Congressional candidates Derek Kilmer and Bill Driscoll campaigned on the Harbor on Friday, hoping to find supporters and learn more about the community.
Ballots go out countywide on Wednesday and both candidates are continuing to campaign at a break-neck pace.
Kilmer, a Democratic state senator and vice president at the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, visited the Ocean Spray factory in Markham to learn about Farm Bill impacts to the industry, talked Medicaid issues at Grays Harbor Community Hospital, toured Grays Harbor College and met with mill workers on Friday. Driscoll, a Republican and timber industry executive, conducted a public meet and greet at his “victory office” in Aberdeen with the Grays Harbor Republicans and then conducted a fundraiser at the Rotary Log Pavilion.
Both Kilmer and Driscoll’s campaigns told The Daily World they had raised more than $1.5 million. Filings with the Federal Election Commission are expected to be made public on Monday.
Kilmer’s contributions rely on individual donors, party support and political action committees.
Driscoll, however, says he’s been forced to self-fund at least two-thirds of his campaign.
Driscoll gave his campaign $520,000 of his own money before the primary election. He said he had hoped not to use his own funds again, but that didn’t work out.
“I’ve put another half a million into the campaign,” Driscoll said on Friday, confirming he’s worth about $55 million. “It’s a loan, so my hope is we don’t have to use it all. So that’s there and depending on TV buys and things like that, we can use it or not use it.”
Driscoll noted he’s not the first person to use his own funds to run for federal office, pointing to Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who spent more than $10 million of her own money to defeat Republican Sen. Slade Gorton in 2000. Just this year, in the 1st Congressional District, Federal Election Commission filings from July show Microsoft millionaire Suzan DelBene contributed $1.9 million to her own campaign.
“It is hard to get going, coming off the blocks into the political arena and not coming out of a political background where you have a whole network of supporters,” Driscoll said. “I don’t know how you can do this unless you spend a couple of years doing it and Derek has the advantage coming out of the state Legislature with support of political action committees.”
Kilmer said during an interview he truly wasn’t sure how much money his campaign had raised.
“I haven’t given the campaign a dime,” Kilmer said.
His campaign later emailed totals showing he will have raised a minimum of $1.547 million as of Monday’s report. “This number was raised thanks to the grassroots support of over 3,300 individual contributors,” Kilmer’s Campaign Manager Chris Gregorich wrote in an email. “There are 253 millionaires in Congress. Bill Driscoll wants to use the wealth he inherited to become number 254. It says something about a politician when the first promise he makes in his campaign he breaks.”
“Even John F. Kennedy used his own wealth to campaign,” countered Driscoll. “There’s nothing that says that wealth, per se, means you can or cannot be a good politican or represent your district. It’s just like saying someone who doesn’t have a college education can or cannot be a good representative. I don’t buy that link at all. I think what it comes down to is what are the choices that people make as they’re growing up and living their life. And that’s what’s important. I’ve been spending six months telling everybody what I stand for so there’s no question the money I’m putting into the election is to help communicate what I stand for, but when you’re getting money from PACs and all of these other things, there’s reasons they give money.”
The candidates have six joint appearances next week throughout the district, although a joint appearance couldn’t be worked out on the Harbor. They also both have commercials on television. Driscoll has an ad talking about his bipartisanship and being pro-choice, as well as an upcoming ad focusing against Wild Olympics and the timber industry.
Kilmer has an ad with Dicks touting his strength as an economic development leader and another one where he talks about donating a legislative pay raise to a local scholarship fund for students.
On Friday, Kilmer told members of the Grays Harbor College Foundation that should he win, his goal is to donate part of his salary to colleges around the district for scholarships.
Kilmer also heard from student leaders about the need for more federal aid and support for programs.
Student Body President Mike Cooper said he came to the college as a displaced worker and was only able to continue being in school with support of federal grants and TRiO, a federally funded agency designed to help low-income and first-generation Americans enter college. TRiO is now looking to close its doors on Fridays because of federal cuts.
“That’s going to impact a whole lot of people,” Kilmer said.
“I wouldn’t be standing in this room without these programs,” Cooper told Kilmer. “The college is a hub for this community. At first, you may get your foot in the door, only to realize there’s so many awesome other opportunities here.”
College President Ed Brewster told Kilmer that the college is desperate for more funds for job retraining efforts, especially for young companies like Cosmo Specialty Fibers and Harbor Paper.
“I totally understand where you’re coming from and believe that the federal government should be providing more support,” Kilmer said.
At the meet and greet in Aberdeen, Driscoll fielded questions on imports, China and jobs.
“Jobs — that’s the most important thing on the Harbor right now,” Joe Burich of Central Park told Driscoll. “We need to put people back to work.”
On a question about coal, Driscoll recalled a time when he lived in China, working for the timber industry, “When I lived in Shanghai for a year, I would go jogging in the morning and my wife would get mad at me because when I came home, I’d blow my nose and it would be black because of all the coal they burn. And it’s completely unfiltered. We are one big globe. We have to remember that.”