If money decided elections, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) would have a clear-cut victory in November.
As of June 30, the most recent Federal Elections Commission filing deadline, Walden had raised almost $4.2 million, while his Second Congressional District challenger, Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, raised $281,000. She said as of mid-August she has raised more than $400,000, which is the most a Democrat has ever reported raising while challenging Walden, who was first elected in 1998, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Still, the funds fail to approach the sum Walden has amassed.
On a list of important items to know about money in politics, opensecrets.org, the website of The Center for Responsive Politics, listed “Money Isn’t Everything.” However, they did stress its importance. “Money isn’t the most important thing to politicians. Getting elected is. Money is so important because it’s an essential ingredient in winning campaigns, but it’s not the only one.”
Walden and his challenger’s money, however, comes from very different places. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, small individual contributions — less than $200 — make up less than 4 percent of Walden’s money. Large individual contributions — greater than $200 — make up 33.7 percent, and donations from political action committees constitute 57.11 percent. PACs are political committees organized for the purpose of raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates. According to www.opensecrets.org, most PACs represent business, labor or ideological interests.
McLeod-Skinner, a former city manager in Phoenix, Oregon, and Santa Clara, California, city councilor, beat out six other candidates for the Democratic Party nomination in May.
According to The Center for Responsive Politics 45.65 percent of McLeod-Skinner’s money comes from small individual contributions, 53.35 percent from large individual contributions and .39 percent from PACs. McLeod-Skinner disputed these numbers and said small individual contributions constitute more of her fundraising.
Justin Discigil, Walden’s communications director, in an email to The Observer said the representative’s monetary support shows the work he’s done in Oregon.
“The people of Oregon’s Second District know that Greg — a lifelong Oregonian — is their strongest advocate in Congress because he has consistently stood up for the farming, ranching and small-business way of life in Eastern Oregon,” Discigil said in the email. “That is why groups representing doctors, hospitals, ranchers, firefighters, electricians and many more are showing their support.”
McLeod-Skinner said the donations Walden receives represent how he caters to special interests.
“You can talk about those big dollars, those big numbers,” McLeod-Skinner said. “That’s going to backfire on him because with those big numbers comes his focus on corporate PAC agenda and that does not serve our district.”
The Democratic nominee said she isn’t worried about being out-fundraised by Walden.
“I know that there’s so much focus on dollars, and dollars are part of campaigning, but ultimately it comes down to who gets the most votes,” McLeod-Skinner told The Observer. “I don’t have to raise more money than him. I have to get more votes.”
McLeod-Skinner said she is more focused on overall resources, pointing to her approximately 1,350 volunteers — 400 are making calls and another 400 are knocking on doors in Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which spans from Wallowa County in the northeast to Malheur County in the southeast to Jackson County in the southwest and Hood River County in the Northwest. For that reason, she remains confident in her campaign.
“It’s billboards versus your neighbors calling you up and encouraging you to vote for me, and that’s the contest we’re facing right now,” she said.
Walden has raised more money during the 2018 campaign than in any of his previous congressional campaigns. The most he raised previously was almost $3.5 million in 2014, when he earned 71 percent of the vote to beat Democrat Aelea Christofferson, who raised $135,231. Discigil said Walden’s fundraising levels are partially due to how big the district is. Oregon’s Second Congressional District is the sixth largest in the country and approximately the size of the state of Washington.
“Advertising in a district with as many newspapers, radio and TV stations and billboards is expensive,” Discigil said. “Couple that with outside groups that have already spent more than $500,000 attacking Greg. It only makes sense that his campaign would step up to meet the unknown challenge of third-party special interests and their dark money.”
For McLeod-Skinner, her campaign will continue to rely on personal contributions and volunteers. She tells one story of a woman who said she cut a cord of wood from land she lives on and sold it to be able to contribute to McLeod-Skinner’s campaign.
“I will trade the cord of wood that she cut for my campaign for Greg Walden’s big pharma dollars anyday,” McLeod-Skinner said.
To donate to either of the candidates, visit their websites at https://gregwalden.com/join-greg/ or https://jamiefororegon.com/. class="Apple-converted-space">