Congressman Dave Reichert’s decision to sit out the 2016 governor’s race came after polling paid for this summer through the state Republican Party.
Reichert’s congressional campaign gave the state GOP $41,000 on July 30, according to his third-quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission.
A day later, the state party paid $39,500 to Public Opinion Strategies, a Virginia firm that has regularly conducted polling for Reichert in the past.
On Friday, Reichert, R-Auburn, announced he’d seek re-election to his 8th District congressional seat next fall, ending months of speculation that he might instead challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.
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That leaves Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant as the presumed Republican front-runner for next year’s gubernatorial race. Democrats have sought to portray that as a recruiting failure for the GOP.
Steve Beren, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, declined to discuss any details of the polling.
“Republican members of our state’s congressional delegation support the WSRP and donate to our activities, and they expect us to spend it well in order to elect Republican candidates,” Beren said in an emailed statement.
Jeff Harvey, a spokesman for Reichert, said the campaign does not talk about polling conducted by itself or other groups. He said Reichert has donated money in the past to the state GOP to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.
But Reichert’s donation in July is the largest he’s made to the state GOP, according to federal and state campaign filings.
Democrats pounced on the state GOP involvement in polling, arguing that it’s proof Republicans were desperate to recruit someone besides Bryant.
“Bill Bryant has run a listless, invisible campaign that has burned through money and now has lost the faith of the state Republican party. It’s nice to know the Republicans agree — Bill Bryant doesn’t have what it takes to be Governor,” state Democratic Party spokesman Jamal Raad said in an emailed statement.
Bryant said he had not been aware of the poll. But he said he didn’t feel the state party was playing favorites, as it would have done the same for him if he’d asked.
He dismissed Democrats’ efforts to portray him as a weak or last-choice candidate for the GOP.
“The problem they have, there are the facts, which get in the way. You look at the endorsements I had long before Congressman Reichert ever made a decision,” Bryant said, pointing to backing from former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, former Gov. Dan Evans, and dozens of state legislators.
His campaign was expected to announce its latest endorsement soon, from the Republican Party’s 2012 gubernatorial standard-bearer: former state Attorney General Rob McKenna.