STANWOOD — The eight-page community newspaper features glowing stories about just two people: Republican candidates running for two state House seats.
In fact, it’s not a real newspaper. It’s considered a political mailer, one of many sent to voters in the 10th Legislative District in advance of the Nov. 8 election.
Voters in the competitive “swing” district are accustomed to a barrage of mailers each election season. Several told The Daily Herald at least 20 mailers have arrived this month for the two 10th District races. Mailers come directly from candidates as well as political action committees spending thousands to influence voters.
The Washington State Republican Party sent the “community news” mailers. The New Direction PAC, meanwhile, is pushing out mailers for many Democratic candidates.
The two races have attracted more money than any other legislative offices on the ballot in Snohomish County this year. Total spending has reached about $2.4 million, according to a review of financial disclosure reports from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. Roughly half is direct contributions to candidates and the other half is independent spending by PACs.
The spending reflects the opportunity both parties see in the 10th, which includes north Snohomish County, all of Island County and the southwestern part of Skagit County. Cities include Stanwood, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley, and the town of La Conner. The district added most of the city of Arlington following the state’s redistricting.
The two races are among the few statewide that could realistically shift the Democrats’ 57-41 majority in the House. The seats are currently held by Republican Greg Gilday and Democrat Dave Paul, both running for re-election.
In 2020, incumbents won by less than 1% of ballots cast in their races, after more than $1 million was spent to bring both over the finish line.
This election, Democrat Clyde Shavers is challenging Gilday and Republican Karen Lesetmoe is vying to unseat Paul.
Pro-Gilday mailers hammer the point that the Republican is the only “local” candidate in his race.
“Greg’s invested in our community. The opponent moved here just in time to run,” reads one mailer from the state Republican Party. And a story in the newspaper mailer highlights third-generation Gilday’s service with the Stanwood-Camano Rotary Club.
Gilday has repeatedly criticized Shavers’ newcomer status in the district. Last week, the Democrat fired back on social media.
“I wasn’t able to return home to Washington because for the past 12 years at the U.S. Naval Academy and in the military, I was serving both domestically and abroad to defend our freedoms,” Shavers’ campaign said in a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, Democrats have emphasized abortion rights in their mailers, in line with other Democrats running statewide and nationally.
“A woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is on the ballot this year,” reads one mailer from the New Direction PAC boosting Shavers and assailing Gilday’s voting record. The group sent out another mailer last week attacking Lesetmoe as “extreme” on abortion and anti-choice.
The PAC has dropped about $522,000 to support the 10th District Democrats and about $130,000 against the Republican opponents, according to financial disclosure reports. The top contributors to the PAC include large labor unions like the SEIU State Council, SEIU 775 Quality Care Committee and the Washington Federation of State Employees, as well as the Democrat-affiliated Harry Truman Fund and Kennedy Fund.
“The 10th LD is one of the most competitive districts in Washington State, and we have been proud to inform voters about why Dave Paul and Clyde Shavers are the clear choices for residents of Snohomish and Island counties,” said Jared Leopold, a Democratic strategist who works with the New Direction PAC.
The group sent out other mailers attacking Gilday’s record on gun safety laws.
On the Republican side, the Evergreen Progress PAC has spent about $100,000 to oppose Democrats. The PAC, solely funded by the state Republican Party, launched its own attack on Paul and Shavers over abortion, in mailers characterizing the two Democrats as “too extreme.”
Direct contributions to candidates have also soared in the 10th District races.
Shavers has raised about $438,000, the most of any candidate in a legislative race in Snohomish County, according to records. Gilday has raised about $316,000. Meanwhile, Paul has raised about $390,000 and Lesetmoe about $211,000.
The House Democratic Campaign Committee has donated about $110,000 each to both the Shavers and Paul campaigns. The House Republican Organizational Committee has given a combined $190,000 to Gilday and Lesetmoe.
The Washington Realtors PAC spent $160,000 on TV advertising in September in support of Gilday and Lesetmoe, who are both realtors.
“We think that having realtors in the Legislature who deal with the obstacles first-hand is really, really important, especially as we see housing affordability as a top issue,” said Nathan Gorton, the association’s government affairs director.
The National Association of Realtors PAC also spent $164,000 on advertising for Lesetmoe.
Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; email@example.com; Twitter: @jacq_allison
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