It's easy to say that Spokane Valley is an odd place to host a forum for three men hoping to lead the city next door. Still, nobody said it Monday night in a noisy conference room at the Quality Inn, where the Republicans of Spokane County hosted one mayoral hopeful and two Spokane City Council candidates.
It’s also easy to say that running for a nonpartisan position is silly, given the hyper-partisanship of late. But these three men — David Condon, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori — are all running for nonpartisan positions in Spokane. And all, apparently, are Republicans.
Al French, formerly a nonpartisan member of Spokane City Council but now a Republican commissioner for the county, sits at the edge of the room, happily tossing peanut M&Ms into his mouth, giving a nutty air to his pronouncements on the candidates.
“Steve Salvatori, former opponent, I know his character,” he says, gesturing. Salvatori — in his familiar blue uniform of jeans, casually unbuttoned dress shirt and blazer — wears a perma-grin but looks nervous in his seat.
“He’s got my endorsement,” French says, still munching. “So does Mike Allen.”
Allen’s sitting in an aisle seat, blond and, like a linebacker, too big for his chair.
In the back of the beige room, near a platter of cookies, a group of teenagers commands a row. One of them wears a tie-dye shirt quoting Bob Marley’s song, “Get Up, Stand Up.” They’re from Central Valley High School and they’re there for a class assignment, one of them announces to the room later. That was kind of obvious.
The meeting comes to order. The 50 or so people in attendance quiet down, and the candidates step to centerstage to introduce themselves and give remarks.
“City Hall is a black hole,” Allen says earnestly.
Condon, who wears a yellow shirt and looks like a young Tony Blair, gets heated as he defends his hometown: “It’s my city, damn it. … It shouldn’t be Seattle. It shouldn’t be Portland.”
Salvatori says hi to his friend, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who is in the back of the room holding a hat with “SHERIFF” emblazoned on it. He nods.
Then it’s down to brass tacks. Condon says his six years in U.S.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office, where he was her deputy chief of
staff, give him the experience to run the city.
“It’s not the age of the car,” he says. “It’s the mileage. I was born in 1974, the year of the World’s Fair.” The crowd nods approvingly.
Later on, Allen says it’s sad that the city’s greatest pride still rests with Expo ’74. He says we need to get ready for the next big wave of entrepreneurs and cites his involvement with the Spokane Public Market as a step in that direction.
“We have artisans down there,” he says. “Small farmers.” The reception is muted.
Condon, the mayoral candidate, is asked to size up Mayor Mary Verner by citing her greatest accomplishment. He refers to her “lack of leadership” a dozen times in the span of a few minutes and says “folks” a lot.
Since it is a Republican discussion, the men are asked their opinions of global warming.
“Trick question,” someone says from the back. “I’m not a scientist,” Salvatori says sheepishly. “But I suppose some of it’s caused by human activity.”
Some heads shake. Wrong answer, but Salvatori recovers.
“But we’re one volcano burst away from dwarfing everything we do.”