Democrats pile up cash for both Island County commissioner races

As of Friday morning, the campaign contributions of incumbent Island County commissioner candidates Helen Price Johnson and Angie Homola, both Democrats, were among the top four highest of local races across the state.

According to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, an agency that functions as a campaign contribution watchdog, Price Johnson had amassed $50,295, the second highest in the state out of 136 total candidates. Homola totaled $30,797, making her the fourth highest.

That put both candidates ahead of King County sheriff hopeful John Urquhart’s $26,825, but below Pierce County executive candidate Patrice McCarthy’s $66,849, the top recipient. Clark County commissioner candidate Toe Tanner’s raised $44,660, which is the third highest.

Price Johnson, who represents South and Central Whidbey in District 1, said it was still way too early to say whether her donations suggest anything definitive, but she said she certainly wasn’t taking it as a bad omen.

“I think it’s an endorsement of good government,” she said.

Republican challenger Jeff Lauderdale isn’t doing bad either as the 10th highest recipient in the state, but his $19,835 is still far behind that of Price Johnson. Lauderdale said he doesn’t believe contributions offer any real predictions and isn’t too worried about the difference.

“I think it’s a testimony of the Democratic Party’s ability to raise money, nothing more, nothing less,” Lauderdale said.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of money, it’s how you spend it and what your message is and I think my message is the right one,” he said.

Also running for the District 1 seat are independent candidate Curt Gordon, a Port of South Whidbey commissioner with $5,270 in contributions, and Republican Wayne Morrison, president of the Island County Economic Development Council with $100.

Gordon said he also was unconcerned about Price Johnson’s campaign contributions, saying he doesn’t have the benefit of being backed by a large party but is optimistic all the same.

“We’re just a grassroots campaign,” Gordon said. “We’ve got enough money to carry on.”

Morrison, who has the least amount of contributions, said he would have more but has been turning down donors. He said he has been reluctant to accept money, believing that he should contribute more himself first but so far has been unwilling to take away from his business.

“I’m the ultimate fiscal conservative,” said Morrison, though he believes at some point he’ll have to start accepting and asking for money.

“I’m fully aware that the candidate with the most money usually wins,” he said.

A similar situation appears to be unfolding in District 2. Attempts to reach Homola for this story were unsuccessful but, like Price Johnson, she is leading far ahead of her challengers.

Vying for the open seat are Homola, $30,797, Republican Oak Harbor City Councilman Jim Campbell, $5,669, Republican Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Director Jill Johnson Pfeiffer, $7,358, and independent small business owner Phil Collier, $8,150.

Collier has decided to fund his own campaign, declining to accept donations from private or commercial supporters.

Price Johnson said part of the reason she has amassed so much so quickly is because she announced her candidacy and filed with the public disclosure commission in September, much earlier than she did in 2008.

Filing with the state watchdog group is different from filing for office with the auditor during the official filing period for all candidates. That begins next week, running from May 14 to May 18.

Being still early in the election season, Price Johnson is well shy of the $89,534 she raised in 2008 to unseat appointed Republican incumbent Phil Bakke. And even that was just a fraction of the $423,256 raised by Pierce County executive candidate Shawn Bunney.

Still, Price Johnson said the money that Island County residents put forward for candidates may be a reflection of an interested and informed public. People on Whidbey and Camano Islands know about and participate in local government, she said.

While it’s still too early to draw any conclusions about the race ahead, she said the donations of her contributors is a clear message of support.

“They want me to retain my seat,” Price Johnson said.


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