U.S. Rep. Denny Heck keeps growing his enormous financial edge over Republican challenger Joyce McDonald, according to the latest candidate filings at the Federal Election Commission. It’s becoming a campaign issue.
After Heck failed to show up for a joint candidate forum sponsored by the Thurston County Gateway Rotary club on Wednesday morning, McDonald hit back. She said Heck’s $1.7 million in contributions was letting him use television ads and other means to avoid joint appearances.
“Denny hasn’t showed up for seven (forums) so far,” McDonald told the crowd that gathered at O’Blarney’s Pub at 7 a.m., adding that it was unfortunate that well-heeled incumbents can get around such venues. Asked later about campaign finance reform by forum moderator Doug Mah, McDonald got a few laughs when she said, “I’d like to limit my opponent’s.”
McDonald is running on a platform of reducing federal debt, improving the immigration system, and helping military veterans, while Heck runs on a platform of passing a budget that boosts jobs through investments, protects veterans, and fixes transportation problems. “Unfortunately I don’t have the money – I don’t have the big PAC money – to get that message out,” McDonald said.
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Heck’s campaign manager Phil Gardner said the incumbent was in town, but had other commitments to constituents, whom he did not identify. Gardner noted that Heck met McDonald at a League of Women Voters forum in Olympia on Oct. 6 and plans to attend one at the the Summit Waller Community Association from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday evening (Oct. 23) in Pierce County.
The 10th district takes in Olympia and most of Thurston County, and it runs northwest to Shelton and northeast to University Place and Puyallup.
Heck’s no-show drew a joking rebuke from one club member Martin McElliott who took the stage to make announcements and noted the Democrat’s campaign slogan, “Give Congress Heck.” “This morning, it was ‘To heck with Gateway Rotary,’ ” McElliott said.
And Mah, the former Olympia mayor, said later he supports Heck but was “disappointed” he could not show up. Mah said he’d worked well ahead of the event and thought he had a date workable for both campaigns.
FEC reports show that McDonald, a conservative from Puyallup and member of the Pierce County Council, picked up $33,106 in contributions and loaned her campaign $3,500 more in the 2-month reporting period that ended Sept. 30. This brought the total of funds available for her campaign to $72,831. At the same time, she lost ground on Heck.
That is because Heck, a former state House majority leader and entrepreneur from Olympia, raised $317,461 during the same period. Of the $1.7 million he has amassed, more than half of it (over $880,000) is from political action committees including labor groups and such PACs as the one for Boeing, the FEC data show.
The incumbent won the primary with just over 51 percent of the vote and more than 10 percentage points ahead of McDonald. The funding edge has let Heck go up on television with two ads, while McDonald is struggling even to send a mailing.
Heck’s second ad touted his work for veterans and at Joint Base Lewis McChord, in the heart of the district.
The candidates differ strongly on most issues. Heck favors increasing federal spending to invest in roads and infrastructure while blunting cuts to the JBLM operation. McDonald agrees on blunting military cuts locally but otherwise favors cutting federal outlays to reduce growth in the federal debt. The rivals also differ on the threat posed by climate change, how to handle immigration and other measures.
In the forum, McDonald said concern for veterans and transportation are areas where the two candidates share concern. Both candidates also want to find funds to complete the State Route 167 spur from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma.
State Republicans haven’t done a lot for McDonald, and neither has the Republican National Committee, which McDonald said has written off the Evergreen State. The result, she said, is she won’t be beholden to anyone if she wins.
Last week Rob McKenna, the former two-term state attorney general and an influential figure in the party, put out an email to his supporters asking them to step up for McDonald.
“Despite being outspent 17 to 1 by the current incumbent, Joyce had a strong showing in the August primary and even won Pierce County, which her opponent won by 11% just two years ago (Pierce County voters are approximately 60% of the 10th Congressional District). Her opponent was also down 4% from his 2012 totals in both Thurston and Mason Counties,” McKenna’s letter stated.
Heck’s fund-raising and ads offer the best proof he isn’t taking the race lightly. His volunteers are also doing more calling from phone banks than they did in 2012 when Heck became the first member of Congress to represent the newly formed district.
“We’re raising enough to do the stuff we want to do – most of all our get-out-the-vote (phone) campaign,’’ campaign manager Gardner said.
Gardner noted there is not as much political campaign activity in the district this year because there is no presidential or U.S. Senate campaign.
“This time around he’s the only one in the district talking about politics very much,’’ he said.