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Self-funding candidates move on to general election

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Aug. 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm with No Comments »
August 8, 2012 5:16 pm

Congressional candidates Suzan DelBene and Bill Driscoll are headed to the general election. And if first-night results hold up, Troy Kelley will edge out fellow legislator Craig Pridemore for a spot in the November contest for state auditor.

What do Medina Democrat DelBene, Tacoma Republican Driscoll and Tacoma Democrat Kelley have in common?  All of them are leaning heavily on their own bank accounts, which allowed them to establish a presence on TV that their rivals lacked.

Kelley, a former executive with First American Title Insurance Co. who went on to found his own document-recording company, kicked in $240,000 of his own money. Driscoll, a Weyerhaeuser descendant and executive with a real-estate investment firm, provided $520,000. And DelBene, a former Microsoft executive, dwarfed both with a whopping $1.9 million in personal contributions.

Another Congressional candidate moving on to November, Democrat Denny Heck of Olympia, an early investor in RealNetworks, has loaned his campaign $100,000 this year on top of $250,000 in loans for his previous congressional campaign that are still due to be paid back.

None of the four is a lock for the general election. Driscoll, in particular, has a challenge ahead of him. His Democratic opponent, state Sen. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor, received 54 percent of first-night primary votes. All Republicans combined for just 43 percent (including Driscoll’s 18 percent) — even though the main competition was on the Republican side.

As the Seattle Times’ Jonathan Martin reported recently, self-funded candidates have a poor track record in recent years.

And at least one self-funder, Tacoma state senate candidate Jack Connelly, didn’t have much to show for his money Tuesday night. Connelly, a Democrat and trial attorney, has plowed $421,000 of his own money into his campaign so far — more than the total fundraising of any other legislative candidate.

But first-night returns show him with less than 41 percent of the vote to Rep. Jeannie Darneille’s more than 59 percent. She has been no slouch in the money department, either, but rather than spending her own income, she received help from a slew of PACs and other contributors.

A rematch is pending in the general election.

UPDATED to correct the figure for Kelley.

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