Show us the money: Campaign contributions flow into Camas City Council primary races

Two city council candidates, Leslie Lewallen and Gary Perman, have outpaced their competitors when it comes to campaign donations, including $8,000 worth of contributions from one Vancouver couple, David and Donna Madore

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Camas City Council candidates Leslie Lewallen (left) and Gary Perman have far outpaced their competitors when it comes to campaign contributions raised before the Aug. 3, 2021 primary election. (Contributed photos courtesy of Leslie Lewallen and Gary Perman)

When it comes to collecting campaign contributions, two of the eight Camas City Council candidates running in the Aug. 3 primary election have greatly outpaced their competitors.

But reports filed with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) show the majority of funds flowing into those candidates’ campaign coffers are not coming from other Camasonians but, rather, from the candidates’ themselves and people living outside the city limits.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the PDC as of Monday, July 19, just two of the eight Camas City Council candidates hoping to move on to the November general election — Leslie Lewallen and Gary Perman — have raised enough money to be considered “full reporting” candidates under the state’s campaign finance rules. The remaining candidates are considered “mini filers,” meaning they plan to spend less than $5,000 on their campaigns and have agreed to take no more than $500 from any one contributor other than themselves.

Lewallen raises over $19K, including $4K from Vancouver business owner, former county councilor David Madore and his wife

Lewallen, a retired attorney, former judicial clerk and mother of four children in the Camas School District, is competing for Camas Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Burton’s Ward 3, Position 2 seat.

As of July 19, Lewallen had raised $19,760 for her campaign.

The funds include $6,500 from herself and $2,000 from her husband, Brian Lewallen, the attorney representing the Dorothy Fox Safety Alliance pro bono in a lawsuit against the city of Camas over siting a drug rehabilitation center next to an elementary school.

Another $4,000 donated to Lewallen’s campaign comes from a Vancouver couple — David and Donna Madore.

David Madore, the CEO of the Vancouver-based U.S. Digital and founder of the media outlet Clark County Today, served on the Board of Clark County Councilors for four years before being ousted in the 2016 primary election.

Excluding the $8,500 in funds from herself and her husband, Lewallen has raised a total of $11,260 from 33 donors. The Madores’ contributions account for 35 percent of those funds.

Camas residents’ donations make up 32 percent of the total funds donated to Lewallen, excluding the money she and her husband have contributed. Lewallen has collected a total of $3,690 from 19 Camas residents and $7,570 from 14 donors living outside of Camas, including two donors from out of state.

Lewallen is competing against three other candidates in the Aug. 3 primary election, including Alicia King, a fourth-generation Camasonian, flight attendant and founder of the nonprofit “Just a Girl in Camas” media platform; Jennifer McDaniel, a former Washougal City Council member who relocated to Camas in 2017 and has experience working on community boards and committees for Meals on Wheels, the local Chamber of Commerce, and Unite! Washougal; and John Svilarich, a 20-year Camas resident who chairs the Camas School Board’s Citizens Advisory Committee and is president of the Deer Creek Homeowners Association.

As of July 19, Lewallen had filed just under $400 worth of campaign expenditures with the PDC, including $173 for vehicle magnets and $50 for food for her kick-off party.

Madores also gave $4,000 to Perman’s campaign

Gary Perman, the owner of the PermanTech Search Group, past president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a board member of the St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Washougal, is running for the city council’s Ward 1, Position 2 seat currently held by Councilwoman Melissa Smith.

According to reports filed with the PDC, as of Monday, July 19, Perman has collected $8,548 in campaign contributions, including $4,000 from the Madores, $837 from his own funds and $2,000 from Neil Cahoon, the husband of former Republican state legislator Liz Pike.

Perman also has contributions from several people connected to the Madores and Cahoon, including $100 from Pike, $100 from David Madore’s former assistant, Anna Miller, and $100 from John Ley, a retired airline pilot who works for David Madore’s online media platform, Clark County Today.

The Madores’ contributions make up 52 percent of the funds Perman has received for his campaign, not including the $836 in-kind contribution from his own funds. Perman’s top three donors — the Madores and Cahoon — account for 78 percent of the money in his campaign coffers.

Roughly 56 percent of the funds Perman has collected — not including his own money — have come from non-Camas residents.

Other donations to Perman’s campaign include $112 from anonymous donors and $50 from current Camas City Councilwoman Shannon Roberts.

As of July 19, Perman has filed $9,452 worth of expenditures with the PDC, including more than $6,000 for printing, signs and sign stakes; $1,565 for mailing expenses; $582 for direct mailers; $365 for a fundraising dinner; and $550 for internet consulting services.

Perman is running against three other candidates in the Aug. 3 primary election, including Marilyn Dale-Boerke, a 35-year resident of Camas and current head of human resources at the Camas School District; Shawn High, a former Camas Library Board trustee and current member of the Camas Planning Commission; and Geoerl Niles, pastor of The Calling Church and member of the Camas Planning Commission.

Madores frequent campaign contributors

The Madores are no strangers to campaign contributions.

According to the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute on Money in Politics’ campaign contribution tracker, the Madores have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to mostly right-wing candidates and causes over the past decade.

As of July 19, the Madores’ campaign contributions in 2021 were focused on the city of Camas races. The couple has donated a total of $12,000 to Camas City Council and mayoral candidates, including the $8,000 that went to Lewallen and Perman and an additional $4,000 contribution to mayoral candidate Jennifer Senescu’s campaign. Senescu will compete against Camas City Council member Steve Hogan in the November general election.

The money doesn’t necessarily give a candidate a competitive edge, however. In fact, many of David Madore’s contributions went to candidates who eventually lost their elections, including:

  • $2,000 to Dan Coursey in the 2017 Washougal mayoral race;
  • $4,000 to Republican candidate Elizabeth Veneman during the 2018 primary election for Clark County Council;
  • $2,000 for Tom Mielke’s 2020 write-in campaign to unseat Republican Ann Rivers as the 18th District’s state senator; and
  • $1,000 in 2020 to help get Roy Moore, a controversial Republican politician accused by several women of sexual misconduct, elected to the Alabama Senate.

Washington state has no cap on how much a candidate may collect or spend during a campaign, but full-reporting candidates must submit detailed reports to the PDC listing their campaign contributions and donors. Those filing as “mini filers” could choose to change their status to full-reporting candidates after the primary elections.

Ballots arrive, Aug. 3 primary election will narrow races

Registered voters in Washougal and parts of Camas should have received their Aug. 3 primary election ballots in the mail by Wednesday, July 21. Not all Clark County voters will receive a ballot for the primary election. In Camas, only those voting in the Ward 1, Position 2 and Ward 3, Position 2 city council races will receive ballots. The top-two finishers from will compete in the Nov. 2 general election.

The Post-Record will report on the general election candidates’ campaign contributions and donors in the lead up to the Nov. 2 election.