The filing deadline for congressional candidate in the open-seat Washington 3rd is still quite a way off, but the field is starting to shrink and the front-runners are looking quite a bit clearer. Even if you have to throw aside some fundraising data to reach the conclusion.
Among Republicans, the picture is beginning to look notably clear. State Representative Jaime Herrera, R-Ridgefield, seems to be picking up a lot of momentum. The one incumbent officeholder in the group (and a strong winner for the seat in 2008), she has been getting repeated mentions - beneficiary of a general atmosphere. When Washougal City Councilman Jon Russell said this week he's dropping out of the race, he offered his support to Herrera (whose legislative seat he would like to take). Another indicator: At a Cowlitz County Republican event, Herrera took 88% of the votes in a straw poll, in the three-way race. The primary, at least, looks to be hers to lose.
The most recent financials show candidate David Castillo as the biggest money recipient ($104,172) among the Republicans, nearly double Herrera's $55,775. But that may turn around before long. The other contender, ex-Marine David William Hedrick, Camas, seems not to have picked up a lot of speed. Herrera is emerging as a good bet for the nomination.
On the Democratic side, the odds seem to be migrating toward one of two, either state Senator Craig Pridemore or former legislator and TCW co-founder Denny Heck.
This too was clarified through a pullout, that of Representative Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, who had a serious base of support but said she wasn't likely to meet her fundraising targets. Work in the legislature has affected her ability to fundraise, she suggested. She also suggested she might throw her primary support to Heck.
As of the end of last year, Heck was much the largest fundraiser in the district in either party ($214,737), and he has the most interesting resume: a decade in the Washington House, work as chief of staff for former Governor Booth Gardner, deep involvement in launching TVW and a bunch of other business and civic activities.
But Pridemore, now a veteran senator at Clark County with an energetic base of support, has some real strengths and has been leveraging them well. His views - basically liberal - are more crisply identified than Heck's, and among activists he may pick up the larger group of enthusiastic helpers.
Tough call between the two of them as yet. But one of the two of them, it is likely to be.
So who would have the advantage in this swing district come November? That's a close call, and it may be settled by whoever runs the smarter campaign.