Prop. 1 easily most expensive item on Tacoma ballots

Staff writerNovember 2, 2013 

Groups for and against a Tacoma utility tax have raised more than $177,000, surpassing the money contributed to all contested Tacoma City Council races combined.

Fix Tacoma Streets, the group supporting Proposition 1, had raised $80,260 as of Friday, according to Public Disclosure Commission records. Stop Higher Utility Taxes, the group campaigning against the city measure, had raised $97,470.

By comparison, candidates running in contested Tacoma City Council races have collected a combined $162,156 in donations, although that figure doesn’t include some heavy giving in one uncontested city race.

The largest contribution to a Prop. 1 campaign was made to the opposition by Simpson Tacoma Kraft Company LLC, which donated $25,000 Tuesday. A spokesman for the company has said it stands to pay $500,000 more per year in utility charges if the measure passes.

Tacoma Prop. 1 would increase the tax on utility earnings on electric, natural gas and telephone service from 6 percent to 8 percent to raise up to $11 million per year for road repairs and safety upgrades to Tacoma streets.

While the City Council has the final say on rates for Tacoma Power customers, Tacoma Public Utilities Director Bill Gaines has said the utility will eventually need to raise rates to cover the added cost of Prop. 1.

Prop. 1 opponents have spent $66,478 to supporters’ $50,816 in expenditures.

As of Friday, only about 17 percent of Tacoma voters had returned their ballots. Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson predicts voter turnout will reach 46 percent, meaning that 29,478 likely Tacoma voters could return their ballots in the next few days.

In City Council races, the contest between Robert Thoms, a political consultant who was appointed to the council earlier this year, and small-business owner Patricia Lecy-Davis remains the most expensive.

Thoms has raised $63,634 for the District 2 race and spent $41,857. Lecy-Davis has raised $37,192 and spent $33,913.

In District 5, incumbent Joe Lonergan has raised $12,052 and spent $11,875. Challenger Olgy Diaz has raised $15,475 and spent $12,597.

Outside groups are also jumping into the fray, with Washington Association of Realtors spending $3,250 each to support Thoms’ and Lonergan’s candidacy. The money went toward mailers. Tacoma-Pierce County Business Alliance Political Action Committee also spent $4,341 on mailers for Lonergan’s race.

Councilwoman Victoria Woodards has raised $33,802 and spent $27,136. Woodards’ opponent in the at-large race, Robert Hill, is in the Pierce County Jail. Hill has not filed paperwork with the PDC.

The overall leader in fundraising among city candidates is Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who is running unopposed. Donors have given her campaign $88,052. Of that money, $68,354 was raised this year.

Strickland said her strategy was to raise a lot of money and earn strong endorsements before filing week in May “to send a message that you’re going to be competitive.”

Strickland, if elected, will be barred by term limits from running again. So what will she do with her campaign war chest?

“I can use it to host events,” she said. “I could donate it to nonprofits.”

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542

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