Mike Fagan wants to reinvent himself. Donna McKereghan wants to find the middle path. For voters in District 1, the choice is between two political novices with long histories of community activism and not a lot of support from the establishment.
“Over the years there has been a pretty consistent, one-sided type description of Mike Fagan and what I stand for,” Fagan says over pancakes, an omelet and black coffee in a Nevada Street restaurant that keeps its blinds drawn. “And it’s totally wrong.”
He’s worked with tax foe Tim Eyman and later, dissatisfied with the local Tea Party’s tactics, he formed a splinter group. He once donned a weasel costume to protest former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt Jr., a Republican, and trampled the U.N. flag in front of Spokane City Hall, protesting the U.N.’s threat to Spokane sovereignty.
But that was the old Fagan, he says. It’s not that he regrets any of it. It’s just that now, having come in first in a six-person primary and winning the endorsement of Bob Apple, the man vacating the seat, Fagan see his candidacy as simple.
“I’m a jobs candidate. I’ll tell you that right now,” says Fagan, who has raised more than $6,400, compared to McKereghan’s $1,900.
But it’s a little more complicated. During an hour-long interview last week, Fagan railed against government at all levels, from Olympia to Washington D.C, and took particular umbrage with local Democratic lawmakers like state Sen. Lisa Brown. And yet now, showing an if-you-can’t-beat-them attitude, he wants to help run the city.
Councilwoman Amber Waldref, who beat Fagan in the 2009 general election, says his anti-tax campaigns have harmed the same part of town he is hoping to represent.
“That’s my worry about Mr. Fagan. He’s really big about antitax at a state level,” says Waldref, who supports McKereghan. “For poorer communities like us, they can be greater impacts than they think.”
Other passions of Fagan — including the flag trampling — have rankled some of his supporters.
“I get really mad at the extremes in my party,” says Pete Rayner, a Hillyard-based developer who plans to vote for Fagan. “I would say the same about Mike Fagan. The issues in the city of Spokane don’t have to do with the United Nations.”
The local Democratic Party has endorsed a candidate in every city race but this one. The Republicans of Spokane County group is supporting candidates in the two other City Council races. Yet neither Fagan nor McKereghan have received endorsements from the major parties. (To be fair, the race is nonpartisan, and Fagan picked up an endorsement from the Spokane Homebuilders Association and McKereghan from the local Service Employees International Union.)
McKereghan — who once served on the Legislative Ethics Board and was tapped by Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich to review the sheriff’s use-of-force policies after last year’s shooting death of Wayne Scott Creach by one of his deputies — characterized herself as a candidate who would be consistently moderate.
“I’m bipartisan,” McKereghan says. “I have friends on both sides of the party line, perhaps because I’m a fiscal conservative and a social liberal.”
“I fit into a place that I don’t see has been a place,” McKereghan says in between puffs of an e-cigarette on her back patio. “I just think there’s a lot of ideas that not a whole lot of people have entertained. Now will that fly for City Council or city government? I have no idea.”
Those ideas include encouraging public agencies, like the Spokane Transit Authority, to appoint liaisons to the City Council. (Three council members currently serve on STA’s board.) Or expanding the police ombudsman’s office to a “metropolitan ombudsman” that would potentially cover the Sheriff’s Office.
“I think she would have a very difficult time working with the Council,” says Apple. “I think she is one of those who before she got the understanding right, she will start yelling.”
McKereghan acknowledged that she was an opinionated person, but was open to hearing other ideas.
“I hold my opinions in an open hand. I don’t give these up lightly, but I will give them up, because I want to be right, I want to do the best thing,” McKereghan says. “You can’t always do the right thing, but the best thing.”