We’re a couple weeks out from Primary Election Day in Washington state, and at DTC, we’ve built a tool that compiles all the over-300 filed candidates running for the state legislature, Secretary of State, and many prosecutors. The database—a nifty google sheet anyone can access that includes funds raised and projections—is exactly the kind of tool every organization that works on elections needs and shouldn’t have to reinvent every year.
When it comes to partisan politics, however, compiling the database clarifies what many of us have known for years: The Republican Caucuses both embolden and validate people to run; whereas the Democratic Caucuses does not. This cycle alone, the GOP filed nearly twice as many first-time candidates than Democrats—122 v 681.
If that’s not enough to get you to start over with candidate recruitment and resource allocation, consider this: The House Democratic Campaign Committee (HDCC) and Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) have willfully ceded 41 legislative races before any campaigning ever began. In 28 state legislative races, Republicans don’t face a single Democrat—of which, 19 are wholly unopposed. An additional 6 Republicans face unfunded Democrats (<$700 raised), while 13 more face significantly underfunded Democratic candidates ($1-25k raised)2. The two campaign Caucuses (the HDCC and WSDCC) even allowed the incumbent Democrat Debra Entenman to be one of the underfunded candidates as of July 12. Since then, she remains a decent chunk behind her new Republican challenger, but $10k above our “underfunded” threshold.
It’s an uncanny approach to politics, considering two separate polls this week (Elway and Survey USA) indicate a vast majority of registered Washington voters would vote for a Democrat over Republican and Third Party candidates. This is huge. And yet, perhaps predictably, Elway’s poll indicates that not nearly as many people view Washington’s Democratic Party favorably.
For years, in our own ways, each of us at DTC have been banging the table on how the state Caucuses need to invest in places it’s long-forgotten about—from Skagit to Yakima valleys, from Tri-Cities to Raymond to Winthrop. Instead, Dems gatekeep, withhold funds, barely organize, hardly ever bring new people into the candidate fold, and are often caught delegitimizing first-time candidates who filed as their own Party—rather than, say, working against Republicans.
This scarcity approach to managing resources is ineffective and bad politics. I understand strategically placing funds where wins are higher, but if there’s never ever any risk at all, there will never be a reward. The Caucuses think they can only save legislative majorities by hoarding resources in places with only the highest odds. Not fighting, however, in places where we could—at the very least—make a better argument is a self-fulling prophecy in which working class people of color and anybody else on the margins get left behind.
Even if a district is historically red, we can at least test to see how a Dem performs in this extremely strenuous and polarizing political moment, especially when there’s otherwise only Republican candidates. At minimum, we should be organizing everywhere, empowering everywhere, and funding a Democratic candidate in competitive swing (read: toss-up, leaning R or Dem, and even sometimes likely R or Dem) districts.
Republicans understand this. They fuel it in the midterms by hyping up opportunities to flip the legislature, Governor’s office, and Secretary of State—and embolden the farthest right-wing Republicans like Election Integrity, self-proclaimed patriots and the like, which they understand builds the base of their own Party writ large. The latter in and of itself is certainly its own anomaly and problem largely created out of disinformation campaigns, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and a national cult-like political strategy. Which, of course, Democrats should never engage in. That said, the question remains, why don’t Democrats embrace and validate potential candidates and existing candidates already on their side?
Do the WSDCC and the HDCC really believe—at this exact moment in time, with Roe v Wade, the ongoing January 6th Commission, and unpopular rightward tilt of our major democratic institutions—that about a whopping 30 District races across the state are completely un-winnable and another dozen aren’t really worth the effort? That’s not even including the 3 races in the 47th LD where Democrats aren’t necessarily underfunded per se but are well below the funding of their Republican challengers—like, by $100k. So we’re actually looking at a grand total of about 45 races where the campaign Caucuses just threw in the towel. All but 3 of which they apparently didn’t think were even worth organizing, if they even did at all. Often, a Dem steps forward out of sheer will, without hardly any help from the Party and/or the Caucuses. I suppose that’s also the case for “election integrity” Republicans, too, but come on.
Ironically, we know that Washington State—yes, even now—is still one with practically 2 of every 3 voters refusing to vote Republican. The HDCC’s, the WSDCC’s, and the Democratic Party’s efforts should reflect that. But instead it’s less than half. We shouldn’t be allowing our own presence to be outflanked.
For the purposes of data analyses in this post, right-wing candidates were counted as Republicans. Otherwise Third Party candidates were excluded beyond cursory analysis because they raised $0 funds and were otherwise not viable candidates. All considered candidates were compiled the day after filing (May 29), a few of which have withdrawn and are not included in deeper analysis. All fundraising amounts and corresponding counts were updated as of July 29 unless stated otherwise.
1 This includes 3 withdrawn Republicans and 3 withdrawn Democrats. Separately, there were 17 new Third Party candidates, including “election integrity”(2), “peace and freedom”(2), “GOP Abe Lincoln”(1), “Forward”(1)—think Andrew Yang—1 or 2 Green Parties, and of course the self-proclaimed “non-partisans,” who I looked up and designated appropriately.
2 Democrats who raised within that $1k-25k threshold but their Republican opponent did as well were not counted in these numbers, as they are viewed on equal footing.