Rossi, Gregoire raising money for governor's race at record clip
If money is any indication, this year's race for governor is going to make the 2004 contest look like a low-key affair.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — If money is any indication, this year's race for governor is going to make the 2004 contest look like a low-key affair.
At this point in 2004, Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi had each raised about $1.5 million in campaign donations. They went on to raise more than $6 million each and their combined total was nearly double the previous record for a Washington governor's race.
They are hauling in campaign cash at a much faster clip for their rematch. As of March 31, Gov. Gregoire had raised nearly $4.7 million and Rossi had raised $3.8 million, according to new filings this week with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
"And it's only just begun," said Chris Vance, former state Republican Party chairman. "Both sides are going to have ridiculous amounts of money."
Paul Berendt, former chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he won't be surprised if Gregoire and Rossi wind up raising $10 million apiece this year.
"This is one of those things that never ceases to amaze me, the amount of money in politics," Berendt said. "Certainly the rematch is a factor here. But it's not the dominant factor. There's just more money in politics."
Gregoire beat Rossi by 133 votes in 2004, but only after two recounts and a court challenge.
A GOP priority
Republicans here and at the national level are making this year's race a top priority. And in a state so heavily dominated by Democrats, Republican donors don't have a lot of other places to spend their money.
"People who wrote Rossi a polite $100 check last time are writing much bigger checks this time, because now they realize he can actually win," Vance said.
Gregoire began raising money for her re-election soon after taking office in 2005.
But she was legally barred from fundraising while the Legislature was in session, which enabled Rossi — who didn't begin his campaign until last fall — to gain a lot of ground. He raised more than $900,000 last month, nearly matching his best month during the entire 2004 campaign.
Gregoire also has spent a lot more than Rossi, who now has nearly as much money in the bank as she does.
In high gear
With the Legislature adjourned for the year, Gregoire plans to kick her fundraising into high gear. She has an event planned in Seattle later this month featuring New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former Democratic presidential candidate.
It appears Gregoire is once again getting a big boost from EMILY's List, a national group that raises cash for Democratic women who support abortion rights. The group helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Gregoire in 2004, most of it coming from out of state.
As of last month, Gregoire had received more than 4,200 donations from out of state, totaling more than $820,000 — about 18 percent of her total.
Rossi, by comparison, has taken in less than $100,000 from outside Washington.
On the campaign trail, Rossi has talked a lot about how he is getting the bulk of his money from "regular folks." But nearly half of his cash has come from people who donated $1,000 or more.
As was the case in 2004, outside groups likely will pour millions of dollars into the race. The national Democratic Governor's Association has already sent $500,000 to the state Democratic Party, which in turn has given $150,000 directly to Gregoire.
The Republican Governor's Association has given $90,000 to the state GOP.
Ralph Thomas: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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