The race for governor picked up speed this weekend as President Barack Obama stopped in Seattle Friday to help raise money for Gov. Jay Inslee, and Bill Bryant, Inslee’s Republican opponent, held a large campaign rally in Tacoma on Saturday.
Obama told a crowd of about 3,000 on Friday that re-electing Inslee will ensure the first-term governor can continue working to address climate change, as well as pursue progressive goals such as raising the statewide minimum wage.
“Jay tried to do that here. Republicans blocked it,” the president said of raising the minimum wage, during a fundraiser for Inslee at the Washington State Convention Center.
“We’ve got to keep on pushing to make it happen.”
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But Inslee, a Democrat, may not have needed the president’s help when it comes to raising money. So far, Inslee has a commanding fundraising lead over Bryant, having raised about $6.5 million to Bryant’s $1.8 million.
After subtracting debt and expenditures, that leaves Inslee with about $3.9 million in cash on hand, compared to about $650,000 in funds available to Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner.
Yvette Ollada, Bryant’s press secretary, said the Bryant campaign isn’t worried about those numbers.
“We have our plan in place and we’re on target to meet our goals,” Ollada said Friday.
On Saturday, Bryant’s campaign held a rally in Tacoma headlined by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who chairs the Republican Governors Association. The event drew about 1,000 people to the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, including state and local Republican leaders.
Ollada said she expects Bryant’s fundraising to pick up after the Aug. 2 primary election, particularly when it comes to donations from the Republican Party. So far, the state Republican party has yet to contribute to Bryant’s campaign.
Still, Bryant’s fundraising lags that of previous Republican gubernatorial candidates at similar points in the campaign cycle.
In 2004, Republican candidate Dino Rossi had raised about $2.3 million by June 20. The former state senator had raised $5.1 million by the same date in 2008.
Additionally, Republican candidate Rob McKenna, who lost to Inslee in 2012, had raised $6.1 million by June 20 that year — more than three times what Bryant has raised so far.
Jamal Raad, a spokesman for the Inslee campaign, said Bryant’s fundraising numbers indicate “a lack of enthusiasm around his campaign.”
“He’s behind previous Republican candidates for governor, and he’s missed all his goals for his campaign fundraising,” Raad said.
Yet the Bryant camp says Obama coming to help raise money for Inslee is a sign the governor’s campaign is struggling more than it should be.
“I think it shows a weakness on their side, that the president is coming out and doing fundraising for an incumbent who is supposed to be easily winning re-election,” Ollada said.