Jul 8, 2022 - News

Donations pile up in King County prosecutor's race

Jim Ferrell and Leesa Manion are running for King County's open prosecutor's seat.
Jim Ferrell and Leesa Manion are running for King County's open prosectuor's seat. Photos courtesy of Ferrell and Manion campaigns

Donations are flooding into the two-candidate race for King County's open prosecutor's seat.

  • Fundraising by candidates Jim Ferrell and Leesa Manion has already eclipsed total contributions made in recent campaigns for the prosecutor's office, which hasn't seen a competitive contest in 15 years.

By the numbers: Overall, Ferrell had outraised Manion $159,380 to $147,419 as of July 7, per the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

  • The roughly $307,000 brought in by both candidates — with four months of campaigning to go — obliterates the $206,000+ in total contributions raised in the last prosecutor's race in 2018.

Context: In 2007 — the last truly competitive contest for the office — Dan Satterberg raised more than $512,000 on his way to victory over Bill Sherman, who collected over $244,000.

Why it matters: Campaign donations could be key in a race for the non-partisan office where the candidates must balance their approach to public safety amid recent reforms in law enforcement.

  • Both Ferrell, a former senior deputy prosecutor and three-term mayor of Federal Way, and Manion, Satterberg's longtime chief of staff, are also trying to bolster name recognition and step out from behind the shadow of Satterberg, the 14-year incumbent who announced in January he would leave the post at the end of his fourth term.

State of play: With one-time candidate Stephan Thomas already dropping out, both contenders are assured to advance through August's primary and will square off again in November's general election.

  • Already, they're spending like it's October: The $173,000 in collective expenditures so far is the sixth highest amount spent in any race statewide, per the PDC.

Between the lines: The vast majority of donations to both candidates so far have come from individuals, but Ferrell raised at least $4,120 from six police groups, including unions representing Seattle police officers and King County sheriff's deputies.

  • Ferrell — a one-time Republican-turned-Democrat, also received an in-kind donation of $8,670 for access to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee's voter database.
  • Democratic Party chair Tina Podlodowski has since barred Ferrell from using the database, after his name appeared on a flier promoting a GOP candidates' event. Ferrell said he didn't attend or know the event was touting his participation.
  • Podlodowski said Thursday Manion has paid for and received access to the voter database, but she has not taken donations from police groups, per the PDC.

What they're saying: Manion wrote in an email to Axios that, because she helped establish the office's public integrity unit that reviews police use of force and shooting cases, she has "intentionally declined to seek the endorsement of any police guilds."

  • The unit's "review would not appear fair and transparent if I am endorsed by police unions." she said.
  • Ferrell said he doesn't view taking money or endorsements from police groups as a conflict, contending they won't influence him as prosecutor.

"I've got great relationships with law enforcement, but I've got zero tolerance for police misconduct and we won't be filing cases off of officers we don't trust," he said.

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