Summer of spending continues in 26th District state Senate race

Staff writerJuly 31, 2013 

The summer doldrums of an odd-numbered year are a time to enjoy some blessed relief from the election-time assault on your TV and mailbox.

Unless you live in the 26th District between the Tacoma Narrows and Bremerton, where two candidates for state Senate and their allies have spent almost $600,000 trying to persuade voters — and they are most likely just getting started.

The biggest share of spending comes from Republican Jan Angel, who has spent more than twice as much as Democrat Nathan Schlicher, according to campaign-finance reports the candidates submitted for the period that ended Tuesday.

Primary-election results coming Tuesday will help set expectations in the race between Angel, a three-term House member from Port Orchard, and Schlicher of Gig Harbor, appointed to the Senate seat in January. The outcome might also encourage some potential donors and scare off others.

“They are going to be looking at the results in the primary and deciding, are we going to invest money in this race?” said Angel’s campaign manager, Adam Isackson. He said comebacks are rare for candidates who trail significantly in a two-way primary.

Still, the race may be too important for business, labor and other interests to walk away from. Opened by Derek Kilmer’s move to Congress, it’s the only major contest between the parties right now. A win by Angel would double the one-vote majority that keeps Republicans and two renegade Democrats in charge of the Senate.

Schlicher and his supporters are naturally putting less emphasis on the primary, arguing the first-time candidate can make up ground later if he must.

Schlicher has not taken to the television airwaves like his opponent Angel, Senate Republicans and a separate GOP-funded political action committee. Schlicher said he has put his resources elsewhere, figuring not many people are paying attention to TV ads this time of year.

But a political action committee funded by Democrats, unions, environmentalists and the liberal group Fuse has run TV ads on his behalf.

As the name suggests — She’s Changed PAC — the group is arguing the locally well-known Angel isn’t who people think she is, saying she would roll back health coverage. It’s an echo of a Democratic theme from last year’s governor’s race that might have done some damage to Rob McKenna.

With roughly $150,000 raised, the group is close to even in fundraising with the PAC targeting Schlicher — the Good Government Leadership Council — which is almost entirely funded by a committee run by Senate Republicans. It’s painting Schlicher as a tax-and-spend liberal who would restrict gun rights.

Both candidates say they are being mischaracterized and are raising large amounts of money to get their own messages out.

Angel has been able to outspend Schlicher, $277,000 to $116,000, in part because of help from her party. Senate Republican leaders have more money than their Senate Democratic counterparts, who parted ways with their director last winter and accused him of embezzling money meant for campaigns.

Angel has also received help from business interests such as home builders, chemical companies and auto dealers.

“It’s clear that she’s taking thousands and thousands of dollars from corporate special interests … big drug makers, big tobacco, health insurance companies,” said Collin Jergens, a Fuse spokesman representing She’s Changed PAC, naming some of Angel’s other donors.

Isackson said Angel has a “wide breadth of support” beyond business. “You look at Schlicher’s donations from PACs and third parties, they’re all labor and there’s very little else on the list.”

Indeed, unions make up a large part of Schlicher’s financing. The emergency-room doctor also has help from physicians’ groups and others, such as Indian tribes, however.

Angel reported raising $317,000 by Tuesday with $40,000 left after her spending. Schlicher reported raising $198,000, with a $71,000 balance Tuesday.

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