Last September, gubernatorial candidate Joshua Freed loaned $500,000 to his campaign, seeking to establish himself as the top Republican challenger to Gov. Jay Inslee’s bid for a third term.

In a campaign filing this week, Freed reported he’d taken the loan back. But state law says he can’t do that. Legally, he’s in for a dime, in for a half-million.

After being asked about the repayment, Freed said in a text Thursday he had “already started” to transfer the money back to the campaign account. He called it a “technical accounting error” and that he wants the money counted as a direct contribution, not a loan.

In this week’s filing, Freed’s campaign reported it had refunded the entire $500,000 personal loan on Jan. 31. But state law limits loan repayments to candidates to $6,000 in a primary and another $6,000 in the general election. Anything beyond that has to stay with the campaign — a requirement that exists to prevent candidates from using a big loan to scare off competitors and later taking the money back.

The former Bothell mayor and homebuilder gave somewhat conflicting accounts of what happened. On Wednesday, Freed said in a text that when he jumped into the governor’s race, “I put money in as a loan” but later decided he didn’t want it showing up that way on his campaign books. On Thursday, he said the $500,000 had been “initially mischaracterized as a loan.”

He said having a loan on the books made it appear as if his campaign had higher liabilities and didn’t properly show his cash on hand.

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In any case, Freed dismissed the transfers as irrelevant and said he wanted to spend his time talking about “the issues facing our state and my solutions for Washingtonians.”

The loan repayment was noted by another Republican gubernatorial candidate, Maple Valley program manager Anton Sakharov, who vented in a Facebook post: “This sounds like a campaign violation. This is not a good look for a candidate or for the Republican Party.”

Kim Bradford, a spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), said the agency has been in touch with the Freed campaign about the state laws surrounding candidate loans, and “offered to work with them if they are going to put the money back in, on how to do that properly.”

Even without the loan, Freed has raised $287,000 — more than any other Republican gubernatorial candidate, PDC reports show.

In his campaign, Freed has emphasized the state’s homelessness crisis, saying it represents a failure of leadership by Inslee and other Democrats. He has pledged to not take a salary if elected, saying he’d donate the money to homeless shelters and drug-rehabilitation facilities.

When he entered the gubernatorial race last September, Freed was among a handful of candidates challenging Inslee — all relatively unknown on a statewide basis.

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But in November, Tim Eyman, a longtime sponsor of anti-tax initiatives, announced he would also run for governor. Eyman initially said he’d run as an independent, but this week said he’ll campaign as a Republican.

While he’s never run for office, Eyman is as well-known as any politician in Washington state. A KING 5 poll this month found him with the most support among Inslee’s challengers.

It’s unclear to what extent a $500,000 personal campaign boost by Freed — and he says he might put in more —  can overcome Eyman’s name-identification advantage. With the cash committed, he’ll find out. In a text, Freed said he is “building strength as I campaign full time around the state.”

He’s planning a formal campaign kickoff breakfast March 5 in Bellevue.