Tola Marts, Maureen McCarry lead in City Council races

November 3, 2009

NEW — 9:50 p.m. Nov. 3, 2009

City Council candidates Tola Marts and Maureen McCarry led by wide margins as Election Day wrapped.

King County Elections released unofficial returns at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. The next update from the elections office will be 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Additional ballots could still shift results in the contested races.

The elections office predicted 56 percent of King County voters would cast ballots. Officials sent 16,428 ballots to Issaquah voters; 5,818 ballots— or 35 percent — had been returned to the elections office and tallied by Tuesday night. The election marks the first city contest since King County switched to all-mail voting.

Newcomer Marts led opponent Nathan Perea by 726 votes — 60 percent to 39 percent — while incumbent McCarry bested challenger Joan Probala by 1,353 votes — 69 percent to 31 percent.

“The candidates who talked about specific, concrete issues” reached voters, Marts said after the elections office released unofficial returns.

Tola Marts (right) talks to campaign supporters during an election night party at Stan's Bar-B-Q on Front Street in downtown Issaquah. He leads in the race for the City Council seat being vacated by 18-year veteran David Kappler (left). — Photo by Greg Farrar

Tola Marts (right) talks to campaign supporters during an election night party at Stan's Bar-B-Q on Front Street in downtown Issaquah. He leads in the race for the City Council seat being vacated by 18-year veteran David Kappler (left). — Photo by Greg Farrar

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Candidates fill coffers despite down economy

November 3, 2009

With phone calls, e-mail blasts and old-fashioned glad-handing, Issaquah city and schools candidates tapped a wide network of donors for cash to keep campaigns cruising ahead.

Despite a tough economy and the number of unopposed races on the city ballot, candidates had outpaced the amount spent on city races in 2007. During the last election cycle — when nine candidates appeared on the ballot in the August primary and seven candidates went on to the general election — challengers raised $32,505. Contrast the total with 2009, when no primary election was needed and eight candidates pulled in more than $58,000 by the last week in October, according to filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Despite the economic downturn, most candidates said the recession had not limited donors’ ability to give.

“The economy has put a ding in a lot of races,” City Council candidate Joan Probala said.

But Probala, who faced incumbent Maureen McCarry, said she had no trouble fundraising. Probala said she was pleased with the amount raised by her campaign: $17,752 by the end of October.

McCarry had raised more by the end of October — $11,509 — than the $10,230 she mustered four years ago, when she was locked in a tight race with Bill Conley. But the City Council incumbent said asking for money had become difficult amid the recession.

“There are higher priorities in people’s lives right now, and I respect that,” McCarry said.

Candidate Nathan Perea tapped into a broad group of donors because he “reached out to so many families and close friends,” he said. He had raised $8,273 by the end of last month.

Perea squared off against another newcomer, Tola Marts, for the Position 7 council seat. Marts said he employed a similar strategy to rake in $5,461 by the end of October, according to campaign filings.

“I have a really strong set of supporters,” Marts said.

Dash for cash

City candidates also worked to secure more donations to reach big numbers, due to a new campaign finance rule — the first limit to campaign contributions in Issaquah history.

With the start of campaign season two weeks away, the City Council voted in mid-May to limit Issaquah campaign contributions. The cap limits donations to $500 from a single party and includes both cash and in-kind donations in the total. Enforcement fell to city Code Compliance Officer Michele Forkner.

She said no complaints have been filed under the new ordinance. But several donors skirted the cap by giving to candidates already in the race before June 1, when the limit went into effect.

Mayor Ava Frisinger, who will be re-elected unopposed, netted $7,795 in cash and in-kind donations. Most of the contributions to the Frisinger campaign poured in before the filing period closed in June without a candidate challenging the mayor.

Unopposed City Council candidates, incumbent Eileen Barber and newcomer Mark Mullet, also pulled in donations. Barber pulled in $1,998 before the candidate-filing period ended. Mullet has raised $5,445, according to campaign filings.

Probala, who entered the race in late February, pulled in $1,000 from the Seattle King County Association of Realtors before the contribution limit went into effect.

Probala, a real estate agent, also received contributions from a political action committee, the Realtors Quality of Life PAC, a real estate organization based in Olympia. Her campaign drew $5,936 worth of independent support last month from organizations. The contributions were used for campaign mailers and newspaper ads, according to campaign filings.

Outside spending from the Affordable Housing Council was used to support Perea and Probala. The organization — the political arm of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties — spent $1,600 each on the Perea and Probala campaigns to call voters.

City candidates each hosted a few receptions to raise money, and made pitches for campaign dollars through the Web. Candidates shelled out for big-ticket items, such as hundreds of yard signs, Web site design services and campaign mailers.

Probala, who raised more than any other city candidate, also spent the most: $14,191. Her campaign spent $1,731.23 for mailers, $1,138.20 for yard signs and $954 for newspaper advertising.

