SPOKANE, Wash. — Money is being spent at a record-setting pace on the race for Spokane mayor.
Organizations backing both Nadine Woodward and Ben Stuckart have been spending tens of thousands of dollars on their preferred candidate and for varying reasons.
By far the biggest spender in this election cycle is the Washington Realtors PAC. It's headed up by Spokane realtor Tom Hormel, who says he and his colleagues are especially passionate about local politics this year.
"It's the biggest race we've seen in Spokane in 20 years," Hormel said. "It's a housing crisis of absolute epic proportions."
The PAC has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on independent expenditures for various candidates in Spokane. That means rather than contribute directly to a candidate, they buy ads, in this case on Facebook.
"Our content is always: here's what our candidate stands for. We take a positive approach," Hormel said.
The bulk of that money, nearly $100,000, is going to Nadine Woodward. The realtors endorsed her after meeting with numerous candidates, feeling she would be the most effective in addressing the housing crisis.
"She was willing to get all the stakeholders together, not just government officials, but also builders, developers, homeowners, to put a group together to look at this," Hormel said. "She didn't say that I have all the answers and here's my plan, she said that we can work together to find the plan that works best for Spokane."
On the other side, Ben Stuckart has a lot of support from local unions, just under $30,000 total. But they are not formed into one PAC and they donate directly to the candidate rather than via unlimited independent expenditures.
"Our members have been really happy with Council President Stuckart's engagement in reaching out to find what are the opinions of people that work for a living and sign the backs of checks, the wage-earners in this community," said Timm Ormsby, the president of the Spokane Regional Labor Council. "What is in their best interest?"
The SRLC is a voluntary association of local unions. Their involvement in politics this year is about on par with years past.
“Every election that we’re coming up on is the most important election," Ormsby said.
In terms of the issues many SRLC members care about, Ormsby cited "workplace issues, wage-earner issues" like "wages and healthcare and retirement with dignity."
Ormsby is also sure to point out that unions don't act as one body.
"This is not a monolithic enterprise," he said. "There is not a fat cat sitting in some corner office with a nice view dictating to folks what they will do. Their independence as a local union is their strong suit and something they jealously protect."
Hormel also takes issue with some of the public perception about his PAC.
"When somebody says we're buying a voice or buying an election… when you're educating people, that's all you're doing is educating people. They still have to go to that ballot box and make their own decision," he said. "When somebody rails against the realtors, they're railing against 2,200 small business people."
Hormel did acknowledge that not all of the money being spent on Spokane elections comes from those 2,200 local realtors; some comes from any number of the 22,000 realtors in the PAC across the state of Washington.
Both sides say their respective candidates are the ones most likely to listen to them when making decisions about policy. But both also say they'll want to work with whoever takes office.
“Win, lose, or draw, we fully expect to be engaged in the public policy process," Ormsby said.
“We don’t want to make this adversarial, that’s why we are putting out a positive message," said Hormel. "If one of the candidates that we didn’t endorse wins, we hope that person would call us on the Monday after the election and say, ‘I need your help,’ and we would say, ‘Guess what? We’re here to help.’”