By JIM HALEY
The state’s major political parties are warring to wrest control of the House of Representatives, and a big part of the battlefield is in Snohomish and Island counties.
The Republican and Democratic leaders in Olympia are spending a bundle to help their House candidates, and thus break the 49-49 tie in the lower chamber. At stake could be the direction the Legislature takes on such issues as education, traffic gridlock and controlling growth.
The parties have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into local legislative races and say more is on the way.
The battle is throughout the state, but several key races affecting Snohomish County voters have earned special attention from the parties.
"Are we spending a lot of money to win the House back? The answer is yes we are," said Don Benton, state Republican Party chairman. "We want to make sure we break the tie in the House" so the GOP can tackle some favorite Republican issues such as property tax relief.
"We’re helping more people than we’ve ever helped before," Benton said of candidates.
The same is true on the other side of the aisle.
"What we’ve seen in the House (races) is a doubling of any past effort we’ve undertaken," said Paul Berendt, Democratic state chairman, who added that every open seat or close race is an opportunity.
Berendt said there’s a lot at stake for the state, and he means to have Democrats stepping in to make those important decisions.
Candidates in six local races have been the recipients of that spending spree.
Three local Republican candidates each have received $40,000 or more from party sources. In the six local races in the spotlight, the Republicans have contributed at least $230,000 directly to campaigns, according to state Public Disclosure Commission records.
The Democrats have contributed sums up to $44,000 to individual candidates, for a total of about $165,000 in the half-dozen races.
Both parties will spend even more money in the form of indirect contributions, or "soft money." Such money consists of ads or other support sponsored by the parties or others to indirectly boost a candidate or attack someone from the other party.
A good example of direct party spending comes in the 44th Legislative District in south Snohomish County where incumbent John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, faces Irene Endicott, also of Mill Creek.
The Democrats have supported Lovick to the tune of $44,000, while Republicans have given Endicott about the same amount.
That’s close to $90,000 of party money for the two candidates, who together expect to spend well over $200,000 by the end of the campaign.
Why the financial support here?
Both parties believe they have a chance to win this seat.
"She’s an outstanding candidate, and she has a very good chance of beating John Lovick," said Linda Kirk, communications director for the state GOP. "We do tend to put money into the campaigns of people who have a very good chance of winning and stand up for the Republican Party."
On the Democratic side, Berendt said the 44th is a swing district. Lovick surprised some people two years ago when he defeated an incumbent Republican.
"We think Lovick is dynamite, and we’re going to do all we can to see that he stays in the Legislature," Berendt said. "More and more suburban districts have become strong for the Democratic Party. Suburban voters don’t like the harsh right-wing rhetoric of many conservative candidates. John Lovick’s opponent falls into that harsh, right category."
Endicott bristled at that.
"That’s typical liberal rhetoric, and we’ve all heard enough of it," Endicott said. "There’s nothing radical about me or anything I espouse."
There’s also big spending in both House races in the 39th Legislative District in east Snohomish County.
In a battle for an open seat, the Republican Party has given $60,000 to Kirk Pearson of Monroe, more than half his $116,000 war chest as of Friday. He’s battling Democrat Liz Loomis of Snohomish, who got $26,000 from the Democrats. Altogether, she’s raised more than $145,000.
Also in the 39th, Republican challenger Dan Kristiansen got $40,000 in his bid to defeat incumbent Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who has received only about $6,000 in party contributions.
Berendt promised more help for Dunshee between now and the Nov. 7 election.
"Don’t read too much into that," Berendt said. "We’re pleased that he’s in pretty good shape."
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