on any particular issues,” Thomas said.
Jones could not be reached for comment on his campaign fundraising efforts.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected]