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The Road To Recall 

Nobody thought it would go on this long. Conventional wisdom had it that any politician hit with this much controversy at once would curl up into the fetal position and cry. If they had the stomach to face the public, they'd quickly quit and go hide somewhere with a bottle of something stiff and cheap. But not Jim West. Not only did he show up for work the day the scandal broke in the Spokesman-Review last May, but after a short vacation, he came back swinging. He beat cancer, and he would beat this, seemed to be his approach.

 

West's decision to fight has taken the city on a wild ride, through the Web pages of Gay.com and into the marble halls of the state Supreme Court. And it's been populated with a cast of characters any good novelist would be proud of -- the tough-as-nails outraged mom, Shannon Sullivan... the shadowy ex-cop-for-hire lurking online, known only as "Motobrock"... and of course West himself, who proved to be a far more complicated person than anyone ever guessed, an enigma wrapped in a racy transcript.

The odds of surviving the recall were long to begin with, as 48 percent of the city voted for Tom Grant in the 2003 election. And West was never able to mount an effective defense to 28-year-old allegations of child molestation, other than to point out inconsistencies in the stories of his accusers, Michael Grant and Robert Galliher. It didn't seem to matter much that when the ballots went in the mail, and after 100-plus stories in the Review, the only proven charge against him was inappropriate use of his work computer.

The mayor's defense was twofold: that the city is making progress under his leadership and that the Review had invaded his privacy in its witch hunt for a good story. Review Editor Steve Smith seemed to prove West's defense with his righteousness, even telling the Seattle Times that he was "grinding him into dust."

In the end, West's highly evolved political survival instincts were probably right; he just couldn't make up that much ground. Maybe Spokane wasn't doing spectacularly well enough to warrant keeping him, or maybe his tirades against the newspaper were seen as a desperate ploy to save his job. Whatever the reason, as of Tuesday night, West had 10 days to clear out his office.

When that day comes and he walks out of City Hall, away from a remarkable political career, another page in the tumultuous political history of Spokane will be turned. Maybe Spokane will like the next chapter better.

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