OLYMPIA - The campaign arm of the Democratic caucus in the state House of Representatives has contributed $20,000 to Richland Democrat Carol Moser's campaign, suggesting the 8th District may be a true battleground this fall.
"That was a nice gift, wasn't it?" Moser said of the July 18 contribution.
A former Richland councilwoman who sits on the state Transportation Commission, Moser is seeking the seat being vacated by the retiring state Rep. Shirley Hankins, R-Richland.
Four Republicans - Brad Klippert, Steve Simmons, Skip Novakovich and Rick Jansons - also are in the hunt.
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The district hasn't come close to electing a Democrat since 1992. Its Republican legislators often have run unopposed.
But the moderate Moser offers the biggest name on the Aug. 19 primary ballot and may give Democrats their best hope in years.
Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp's recruitment of Moser has caught the eye of local Republicans. In a two-week-old fundraising letter to supporters on behalf of Simmons, Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, warned Chopp "has targeted our county specifically for Democratic takeover."
The contribution from the House Democratic Campaign Committee seems to confirm that. Though the committee has paid for a number of polls on behalf of its candidates, the cash contribution is one of only two such checks the committee has issued to candidates so far.
"It should send the message we think she's a dang good candidate," said Rep. Bill Grant, D-Walla Walla, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
"I think she's got a tremendous chance," he said.
Caucus campaign committees raise money from interest groups and other traditional political donors but get the bulk of their funding from leftover campaign money raised by their incumbent legislators.
They then divert the money to vulnerable incumbents and challengers waging competitive races. Often, most of the money is spent on a handful of races.
House Democrats have 65 members to fill their coffers this year and enjoy an embarrassment of riches. Their campaign committee carried over almost $580,000 from the 2006 election.
Moser said when she began mulling a run, Chopp indicated he'd be willing to help. "I just kept at it and kept asking," Moser said. "They backed up their words with a very nice check."