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The most expensive Tacoma mayor’s race in history*

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Nov. 2, 2009 at 1:35 pm with 9 Comments »
November 3, 2009 1:59 pm

(*At least according to readily available campaign finance records.)

pdc_logoThe latest campaign contribution filings by Tacoma mayoral candidates Marilyn Strickland and Jim Merritt show that collectively, the candidates have broken the $290,000 mark heading into Election Day.

Specifically, Strickland has garnered $146,237.38 ($118k in cash, $99k spent) to Merritt’s $144,250.96 ($118k cash, $126k spent).

The figures could mean that this is the most expensive Tacoma mayoral race in city history.Money bags

I say “could” because campaign finance records on the Public Disclosure Commission‘s Web site only go back to 2001.  Detailed campaign contribution reports of any race prior to that consist of paper records that are archived by the Olympia-based commission.

With still more reports to be filed, the cumulative totals for Strickland-Merritt in this year’s contest have smashed those for the last competitive mayor’s race in 2001. That year, Bill Baarsma and his opponent, Harold Moss, collectively brought in about $258, ooo ($142k for Baarsma, $116k for Moss).

In a recent conversation I had with Baarsma, he told me the campaign money in this year’s mayor’s race doesn’t surprise him. But Baarsma added the respective figures for either Merritt or Strickland may actually not be the highest collected by an individual Tacoma mayoral candidate.

MerrittBaarsma recalled Karen Vialle raised about $200,000 during her campaign for mayor in 1993 — a contest she lost to Jack Hyde (who, Baarsa estimated, took in only about $80,000).  But when added together, Baarsma said, Merritt and Strickland’s totals probably will surpass the Vialle-Hyde totals.MarilynStricklandLargeWeb

I’ve put in an email and phone call to the PDC, requesting the Vialle-Hyde totals.  I’ll update this post if/when I get them.

UPDATE: Jon Ammons of the PDC writes in an email: “… as we generally only keep `readily available’ records in-office for a period of ten years, you will need to contact the Washington State Archives for older campaign finance reports.”

UPDATE #2: I spoke with former Mayor Karen Vialle on Tuesday, who disputed Baarsma’s recollection of her campaign finance totals in the 1993 race.

Vialle said she raised only about $149,000 against Hyde that year. In fact, Vialle said, she raised more during her campaign for mayor in 1989 — when she brought in roughly $154,000, she said. The same year, her opponent, former City Councilman Tim Strege, raised in the $135,000 to $140,000 range, she said.

“If you add those up and put them in 2009 figures, it probably was the most expensive (mayor’s) race,” she said of the 1989 contest.

She noted that with seven people in the 1989 primary election, both candidates who survived on into the general election were forced to raise more money than usual during the campaign. Still, it was nowhere near the $200,000 mark, Vialle said.

“Not even close,” she said. “Bill has a habit of hyperbole. But even I don’t know where he pulled that number out from.”

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. GoingRogue says:

    Can anyone tell me which candidate supported the smoking ban in Tacoma parks? Hopefully one was reasonable and understood that this was a silly law. I’m voting for the one that didn’t vote for that or supported it. If they both did, god help us all!

  2. That would be Strickland. She is on the council, Merritt is not. She voted for the smoking ban in the parks.

    I myself think it is silly too–there is no way something like that can be enforced anyway, and i am not a fan of smoking

  3. denniscontent says:

    I notcied that Ms. Strickland mentioned she would attract private investors to Tacoma. As she has been on the City Council for about one-and-one-half years, why didn’t she do something to keep Russel Investments here. After all, think about all of those investors that use Russell that are now investing through Russell in another city. Just a thought.

  4. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Jim Merrit is fighting the local socialist democrat political cronies that currently have a grip on Tacoma – – that is a commendable, although expensive, undertaking!!!!

  5. norse1943 says:

    Vialle/Strege raised more than Vialle/Hyde. Baarsma needs to get his facts right.

  6. I beg of you all to vote and not to vote for either member already on the Tacoma City Council. They and the rest of the council have done NOTHING for the city of Tacoma. Think about it……….people complain about the shot roads, heck, the city cannot paint the streets with the proper safety features like centerline markings, ie 6th Ave in the North side or 21st St to Wright Park, I know the streets and have hard times driving in the rain. Also, this City Council let the Russell Co leave, they have voted THEMSELVES retirement and medical for just a couple hours of duty a week. It is time for a change and the two folks on City Council DO NOT deserve a poltical promotion. Please vote, we need a change

  7. SMOKING BAN was voted on by the CURRENT CITY COUNCIL which includes STRICKLAND, and she gets to live in a tax free home for 10 years that she purchased, if I had 10 years of no taxes I would save $30K !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Hoodsportwriter says:

    So much money spent and so little information for the voters. Why and how were they different? (I think Mr. “Pig’s” comments above can be taken for what they are – the ravings of a mad man!)

    I voted for Merritt because I know him and know him to have a great community background and some good ideas on the city’s future. Oh and Mr. “Pig” for your information Jim is a Democrat who supports Democrats…which proves the foolish jibberish you spew….

    Strickland or Merritt – if there is a difference neither campaign pointed it out to the voters….bad campaign and staff all around!

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