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The Final Stretch 

The races for Spokane school board, Valley city council and Post Falls mayor

Top Job in Post Falls

As longtime Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin steps down this year, two experienced city councilmembers — bank executive Ron Jacobson and retired newspaper publisher Kerri Thoreson — now face off for the top position at City Hall.

Jacobson, 57, a senior vice president of Inland Northwest Bank, has spent 14 years on the Post Falls City Council. He now serves as council president as well as a board member for the North Idaho College Foundation.

As council president, Jacobson has previously stood in for the mayor during vacations or illness, giving him a taste of the job. He says a mayor is more than a "figurehead." He or she must demonstrate strong leadership, rally support and keep the city on track.

"I won't have any learning curve," Jacobson says, adding, "I feel I'm the best, most qualified candidate."

With 35 years in banking, Jacobson says he wants to control spending and partner with the business community on strengthening economic development. He also hopes to focus on public safety and expand veterans programs.

Thoreson, 61, now works as an independent writer-photographer after previously working as publisher of the Post Falls Tribune and executive director of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce. She joined the city council in 2008. She has also served on several local committees for economic development, parks, social and veterans services.

With a focus on job creation, Thoreson says she plans to foster communication and support between city officials and business owners. She also hopes to meet with every city employee to solicit suggestions for efficiencies or programs. Above all, she says she wants to promote a "responsive and respectful" government that delivers the assistance and support citizens deserve.

Both candidates expressed a desire to improve the city's tax structure, which currently draws 89 percent of property taxes from residents and 11 percent from commercial entities. Thoreson and Jacobson both indicated they would like to even out that balance and broaden revenues.

— JACOB JONES

Sally's Back

This isn't the first time Sally Fullmer has taken on the Spokane School Board. In 2011, she unsuccessfully ran against newcomer Deana Brower. Now, Fullmer is back, this time running against incumbent school board director Bob Douthitt. "We all know what's wrong with our schools," Fullmer writes on her website, whose tagline is "Less Bureaucracy. More Results."

She's critical about the Common Core standards, the "failed math curriculum" and what she sees as the board's lack of transparency. She wants to start televising meetings and slash the length of board terms from six to four years.

Douthitt, on the other hand, is proud of where the schools are, pointing to his record over the past six years: improvements in graduation rates and AP scores, cutbacks in the size of administration and implementation of full-day kindergarten.

He says he supports providing more options to families, like charter schools. He wants to focus on post-secondary education. And he wants to increase the emphasis on science, technology, math and engineering courses. He's racked up a long list of endorsements, including former Rep. George Nethercutt, State Sen. Andy Billig, developer Walt Worthy, business owner Mike Senske, and City Council President Ben Stuckart.

Already, the race seems lopsided. According to campaign records, Douthitt has raised nearly $17,000 from groups like the League of Education Voters and the progressive Inland Northwest Leadership PAC. Fullmer hasn't raised a cent.

— DANIEL WALTERS

Who's Most Conservative of Them All?

With the controversial Sprague Appleway Revitalization Project long since eliminated, it might be easy to think the "Positive Change" group and its backers would matter less when it came to the Spokane Valley City Council. But there's at least one race where that phrase still has punch.

Incumbent Gary Schimmels was once a member of the Positive Change group, but his former backers have since turned against him, arguing that the even more conservative Ed Pace is the true heir to the Positive Change throne. With more than $15,000, Pace's fundraising far outpaces every other candidate. (Schimmels hasn't raised anything.) While Pace's rhetoric in favor of cutting spending and keeping taxes low is slightly stronger than Schimmels' statements in interviews and debates, the views expressed by each of the eight candidates vying for four seats have been fairly similar.

Chuck Hafner, who led the Positive Change group from behind the scenes in 2009, leads substantially in fundraising against 28-year-old financial advisor Donald Morgan Jr. In a debate, both candidates said they would look to cuts first to balance the budget, but would be open to raising taxes if it came to that.

Linda Thompson, executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, lost a coin toss to Rod Higgins in the competition to be appointed to fill a council seat in February. Both have expressed frustration at Spokane Valley's nearly nude barista stands.

Mayor Tom Towey isn't running for re-election, but his half-brother, planning commission director Bill Bates, is running to replace him. He faces off against Fred Beaulac, another planning commissioner. Beaulac has raised funds from the city employees union and former councilman Bill Gothmann, while Bates has raised money from Positive Change supporters and the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff's Association.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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