McCarry directed $7,241 to her re-election bid. She spent $2,727 for newspaper ads, $4,621.15 for campaign mailers and $1,215 for her campaign Web site.

Perea dropped $7,654 in the Position 7 contest. He outspent opponent Marts, who funneled $3,684 to his campaign.

Perea splurged on $1,095 for campaign signs, $1,000 for campaign consulting and Web site design, and $877.10 to print campaign materials.

Marts spent a total of $1,078.61 for campaign mailers and another $683.28 for yard signs. The largest single expense for the Marts campaign was $715 for a newspaper ad.

Mini-campaigns, big bills

Marnie Maraldo and Wright Noel, vying for the school board Director District No. 2 seat, opted for a different tactic: the so-called mini-campaign, a pact to limit fundraising and spending to $5,000.

The total includes loans from a candidate to his or her campaign. Contributions from a single donor cannot exceed $500. If a candidate breaks the mini-campaign rules, he or she must file a weekly disclosure report with the PDC. Maraldo and Noel did not break the $5,000 limit.

The schools candidates said the format allowed them more time to focus on issues.

“I’ve spent most of my time talking about the issues, rather than going out and trying to get money from people,” Noel said. “So, it has been nice, in that sense, since I haven’t had to be concerned about raising a lot of money.”

Maraldo said she and her husband, Tony, loaned the campaign about $2,500 at the beginning. Since she started fundraising during the summer, about $2,200 has flowed to the campaign, she said.

Maraldo estimated half of the donations were made through her campaign Web site. The other half, she said, was made through mailed contributions.

Major donors to the Maraldo campaign included local unions, education advocate Leigh Stokes and state Rep. Marcie Maxwell, a Renton Democrat who represents Newcastle, where Maraldo lives. The largest donations were about $200 each, Maraldo said.

Maraldo said most of money, $1,773.90, went toward campaign signs. Maraldo also had a campaign manager for a short stint, a $750 expense.

The campaign had about $1,500 less than two weeks before Election Day, and Maraldo said she would likely be able to reimburse about $1,000 of her loan to her campaign.

Noel said he has raised $1,455 in outside contributions for his campaign, using the same formula as Maraldo. He loaned the campaign about $1,000 to launch the effort. About half of the donations he collected were funneled through his Web site, and the other half was sent via mail.

“Even $10 is a huge statement of their support,” Noel said. “Does it make a difference? Yes. I wouldn’t have been able to get the signs out.”

Noel had spent $1,274 with less than two weeks until the election, with campaign signs as the largest expense. The campaign also paid for materials to make stress balls — flour and balloons with Noel’s name on them — and campaign buttons, and ingredients to bake homemade cookies.

After Noel reimburses the original loan, the campaign account will have a balance of about $200, Noel said.

Noel said the largest contribution to his campaign was about $200. Most of the donations, however, were between $10 and $50, he said.

“There has been a lot of little donations, which has been hugely appreciated,” he said.

Despite a tough economy and a new $500 cap in city races, City Council candidates raised impressive amounts in the sprint toward Election Day. Here are some of the top donors in Issaquah races:

City Council, Position 5

Maureen McCarry

Connie Marsh: $500

Chris Hysom: $500

Washington Conservation Voters: $450

Joan Probala

Seattle King County Association of Realtors: $1,000

Bill Conley: $501

Eastside Business Alliance: $500

Donations above the $500 limit were made before the cap went into effect June 1.

City Council, Position 7

Nathan Perea

Eastside Business Alliance: $500

Rowley Properties: $500

Washington Association of Realtors: $500

Tola Marts

Councilman John Rittenhouse: $350

Council President Maureen McCarry: $250

41st District Democrats: $250

School Board, Director District No. 2

Marnie Maraldo and Wright Noel opted to use so-called mini-campaigns, which limit the total raised and spent on a campaign to $5,000. Candidates who chose mini-campaigns do not have to file a weekly report with the Public Disclosure Commission.

Source: Public Disclosure Commission

By Warren Kagarise and Chantelle Lusebrink

Pre-election robocalls puzzle City Council candidates

November 3, 2009

City Council candidates want to know who paid for robocalls — pre-recorded, automated phone messages — made on behalf of contenders Nathan Perea and Joan Probala a week before Election Day. Read more

Join us for up-to-the minute results, reaction as Election Day wraps

November 3, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 3, 2009

Election results might be elusive as today — Election Day — draws to a close, but candidates will join supporters for some good cheer after the ballot deadline passes. Follow The Issaquah Press tonight, as reporters dart to candidate gatherings — and a few victory parties — and await election results.

Join reporters Warren Kagarise and Chantelle Lusebrink as they check in with City Council and school board candidates, live via Twitter. Join them @wkagarise and @clusebrink for candidate interviews, election analysis and a behind-the-scenes look at the end of the monthslong campaign.

