Nov 22, 2022 - News

2022 saw two of Washington's priciest-ever legislative races

Data: Public Disclosure Commission; Chart: Axios Visuals

Campaign spending this year was bananas — even in state legislative races.

Driving the news: This year's contest between Democrat Emily Randall and Republican Jesse Young goes down as the second-priciest state legislative race in Washington history.

  • Randall, the incumbent, narrowly edged out Young, a state representative, to hold onto her state Senate seat.

The big picture: Cost-wise, the Randall-Young matchup trails only the 2017 battle between Manka Dhingra and Jinyoung Englund, which racked up over $9 million in total spending between the candidates and outside groups.

  • Dhingra's victory gave control of the state Senate to Democrats, which is why so much money poured in from all sides.

Details: This year's contest between state Sen. Simon Sefzik (R-Ferndale) and state Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) ranks as the state's fifth most-expensive legislative race ever.

  • Shewmake unseated Sefzik, boosting Democrats' Senate majority by one seat.
  • The other two priciest races were the 2020 intraparty contest between state Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) and Democrat Ingrid Anderson; and the 2020 state Senate matchup between Steve O'Ban and T'wina Nobles.
  • Nobles won that race to become the second Black woman ever to serve in the Washington Senate, while Mullet kept his seat (just barely).

Of note: In each of these matchups, spending by outside groups outpaced spending by the candidates.

  • That's a testament to how much influence is wielded by third-party PACs, whose independent spending isn’t subject to contribution limits, unlike donations made directly to candidates' campaigns.
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