Money talks. But the message isn’t always clear, at least in the world of school board elections.
Traditionally, local school board races have been low-budget affairs, with candidates spending little or no money. And that’s still true in many communities.
But the bar was raised in Tacoma four years ago when candidate Dexter Gordon raised more than $43,000 in his Tacoma School Board race against Scott Heinze, who won the seat with campaign funding of just over $14,000.
Two years ago, Gordon ran again, challenging incumbent Debbie Winskill with a campaign fund of over $43,000 while Winskill won with a low-budget campaign. She pledged to spend no more than $5,000, so she didn’t have to report donors and details to the state.
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Clearly, hefty campaign funding doesn’t always equal success in Tacoma School Board races. But it is still useful to see who’s raising the most cash, and who’s donating.
So far this year, four of the seven candidates vying for a position on the Tacoma School Board in the Aug. 4 primary have reported campaign contributions of thousands of dollars.
They are not shaping up to break any fundraising records, at least not yet. All of this year’s candidates combined have thus far raised less money than Gordon raised in each of his campaigns.
Here’s a breakdown of candidate fundraising and noteworthy donors. All dollar figures are those listed on the PDC website as of Monday.
Alisa Regala O’Hanlon
Funds raised: $13,700.
Her top contributors, at $500 each, are attorney Loren Cohen, retiree Eligio Regala and consultant Mike Welch. Other donors of note include state Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma), Prisicilla Lisicich of Safe Streets, former state representative Dennis Flannigan, former Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello, Tacoma School Board member Kurt Miller (who is not running for re-election) and former board members Kim Golding and Willie Stewart.
O’Hanlon, who works in federal and tribal relations for the city of Tacoma, is the daughter of former state Sen. Debbie Regala.
Funds raised: $11,224.
Cobb’s largest donation of $950 comes from the Washington Education Association’s political action committee. Other donors of note include Lyle Quasim, a former president of Bates Technical College and state agency head, deputy state school superintendent Gil Mendoza, Tacoma School Board member Karen Vialle, former state Sen. Rosa Franklin, former Tacoma City Manager James Walton, former Tacoma Mayor and Pierce County Councilman Harold Moss and former school board member Willie Stewart.
Cobb currently works for the Tacoma Housing Authority and has been a policy analyst for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The PDC website includes no campaign records from Carnahan, a military veteran who lists media work and volunteer service at Puget Sound area high schools.
Funds raised: $3,965.
Ushka is the incumbent, elected in 2009. Her largest donation of $950 is also from the Washington Education Association’s political action committee. Other donors of note include state Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma), Tacoma School Board members Scott Heinze, Kurt Miller and Karen Vialle, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma City Councilwoman Lauren Walker and Tom Hilyard, of the Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective.
Ushka works for Green River College as marketing and communications manager.
Funds raised: $3,701
Jenkins’ largest donor is the state Democrats for Education Reform political action committee. The Washington state branch of the national organization donated $950 to Jenkins’ campaign.
Other donors of note include Tacoma City Councilwoman Victoria Woodards and Lisa Macfarlane, state director of Democrats for Education Reform.
Jenkins is an advocate for domestic violence victims and is CEO of Advocate of Social and Community Change.
Bearden has pledged to spend no more than $5,000, so he does not have to report campaign fundraising details to the PDC. Bearden is a consultant who has provided services for the city of Tacoma, Foss Waterway Development Authority and local nonprofit organizations.
The PDC website includes no campaign records from Wyatt, who lists his experience as a military veteran and former pastor. He is currently an assistant drugstore manager.
More about school board candidates
To learn where these and other local candidates stand on the issues, visit the News Tribune Voter Guide at thenewstribune.com.
To learn more about campaign contributions to local candidates, visit the website of the Public Disclosure Commission at pdc.wa.gov.