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Leaning Toward... 

Which presidential candidates do local politicians and activists love, and who do they hate?

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The 2016 primary season won't officially kick off until the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, but opinions began to form long ago. We got ahold of a few local liberals and conservatives to get their take on who they like — and who they really, really dislike.

On Twitter, State Sen. Michael Baumgartner joked that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seemed like plants for Hillary Clinton ("#Goofballs") but declined to name who he did support.

"My No. 1 choice is Ronald Reagan," Republican County Commissioner Al French joked. "I don't care whether we have to bring him back in a séance." More seriously, he laments that his top choices, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — who dropped out last September — aren't in the race.

Spokane Valley Councilman Ed Pace, a libertarian, is disappointed that Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina aren't doing better. Of the top tier, he suggests that Ted Cruz is the best candidate.

"I appreciate that [Trump] just tells it like it is," Pace says. "But that's all he is, just a loudmouth standing in a street corner."

On the Democratic side, Pace says he hopes that Sanders gets the nomination. He likes the Vermont senator's forthrightness. "He looks you in the eye," Pace says of Sanders. "If he's stepping on a dog turd, he says 'shit.'"

Conservative Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan echoes the respect for Sanders' honesty, but he's a much bigger fan of Cruz and Trump.

"I realize the media is out there trying to turn Trump into a clown, [but] he's resonating with the American people," Fagan says. "I was talking like Trump four years ago, before Trump even opened his mouth."

Nancy McLaughlin, former Spokane city councilwoman and current county commissioner contender, says that "Trump has ignited a lot of passion, but Trump can be kind of scary."

Instead, she's impressed by both Marco Rubio and Cruz. She suggests combining one member of the ticket with an outsider. "I think we need some outside business expertise," McLaughlin says.

Idaho state Rep. Luke Malek praises Fiorina and Rubio, but notes that on at least one issue, he's closely aligned with Paul. Malek is currently suing the federal government over bulk data collection. "If we don't have any privacy on our cellphones, we don't have any privacy for our digital life," Malek says.

On the liberal side, outgoing City Councilman Jon Snyder says he's split on the Democratic nominees, but among Republicans, John Kasich is the only one who sounds sensible to him.

"Some the things I've heard him say makes me think he understands the reality of having represented a pluralistic constituency," Snyder says.

Spokane NAACP President Naima Quarles-Burnley calls Trump's rhetoric downright un-American.

"I'm really saddened by the state of our political affairs, that inform presidential candidates that have such incendiary rhetoric, that ignites a culture of disrespect and intolerance," Quarles-Burnley says. "It makes violence easy against people that are not like yourself."

She has modest praise for Fiorina.

"Fiorina at least sounds presidential, and like she has a grasp of the topics at hand," Quarles-Burnley says. "I would love to see her and Hillary go head to head." She also says she likes what she's hearing from Sanders.

"[Sanders] does not have the history of other candidates of favoring intervention first in foreign policy," Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart says via text message. (Clinton has been criticized for her support of the Iraq war.)

Spokane Education Association President Jenny Rose says it's about time for a female president: "[Clinton] would be a great president, not just because she's a woman, but because of all the experience she has gained throughout the years."

Center for Justice Director Rick Eichstaedt articulates the dilemma some liberals are feeling.

"The hawkish background of Hillary is very disturbing," he says, referring to Clinton's support for military interventions. "I strongly believe in what Bernie's talking about with income equality, and I'm concerned with Hillary's close ties to Wall Street."

However, he's not sure the country is ready to elect a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist. On the other hand...

"If somebody like Trump gets the nomination, the Democrats could run a houseplant and win," Eichstaedt says. ♦

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