Reardon not limiting his campaign spending

EVERETT — Democratic Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon splurged on campaign advertising in October for his re-election bid, according to reports filed this week with the state.

He spent nearly $145,000 on advertising, including about $90,000 on television ads with a national political advertising firm in Nashville, Tenn.

Reardon crosses his arms confidently and smiles at the camera in cable TV ads that are airing frequently at a time when voters are filling out and returning their ballots.

It’s in sharp contrast to the campaign by ­Republican Jack Turk, of Snohomish, a novice candidate who runs an online business helping magicians like himself. He also performs for children as Turk the Magic Genie. Turk has raised no money for his campaign.

Reardon said he has long planned to buy ads to coincide with ballots being mailed to voters, which happened Oct. 18. Ads are still airing. Voters “typically take their time before they make a decision,” Reardon said.

Turk said he figures all of the advertising might be a sign that the executive’s race is a close one.

“He’s spending that kind of money on a race that should have been a cakewalk, he’s trying to shore up his base,” Turk said.

Reardon’s one month of spending accounts for more than half of his $245,000 in campaign spending so far, according to filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

The mismatched money race was one reason Republican Sheriff Rick Bart dropped his campaign against Reardon in February. Bart raised only $21,000 in his campaign. Turk materialized to make sure Reardon had opposition.

“Because our candidate doesn’t have money, I expected Aaron to hold on to his money for the next election,” Snoho­mish County Republican chairwoman Geri Modrell said.

Even so, Reardon said he has stuck with his original campaign plan.

“I have had no intention of changing my campaign,” Reardon said. “We have a good record and want to let folks know about what we’ve done.”

The tallies show Reardon spent $1,000 more in this campaign than he did in his first bid for county executive in 2003.

But it’s not yet a record. Democrat Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel spent $295,000 of his $297,000 in 1999.

Still, Reardon has raised slightly more than Drewel did in cash— $303,700.

It’s not unusual for a candidate in Reardon’s position to spend a campaign war chest, said Todd Donovan, political science professor at Western Washington University.

“In really noncompetitive races, part of what you are trying to do is make a really good showing and scare off challengers,” Donovan said.

However, having money in the bank also can deter future opposition and make a statement, he said. Spending the contributions “is buying name recognition,” Donovan said.

“This is a really rational thing to do,” Donovan said. “It’s insurance. Winning by 58 percent is one thing, but 70 percent can really deter somebody four years off.”

The move also makes sense if Reardon plans to seek higher office, Donovan said.

“County executive in this state is a good launching pad for other offices,” Donovan said. “It makes a lot of sense in terms of looking to the future.”

Some of the safest incumbents in American politics are the biggest fundraisers, Donovan said. Even so, “candidates always say they never feel safe,” Donovan said.

Political observers agree that Reardon is buying name recognition and maybe some insurance.

“You cannot take anything for granted,” said Mark Hintz, chairman of Snohomish County Democrats. “Aaron is very thorough, and he’s going to make sure he isn’t going to lose for any reason at all. He’s defending his position, and it’s his campaign.

“The ability to get into the advertising markets with that kind of money will solidify his position with the people out there,” Hintz said. “They’ll see that he’s dedicated, he has strength.”

Reardon’s advertising might not make much difference, Turk said, because he predicts turnout will be very low and voters hate politicians.

Reardon is sounding more like a businessman in each speech and advertisement, he said. And that makes the incumbent sound more like the businessman-magician each day, he said.

“If this campaign went on a few more months, we’d have Aaron doing card tricks,” Turk said.

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or jswitzer@heraldnet.com.

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