by Joel Smith & r & In terms of policy, the similarities between insurance agent Dallas Hawkins and current city council member Mary Verner were striking. For instance, both candidates expressed an eagerness to sew up the city's gaping budget wound; both professed shock and disgust with the scandal surrounding mayor Jim West.
The choice came down to style for many voters. Hawkins is a Republican; Verner is a Democrat (the position, it should be noted, is nonpartisan). Hawkins has almost 30 years of experience in local business. Verner has worked with American Indians, the U.S. Virgin Islands government and as a paralegal. Verner supported domestic partner benefits for city employees; Hawkins didn't. Verner stressed cleaning up the river and attracting progressive types; Hawkins obsessed over the city's need for an efficiency expert.
That last bit, about Hawkins' business acumen, was enough to sway Jean Pierre, a retired South Hill woman who cast her ballot at Our Lady of Fatima on South Perry Street. "I think he had some right ideas about the business side of it," she told us. "Like annexing, getting more money into the city."
But nearly everyone else we spoke to on Tuesday was behind Verner. Young mother and EWU student Lisa McGoldrick voted for Verner because she saw Verner's signs everywhere. Ad salesperson Sherry Lewis cited Verner's work on the current council. Retired South Hill resident Leona Anderson said she voted for the District Two councilwoman because "she's against our dear mayor, and [Hawkins is] for him." She added, "I like the way she checks into everything. And she asks good questions."
Political researcher David Elton admitted, "I'm a big fan of hers" before pointing out that it's unusual for him to vote for a Democrat. "She's level-headed," he adds. "She's got guts."
At press time, the councilwoman held a 32 percent lead over Hawkins. In the end, it seems, her style just won out.