Candidate spending in the 45th Legislative District race that will determine control of the state Senate has set records, according to reports filed Tuesday with the Public Disclosure Commission, the state's campaign-finance watchdog.
Expenditures by the Manka Dhingra and Jinyoung Lee Englund campaigns together total nearly $2.4 million, far surpassing the prior record for spending in a Washington state Senate race.
A GOP-led coalition now has a one-seat majority in the state Senate. A win by Englund would maintain the majority while a Dhingra victory would put Democrats in charge.
The prior campaign spending record for a state Senate race also was set in the 45th District by the 2014 contest between the late Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower. Expenditures in that race totaled $1.49 million.
"With three weeks left to go before the Nov. 7 election, we expect this high-profile race will continue to attract national attention, leading to further record-breaking spending," PDC Executive Director Peter Lavallee said.
The 45th District also set two new individual records for state Senate candidates this week. Englund's $1.3 million in reported expenditures and Dhingra's $1.09 million both exceed the $1.03 million campaign the previous record waged by Democratic challenger Jack Connelly in his unsuccessful 2012 bid against then-Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma.
Expenditures by the candidates are only part of the story. Independent spending by third parties supporting and opposing Dhingra and Englund eclipses even the candidates' record-setting campaigning. As of Tuesday morning, outside groups had reported $3.4 million in independent expenditures in the 45th District.
Those millions are among the more than $35 million that candidates and political committees participating in the 2017 election have reported spending so far this year, and the more than $1 billion spent in Washington state campaigns over the last decade.
"The amount of money in play in this race is a clear indication that the election results will have a significant effect on people's lives," said Commission Chair Anne Levinson. "Particularly because both are new candidates, comprehensive information about contribution sources and uses is critically important for voters to have as they evaluate the candidates."
The PDC is charged with providing timely public access to information about that spending, as well as enforcing Washington's disclosure and campaign finance laws.
Voters created the PDC in 1972 with the passage of Initiative 276.