SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash., May 14, 2023—With the bombshell announcement of political power-giant and former U. S. presidential hopeful, Governor Jay Inslee, not seeking re-election, candidates are coming out of the woodwork for the State’s Chief Executive, but we must first make it through the 2023 election cycle. What makes this off-year election so special is that it’s local!
There are an astounding 176 offices up for grabs throughout Snohomish County this year. These are the men and women who, when elected, will have direct control over: zoning and land management in the form of Comprehensive Plans; establish policies for cities, fire districts, water districts, school districts, and the county; and approve appointments of directors and police chiefs. Many of these races are nonpartisan, but that doesn’t stop the dogmatic political parties and their special interest groups from donating or endorsing their “preferred” candidates.
Key items for this year will no doubt be public safety, school budgets, zoning policies and property rights, and drug addiction. However, if current economic uncertainty manifests into hard realities over the next few months, pocketbook issues will also be a significant factor influencing voters by the General Election in November. With a two-year double-digit inflation, the debt ceiling stand-off, failing banks, a cooling housing market, and an even colder commercial rental market, consumer confidence for May dropped to a six-month low according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.
As an added bonus this election cycle, the Public Disclosure Commissioners raised contribution and reporting threshold limits effective on April 1, 2023. For local races here in Snohomish County, non-judicial candidates can now receive a maximum contribution of $1,200 (or 20% more) from an individual donor per election — that’s $2,400 for both the Primary and General elections. Judicial candidates can now receive $2,400 per election!
In addition to raising contribution limits, the Commission adjusted most of the thresholds that guide disclosure by candidates and committees by as much as 300%. For example, the threshold for required reporting of a contributor’s identity was raised from $25 to $100; and the contribution threshold for including a contributor’s name in the Top 5 or Top 3 on a qualifying political ad increased from $1,000 to $2,000. No doubt that raising the thresholds will reduce administrative overhead for both candidates and PDC staff, but it will also legally conceal donors from public disclosure.
On Thursday, May 11, the Public Disclosure Commission voted to issue formal guidance regarding candidates’ use of contributions received for a previous campaign for a different office. Under RCW 42.17A.490, a candidate who solicits contributions for a state, local, or judicial office may not use any unspent contributions to seek a different office without first obtaining written approval from the persons or entities who contributed the money.
Historically, PDC staff advised candidates to only seek permission and then report the funds as a lump-sum transfer. When questions about the longstanding informal guidance were recently raised, the staff took the issue to the Commission for a decision.
During Thursday’s special meeting, the Commission unanimously backed an alternative interpretation of the existing law in that such funds authorized for transfer to a campaign for a different office should be attributed to the individual donors in the new campaign’s reports and count toward applicable contribution limits for the new campaign. In layman’s terms, candidates are now required to identify the donors and treat their contributions as if they are for the candidate’s new campaign, making them subject to disclosure and contribution limits for the race.
The Commission is expected to formally adopt the proposal at its May 25 meeting which would have had a direct impact on Attorney General Bob Ferguson who, on May 2, announced he was “exploring” a run for Washington Governor in 2024. However, the Ferguson campaign, before the May 11 ruling, transferred $1,281,084.28 in surplus campaign funds to his 2024 Gubernatorial race between April 24 through May 11, representing the bulk of his $2 million in contributions.
“We respect the PDC’s decision today to change that guidance and look forward to following the new rules going forward,” Ferguson released in a statement on May 11 following the PDC vote.
Hilary Franz, who is the Commissioner of Public Lands for Washington state announced her candidacy for Governor on May 10. An unconfirmed name tossed around from our sources as to who else may vie for the position is Democratic Senator Mark Mullet of the 5th Legislative District in the Issaquah area. Both King County Executive Dow Constantine and Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier announced they will not run for Governor in 2024, according to MyNorthwest.
Caleb Heimlich, who chairs the Washington State Republican Party, told KUOW in early May that he heard rumors of Republican State Senator John Braun of Centralia, State Representative Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) and former 3rd District Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Butler who was primaried in the 2022 election, may be considering a run for governor. Another name told to the Lynnwood Times by sources is businessman Brian Heywood of the Let’s Go Washington Effort.
Officially, Republican Dr. Raul Garcia, a Yakima emergency room physician, announced his campaign to run for Washington governor on Friday. Republicans Misipati “Semi” Bird and Laurel Khan have also announced their bid for the state’s top job.
Currently, Ferguson (D) and Bird (R) are leading the contribution horse race with Ferguson outraising Bird 33-to-1; however, Franz is sitting on $158,000 of unspent contributions in her Public Lands account according to the PDC.
Candidate filing period for the 2023 election begins at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, May 15 until 4:00 p.m. on Friday, May 19. To file for office, one must be a registered voter and in all positions except municipal court judge, the candidate must live within the district. In-person filing is also available at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office until 5:00 p.m. on May 19 which is located on the first floor of the Administration West Building at 3000 Rockefeller Avenue in Everett.