King County Elections will post a batch of results at 8:15 p.m. If the tallies are close, candidates and voters will be left waiting until the elections office releases another round at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 4.

Follow along as our reporters check in with City Council candidates Maureen McCarry and Joan Probala, and Tola Marts and Nathan Perea, as well as school board hopefuls Marnie Maraldo and Wright Noel.

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Robocalls puzzle City Council candidates

November 1, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 1, 2009

City Council candidates want to know who paid for robocalls made on behalf of contenders Nathan Perea and Joan Probala a week before Election Day.

Perea and Probala disavowed knowledge of the calls or the entity behind them. No evidence ties the robocalls to the Perea or Probala campaigns. The automated calls encourage voters to cast ballots for Perea and Probala.

“I would like you to vote today for Joan Probala and Nathan Perea for the Issaquah City Council, and mail your ballot today,” a woman said in the message. Issaquah voters said they received the call early last week.

Perea faces Tola Marts in the contest for the Position 7 seat. Probala is vying against incumbent Maureen McCarry in the Position 5 race.

The candidates raised concerns about the robocalls because the messages do not identify the entity behind the message, or even the woman in the call.

“I’ve worked hard and I want to feel good about what I’ve done,” Probala said. “Now, there’s a cloud hanging over Nathan and I.”

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All-mail election could keep decision unknown on Nov. 3

October 27, 2009

When City Council candidate Joan Probala and her supporters gather at Gibson Hall on election night, the crowd could be cheated out of knowing how the months-long campaign culminates. Read more

Candidates tout endorsements as Election Day nears

October 27, 2009

Issaquah city and schools candidates rolled out long lists of endorsements — from elected officials, community leaders, business groups and political parties — during the push for votes.

Endorsements provide fodder for campaign ads and reassure voters with questions about candidates. The nods can also provide clues to party affiliations of candidates in the nonpartisan City Council and school board races.

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Voters will decide fire-protection funding measure

October 27, 2009

Voters will decide fire-protection funding measure

Voters in Klahanie, Preston, Tiger Mountain, May Valley and Carnation — the area covered by Fire Protection District 10 — will decide whether to reauthorize a charge to provide dollars for emergency fire and medical service on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Proposition 1 would lower the district property tax rate from $1.50 to a maximum of $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. No organized opposition to Proposition 1 has materialized.

District officials said a lower property tax rate in conjunction with the charge — based upon building size and use — is a more equitable and stable way to pay for emergency services.

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Nathan Perea recalls small-town Issaquah, hopes to redefine growth

October 20, 2009

Nathan Perea

Nathan Perea

When Nathan Perea moved to Issaquah as a second-grader, the city was home to just shy of 6,000 people. Back then, in 1985, Issaquah had the feel of a small town. Perea remembers how growth — and the associated headaches — reshaped the city.

“I can remember the way Issaquah was when I moved here,” he said. “As I watched us grow, even at a young age, I watched the disparity between the growth and the infrastructure. We grew at such an alarming rate and it started to take 45, 50 minutes to get from the plateau to I-90.”

The city had swelled by the time Perea returned to the city and settled in the Issaquah Highlands in 2006. The hillside community was nonexistent when Perea moved to Issaquah as a child. Nowadays, the city is home to almost 27,000 people.

As he campaigns for a City Council seat, first-time candidate Perea seeks to unite the old and new. He talks about how elected officials can learn from past mistakes and increase the quality of growth.

“Remembering that, I know that as we grow, we need to make sure that we’re doing that responsibly and supporting it in the right way, so that we’re not just clogging this place up and detracting from its beauty and charm,” Perea said. Read more

City Council hopeful Tola Marts aims to build consensus

October 20, 2009

Tola Marts

Tola Marts

Before he settled on Squak Mountain in 2006, Tola Marts encountered Issaquah politics as a Klahanie resident during the unsuccessful push to annex the community. The measure would have added more than 10,000 people to Issaquah during a period when the city grew 139 percent through other annexations and construction of the highlands and Talus.

Marts and his neighbors supported the Klahanie annexation, but city officials balked when the majority of Klahanie residents refused to take on a share of the city’s debt.

As Marts campaigns for a City Council seat, he could face the unresolved Klahanie issue again. How Issaquah grows will be a defining issue for the next council.

Marts grew up in White Bear Lake, Minn., a Twin Cities suburb hit hard by the boom-and-bust cycle of growth.

“I came from a town in Minnesota that has really struggled,” he said. “It was doing great when I moved there in 1980 and it has struggled to find its way after being a growth city.”

Marts, active in Issaquah School District affairs since 2005, became interested in how to best position the city for the growth ahead. He said he hopes Issaquah avoids the problems of his hometown. Read more

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