Democratic PAC aims for Senate

A super PAC supporting Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has redirected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the governor’s race into getting more Democrats elected to the Legislature.

Our Washington spent nearly half of its $1.4 million cache Oct. 13 to air cable television ads attacking Republican Bill Bryant, Inslee’s opponent, in Seattle, Spokane and Yakima.

And the committee — whose largest donors include the Democratic Governors Association, Washington Federation of State Employees and Service Employees International Union — was expected to continue waging an offensive against the GOP candidate right up until Election Day on Nov. 8.

Instead, on Oct. 17, Our Washington sent $360,000 to New Direction PAC which is conducting vigorous campaigns against incumbent Republicans in the House and Senate, and a few GOP hopefuls. New Direction is funded primarily by the political arms of the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate.

The decision by Our Washington to pull its cash out of the governor’s race pretty clearly indicates its confidence of an Inslee victory and a desire to get him more legislative allies for a second term.

Results of a statewide poll released Oct. 24 seem to validate their confidence. Inslee leads Bryant by 12 percentage points, 51-39, in the survey of 502 likely voters conducted by Seattle pollster Stuart Elway.

New Direction, meanwhile, has amassed $4 million, the most of any independent political committee this election cycle. Those dollars are getting used to help Democrats pick up two seats in the Senate and regain the majority. Money is also getting spent to add seats in the House where Democrats hold a slim 50-48 advantage on Republicans.

For example, New Direction has spent nearly $400,000 against Republican state Sen. Steve O’Ban of University Place and is closing in on $300,000 opposing Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island. Roughly $330,000 has been expended against Rep. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, who is battling Democratic candidate Tim Probst to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Don Benton.

The PAC is also active in a pair of legislative races in Snohomish County.

So far it’s expended roughly $153,000 against Janice Huxford, a Lake Stevens Republican, who is taking on appointed state Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek. And it has spent almost $50,000 to unseat state Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek who faces the challenge of Democratic hopeful Katrina Ondracek cq JCof Lake Stevens.

Inslee too is working to bolster the ranks of Democrats, especially in the Senate.

On Oct. 22, he took part in get-out-the-vote rallies in Bellevue with Lisa Wellman, the Democratic challenger to Litzow, and then in Vancouver with Probst. It wasn’t the first time and not likely to be the last time Inslee campaigns alongside Democrats with a shot of upending Republicans.

“It’s not enough to just get re-elected,” said Jamal Raad, Inslee campaign spokesman. “We need to have a working Senate majority.”

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com.

Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos.