Shortly after the Legislature adjourned Friday, Democrats began working to raise money for an upcoming state House race that threatens to erode their already slim majority in that chamber.
The contest between state Rep. Carol Gregory, D-Federal Way, and Republican candidate Teri Hickel is the only legislative race on the ballot in November. And, since Gregory is a sitting lawmaker, she is subject to rules banning her from accepting campaign contributions while the Legislature is in session.
That makes the four-day break between the regular legislative session that ended Friday and the start of a special session Wednesday (April 29) a valuable opportunity for Democrats to raise funds for Gregory, who was appointed this year to represent the 30th Legislative District.
The so-called “fundraising freeze” during legislative sessions also applies to individuals and political party committees trying to raise money on a lawmaker’s behalf.
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Democrats hold a narrow 51-47 majority in the state House. If Gregory loses in November, Republicans could take control of the chamber in 2016 by picking up just two additional seats, or force Democrats to share power by winning one seat and creating a tie.
In an email to supporters Saturday morning, Jaxon Ravens, chairman of the Washington State Democrats, wrote: “The Democratic majority in the House hinges on Carol’s election in November.”
“Carol has just four days to raise money until she reports back to Olympia for the special legislative session,” Ravens wrote. “Please make your contribution today, before the fundraising freeze kicks back in!”
Gregory’s campaign also reached out to people who subscribe to emails from other Democratic House members, urging them to contribute during the four-day interim.
“Unlike her opponent, Carol can’t raise campaign funds during the legislative session, so she needs your donation TODAY!” read a fundraising email sent Sunday to supporters of state Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma.
Democrats lost four House seats in the 2014 election, making the possibility of a Republican takeover in 2016 not out of the question. Republicans have controlled the state Senate for the past two years.
While some Republicans pushed for the Legislature’s special session to begin Monday, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the Legislature will reconvene Wednesday instead.
That provided an extra two days of potential fundraising for Gregory, but a spokeswoman for Inslee said that didn’t influence the governor’s scheduling of the special session.
“Really, he just figured it’d be nice to give a lot of legislators a short break, and let the budget negotiators come back early to get started on budget talks,” said Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Inslee’s office. The governor called the House and Senate budget writers to his office Monday to try to resolve an impasse that has caused negotiations to stall.
Inslee appointed Gregory in January to replace former state Rep. Roger Freeman, who died of cancer in October but still went on to win re-election six days later. Democratic party officials had selected Gregory as one of three finalists for the position.
Hickel, Gregory’s Republican challenger, is free to raise money during the Legislature’s upcoming 30-day special session.
According to her campaign Facebook page, she spent time in April doorbelling in the 30th District, which includes Algona, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific, and parts of Des Moines and Auburn.
Gregory is a former teacher, school board member and past president of the statewide teachers union. Hickel is the former executive director of Advancing Leadership, a community leadership program in Federal Way.
Federal Way City Councilman Martin Moore had announced that he would challenge Gregory as a Republican for the 30th District seat, but he recently decided to withdraw from the race, the Federal Way Mirror reported.