Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma thinks so.
Baarsma, (who, by the way, is endorsing Rojecki’s opponent, Victoria Woodards), just told me he thinks the $15,000 independent expenditure to Rojecki’s at-large bid for city council that I reported earlier today is the single largest donation he has seen in any municipal race going back decades.
“That’s huge,” Baarsma said of the donation. “That’s never happened before. Ever.”
(I’ve looked through online PDC reports going back over the past several years, and so far haven’t found anything to dispute Baarsma’s thinking.)
Baarsma, a former political science professor and Tacoma history wonk, said the biggest previous donation in any city race he can think of was dropped into the coffers of his opponent, Harold Moss, in the waning days of the 2001 mayor’s contest.
George Russell donated $5,000 to Moss, who, in turn, put out what Baarsma called a direct-mail “hit piece” against him featuring a cartoon rendering of Baarsma.
“It came out right around Halloween. We called it the `Halloween scare piece’,” Baarsma said. “It kind of back-fired on Harold, who people think of as a very nice, personable individual. So this was out of his character. He later apologized to me for doing it and told me he regretted it.”
The donation to Rojecki came in the form of an independent expenditure TV ad buy made October 20 by a PAC for the Washington State Council of County and City Public Employees. Cody Arledge, legislative director for the Sheet Metal Union Local 66, said his union, as well as the SEIU Local 775 and state and local (Tacoma and Kent) firefighters unions actually funded the ad.
The TV spot has recently aired locally during cable network broadcasts on MSNBC and ESPN. I’m working to get a video link to the ad from Arledge, and will post it when I do.
Rojecki told me earlier today that he didn’t know the ad was coming. Campaign records show he’s received other direct cash donations from the labor unions associated with the independent expenditure.
The Washington State Council of County and City Public Employees has given Rojecki’s campaign two $1,000 donations. The Sheet Metal Union Local 66 previously gave Rojecki $1,000; and SEIU Local 775 gave him $750. The Washington State Council of Firefighters, and local firefighters unions unions and their PACs also have donated heavily to Rojecki’s campaign.
If the $15,000 independent expenditure is, in fact, the largest campaign contribution in city elections history, “I’d be surprised to hear that,” said Arledge. “But I really haven’t thought about it.”
Baarsma feels fairly certain the donation is unique. “Independent expenditure or otherwise, this is the biggest single donation I’ve ever heard in a city council race, or any city race. By far.”