Who backs our candidates?

The country's largest tobacco company, unions, a Democratic committee and an out-of-state construction solutions provider made generous donations to the four candidates running for two open state Legislature seats for the 24th district.

The top contributor was the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which gave a single $5,000 contribution to Steve Tharinger, a Sequim Democrat running for the 24th District House of Representatives Position 2.

CalPortland, a California-based building materials and construction solutions provider, donated a total of $1,600 to the campaigns of Dan Gase, a Port Angeles Republican running for Position 1, and Sequim Republican Jim McEntire, who is running for Position 2.

McEntire also received $800 from Philip Morris USA, the country's largest tobacco company and cigarette manufacturer.

McEntire said he hasn't been approached by any tobacco lobbyists and thinks the support is based on his pro-business stance.

"Any and all business associations are ... attracted to the message that I've been propagating since day one," he said. "We've got to get the state's fiscal house in order and make sure we only have regulations that have value, not just process and cost, and reach a good balance between protecting the environment and doing the least amount of harm to the economy in the process."

McEntire has said throughout the campaign he believes government needs to get out of the way of business.

McEntire's opponent, Tharinger, received $800 from the Oregon City, Ore.,-based Northwest Sport fishing Industry WA PAC.

"We represent the 24th District but there are also broader policies that affect the whole state," Tharinger said.

Sport fishing, as an example, is important not only to people who live in the district but also sport fishermen who come from all over the Northwest to fish within the district, he said.

Within the district, Tharinger's campaign received 225 contributions totaling $23,536, which accounts for 54 percent of the total cash contributions received by his campaign.

McEntire's campaign received 99 contributions totaling $15,959, which comprises 52 percent of the total cash contributions.

Gase gains funding from locals

Local business support is strong for Gase, with an $800 donation from Howard Ruddell, of Ruddell Auto Mall, and $800 from Levon Mathews, of First Federal bank in Port Angeles.

"The local business people have seen me work in the community for years and years and they respect the belief I have in Port Angeles and how important local business and private enterprise is to the success of our economy," he said. "They like what they hear me say about our campaign and where I'm going,"

Gase also received two $800 donations from the Washington Affordable Housing Council.

Within the district, Gase's campaign received 150 contributions, accounting for 76 percent of the total cash contributions received.

Gase's opponent, incumbent Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, has received the most in contributions with a total of $79,300.

Van De Wege came under fire Aug. 23 at a Concerned Citizens of Clallam County debate for having 76 percent of his donations come from outside the district.

One of the biggest outside contributors is a Puyallup-based group called Citizens for a Better Government, which gave $1,600 to Van De Wege's campaign. His campaign also received substantial support from firefighter, law enforcement and first responder unions.

Firefighter unions alone donated at least $8,000, according to campaign finance filings.

As a firefighter, Van De Wege is a union guy, he said, and it isn't uncommon for unions to back union members running for office.

Van De Wege said criticism for contributions from outside the district isn't relevant to his performance as a legislator.

"It has no validity because they have no proof that I have bowed to special interests at all in any situation," he said. "I represent my district and I'm always going to stick up for them. Who is going to put their district at risk over an $800 campaign donation? That's not even my money, that's the campaign's money."

Van De Wege said often money from outside groups originates with district residents. He used the National Rifle Association as an example, stating that NRA members donate to the association, which then contributes some of the money to candidates they feel support Second Amendment rights. Van De Wege's campaign received $800 from the NRA Political Victory Fund and $800 from the Gun Owners Action League of Washington.

Within the district, Van De Wege's campaign received two $800 contributions from the Hoh Indian Tribe and two $800 contributions from the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.

His campaign received 136 local contributions for a total of $14,882.

Van De Wege said due to the struggling economy, his campaign only sent out one local fundraising letter, asking people to donate $50.

"We said we would only ask once because we know people are struggling," he said.

Amanda Winters can be reached at

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