The contribution reports tell us which candidates have support and it tells us where they get it.
From that we can infer something about what kind of legislator they would be.
Kevin Stine has raised less than $200 in April. He has energy and he understands the issues, but his campaign has not gotten financial traction. Other than gifts and loans to himself, Julian Bell raised only about $850 in April. Bell has a message, and he is using inexpensive social media to get it out, but I don't yet see the mechanism for him to spread his message widely.
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Jeff Golden, in April, raised some $9,700 from 32 contributors who gave $100 or more, and who are therefore tracked by name. He raised another $4,700 from an un-numbered group of smaller contributions. I infer from this that he has widespread support within the local progressive-activist community and an active outreach program to get some of them to give. I know from experience that most people do not give unless they are asked to give. Hundreds of people are being invited to give, and that itself creates a buzz of support among friends and friends of friends. It elicits grassroots support and it demonstrates it.
Athena Goldberg, in April, has raised less than $1,000 from named individuals and less than $700 in miscellaneous contributions. Her success has come elsewhere, having raised some $36,000 from PACs and unions
Oregon Pharmacists $ 500
Oregon AFSCME 7,500
Oregon AFSCME 7,500
Oregon Optometrists 500
Oregon Medical PAC 1,500
Coalition for Healthy Oregon PAC 15,000
United Food and Commercial Workers 1,000
Douglas County Physicians 1,500
Doctors for Healthy Communities PAC 2,500
Athena Goldberg demonstrated credibility with the established sources of political influence in Oregon. Jeff Golden spurned their money and Athena Goldberg requested it and got it. She out-fundraised Golden by two to one.
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Supporters of Jeff Golden will observe that she raised it from those awful PACs, that most suspect of special interests. PACs want influence. Golden doesn't want to be influenced by organizations and groups. Lots of voters will respect that. Golden supporters can feel great about the distinction between the two: Golden raised "nice clean money" from real people and Goldberg raised her almost entirely from organizations with "special interest agendas."
Of course, there is another way to look at it.
Supporters of Athena Goldberg can observe that these contributions were directed by people who have observed her work, perhaps for a decade or more, and believe in her. She is new at politics but she rallied support, and not everyone can do that. They think she is a winner. And people who support unions and people who like the PACs that supported her can feel good that she is getting money from "the good guys."
The two campaigns are a litmus test for voters on a variety of scales. Male vs.female. Familiar and experienced vs. new blood. Self-consciously independent vs. team player.
The campaign finance picture could hardly be more stark. Jeff Golden has a campaign funded by local people and personal friends. Athena Goldberg's campaign is funded largely by statewide organizations, run by political professionals, who feel they have a strong candidate they can work with. This is not the final election; it is the nomination to be the Democratic opponent of Jessica Gomez, who will be a well funded formidable opponent. PACs like to back winners, and they think they have one.
Some local voters will resent the involvement of those organizations and their money and consider it an attack on democracy and local representation. These voters will see Goldberg's campaign as an example of outside big money trying to pick our nominee, and that is our job, not theirs. They want influence over our representative, and that is wrong. This is certainly the reasonable position for a Jeff Golden supporter to have.
Supporters of Athena Goldberg may well consider these PACs and unions to be expert advice from progressive teammates, not opponents, and they will value their input. Their support is offered only after careful consideration of their interests, and they are presumed to be on our side. Some voters will consider these PACs to be validators, not interlopers.
Jeff Golden considers his independence from PACs and other organized big money to be a point of pride and part of his value proposition as a candidate. His message is that he is un-bought. Not everyone will agree that that is all that good a thing, and they will respect the fact that Athena Goldberg made powerful friends, and see that as a sign of her political competence.
Democratic voters will make their choices.