Realtor April Connors is leading the pack in contributions raised among candidates for 8th Legislative District races, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

She’s raised more money than state Representative Matt Boehnke, who raised the most in 2020. 

With no incumbents running for the three legislative seats, candidates for those open seats have begun scrambling for contributions. The 8th LD covers Richland and West Richland, west Kennewick and west Pasco. 

Candidates can register their campaigns with the PDC and start fundraising for their campaigns before they file for office. In addition to getting a leg up with finances, some believe that demonstrating fundraising prowess will keep other candidates out of the race.

Matt Boehnke, state senate, has 3 funds

Boehnke, a Republican, has three fundraising accounts – one for the state House seat that he currently holds, one for his state senate campaign and one for surplus funds.  

After Senator Sharon Brown said that she would not run for re-election,  Boehnke announced that he would run for her seat instead of his position 2 seat in the House.

Once he files to run for Senate, Boehnke will give up his House seat.

The former Kennewick city councilman  created a PDC account for his Senate on Dec. 16. It shows that he donated $100 to his campaign and acquired a $5,099 debt to political consultants Alex Hays of AB Hays LLC in Tacoma and Rory McShane of McShane LLC in Las Vegas.

Boehnke also has his House campaign account, created on January 10, 2021. He has $35,872 on hand in that account and $16,779 in expenditures, which includes $10,000 to Hays.

Boehnke also has about $10,000 in his surplus fund account.

To switch funds from the House and surplus accounts to his senate account, Boehnke must have the written approval of the donors.  When transferring from more than one account, a candidate starts with the most recent donor and counts back until they can account for all the remaining money.

Boehnke had as much as $100,000 in the surplus account in 2020, raised in a campaign against Larry Stanley, who pledged to raise no more than $5000. Stanley identified with the Alliance Party.

Boehnke transferred $45,000 from surplus to the House Republican Organizational Committee account after the August primary. Candidates cannot transfer money to other candidates from their campaign accounts, but they can transfer an unlimited amount to the political party funds, where party bosses can spread the money to other candidates at no more than a $1 per registered voter in the recipient’s district.

The surplus money transfer has made for some interesting campaign dynamics. For instance, the Washington Education Association (WEA) endorsed Boehnke and donated the maximum legal amount on June 6, 2020, $1,000 for the primary and $1,000 for the general election. 

The money that WEA donated may have been a portion of what Boehnke gave to the House Republican Organizational Committee and provided to candidates running against WEA’s other endorsed candidates.

Rhonda “Ronni” Batchelor, state senate

Ronni Batchelor filed on March 11 as an independent to run for the open state senate seat. 

Since filing, she has raised $600 from three donors. Retired teachers Chris and Jayne Tracy of Richland each contributed $250; Chris Tracy is chair of the 8th Legislative Democrats. Anthony Redmond of North Hollywood, California contributed $100. Batchelor lists an expenditure of $250 for website development.

In LinkedIn, Batchelor reports that she is a full-time, certified peer counselor at Lourdes Hospital in Pasco. She’s also a disabled senior living in Kennewick, involved in the Cross Disability Advocacy Network through Disability Rights Washington, according to a piece she wrote last year in the Tri-City Herald.

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Stephanie Barnard, state representative position 1

Republican Stephanie Barnard submitted financial reports with the PDC on March 22, 2022, for state representative position 1. 

Incumbent, Brad Klippert, announced that he was running for Congress against U.S. Rep Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside. State law bars a candidate from appearing on a ballot more than once, forcing Klippert to give up his House seat.

Barnard is strategic projects director at the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce. She is the ex-wife of Benton-Franklin Superior Court Judge Sam Swanberg, who has been cited with domestic violence assault against her. His trial was recently delayed until August 8. 

Barnard lists three $1,000 donations: one from Michael Connors, position 2 candidate April Connors’ husband, another from Dan Elenbaas of Virtual Therapeutics in Redmond, and another from Sean O’Brien, a staffer for the Western Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives and former Newhouse staffer.

Former Washington Treasurer Duane Davidson filed to run for the seat in March 2021. He raised about $4,500, which included $2,000 of his own money, before he dropped out and supported Barnard

Before he dropped out, Davidson spent $1,544 for a catered event at Clover Island Inn. A meeting at Azteca Mexican restaurant with Axiom Strategies, a political consulting group out of Kansas City, cost his campaign $95.  About $2,000 remains in the fund.

April Connors, state representative position  2

Connors, a Republican, registered with the PDC on December 16, 2021. Her latest report shows $50,479 in contributions.

“A life-long Tri-Citian, April was in elementary school when she discovered a penchant for leadership and passion for community service,” according to Connors’ website. More recently, Connors has been a Realtor with the Windermere real estate group.

Connors has 30 donors who gave at least $1,000. Topping the list with a $2,000 contribution is Pasco Tire Factory Inc., whose owner is Paul Williams, according to a Better Business Bureau report.

Connors’ webpage features endorsements from recently elected Kennewick city councilmembers Loren Anderson and Gretl Crawford, who also led the pack of contributors with $1,500 and $1,250 respectively. 

More than $5,000 came from seven people named Connors.

Jody Easterday also contributed $1,000.

Connors is holding on to her contributions for now, showing only $4,411 in expenditures. Her PDC report lists the most money spent, $800, went to AB Hays – the same consulting group Boehnke owes money to.

Joe Cotta, state representative position 2

Joe Cotta, a Republican, filed on April 21 for state representative position 2 and does not show any contributions on his PDC reports. The Observer was unable to find any additional information about the candidate.

Filing week opens at 9:00 a.m. on May 16 and closes on May 21 at 4:00 p.m. 

Correction: Adele Connors is not April Connors’ mother-in-law as reported earlier. The Observer apologizes for the error.