If Federal Election Commission reports are like pulse checks for political campaigns, the latest quarterly filings indicate WSU Vancouver professor Carolyn Long is off to a healthy start in her bid to unseat Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler.
But there’s still a yawning chasm separating Long from the Republican incumbent and her closest Democratic opponent.
After spending $17,676 on her campaign, the first-time candidate had $22,205 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31
Meanwhile, two-time congressional candidate David McDevitt — who was sitting on a $309,162 war chest at year’s end — raised $4,435 from individual donors last quarter, the period from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
The Vancouver businessman has loaned his own campaign $300,000 so far, while spending a meager $2,551 between October and December last year. He reported $10,412 in campaign-related expenses for all of last year.
Long and McDevitt were the only two Democratic challengers to file their FEC reports on time.
Peter Harrison, a Vancouver-based scientist and writer who’s also running for the seat, told The Daily News that he’s been focused on saying goodbye to his father, who passed away Thursday while in hospice care.
Harrison reported raising $2,312 between February and September last year.
An up-to-date FEC report for Iraq war veteran Dorothy Gasque also was not posted online Thursday, and her campaign treasurer did not respond to a request for comment.
Gasque, a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter, brought in $1,880 in the third quarter of last year and had $4,171 cash on hand, according to her most recent campaign disclosure. She raised a total of $9,672 through Sept. 30 last year, with $6,299 of that coming from individual donors.
Meanwhile, Herrera Beutler, a Clark County Republican, holds a daunting financial advantage over her challengers.
The fourth-term congresswoman had $515,375 in cash on hand at the end of the filing period.
She reported raising $52,031 from individual donors over the last quarter, and she received a further $79,140 from outside groups such as political action committees. She raised $350,358 from individual donors over the entire year. PACs added another $234,890 to her campaign coffers.
Local Democrat Teresa Purcell, who narrowly lost in a race for the 19th Legislative District in 2016, said Long — her preferred candidate — will need to make up significant ground to compete in the Republican-friendly 3rd District.
“By this time, at least traditionally, (the Democratic Party) would like you to have at least $150,000 to $200,000 to be in the game,” she said in an interview. “The election is not that far away.”
Washington’s top-two primary is Aug. 7, and the general election is Nov. 6.
With six months remaining until primary ballots are mailed out, the party is taking a hands-off approach as the four Democratic candidates vie for the nomination.
“They figure they have nothing to gain by trying to influence the primary,” said David Benson, a political science instructor at Lower Columbia College.
(The four Democratic candidates will meet for their first candidate forum at LCC on March 4.)
While Herrera Beutler has won each of her re-election races by more than 20 percentage points, this could be her toughest campaign since she was first elected to Congress following long-time Democratic Rep. Brian Baird’s retirement in 2010.
“The guess at this point is that the Democratic base is going to be much more energized to show up at the polls than the Republican side will be, so what normally might be a safe election for her could turn out to be a lot closer,” Benson said.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it was targeting the 3rd District last February. In addition, Swing Left — a liberal group that aims to flip control of the U.S. House of Representatives back to Democrats — has added the district to its list of competitive races.
But a recent public opinion survey by the non-partisan pollster Stuart Elway suggests the eventual Democratic nominee could face long odds. According to the December poll, which combined the 3rd District with the Republican-held 8th District, a generic Republican led a Democrat 48 to 31 percent.
Additionally, another poll suggests a nationwide warming to Republicans’ tax plan despite independent analyses that show it bestows the majority of its benefits on the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. Opinion was divided on the plan, with 44 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving, according to Monmouth University poll conducted from Jan. 28 to Jan. 30.
That’s a significant increase in public support for the plan from December, when just 26 percent approved of the bill and 47 percent disapproved.