Andy Billig received his party’s endorsement months ago. His fundraising has soared to more than five times that of his opponents, even those from his own party. He’s polished, successful, well-educated and has all but secured his spot as the Third Legislative District’s state representative.
He is the chosen one.
“Andy is a phenomenal progressive,” says Sharon Smith, a longtime local Democrat who helps lead the state party. “He’s just the perfect person at the perfect time.”
Billig, president and part-owner of the minor league Spokane Indians, has one word for his campaign: jobs. He says his background in small business will help him to create jobs for what is often characterized as the state’s poorest district.
“I had a constituent last week tell me, ‘I hate when politicians talk about job creation and then don’t say anything else because it’s such an easy thing to say,’” Billig says. “But I’ve done it. This is my area of expertise.”
Amy Biviano, chair of the Spokane County Democrats, says that although Billig is the party’s official nominee, his opponents Louise Chadez and Bob Apple are “good Democrats” who bring different types of experience to the race.
But his opponents aren’t just trying to catch up financially to draw people to their names on the ballot — they are taking different approaches to what it means to be a Democrat running in a traditionally Democratic district. (Democratic Rep. Alex Wood, who currently holds the seat, is retiring.)
For Chadez, it’s her 30 years in social work that she says makes her a strong Democrat. Her campaign is focusing on the need to strengthen Spokane’s “safety net” for senior citizens and the disabled, an area of the budget she says has seen too many cuts.
In the shadow of Billig’s name recognition and his $64,000 in campaign funds (compared with her $13,500), Chadez says she has to take a different approach. Although all of the candidates have gone doorto-door, Chadez cites town hall meetings she has hosted at Spokane’s community centers as key to her victory.
“My strategy is talking to neighbors, talking to people on a one-to-one basis and letting them know I will represent them,” she says. “I’ve sought people out on their terms, in their neighborhoods, and that is huge.”
Apple, a two-term member of Spokane City Council and favorite of the Tea Party of Spokane — yes, he is a Democrat — is counting on his anti-lobbyist, straight-talk formula to take him from City Hall to the capital dome. So far, his campaign has raised about $6,000.
“I’m not a bought-and-paid-for-and-owned candidate. I will listen to the people,” Apple says. “If I don’t get as much in contributions from labor, unions and big business, it’s because they probably expect something back.”
Delivering a frenzy of specifics on nearly every issue, Apple touches on a few key points: He wants to create jobs, decrease government regulations for small businesses and improve education.
Kirk Smith, spokesman for the Tea Party of Spo kane, says that even though the party doesn’t endorse candidates as a whole, Apple is appealing to a lot of voters on the right.
“We have a track record with Bob. We know his consistency. He isn’t owned by anyone; he’s an independent guy,” Smith says. “From a fiscally conservative Tea Party perspective, my vote is on Bob Apple.”
Regardless of his crossover appeal, Apple says he’s worked on countless Democratic issues, served as a Democratic Precinct Committee Officer and believes in the government’s role in providing essential public services. But he also spoke out against Mayor Mary Verner’s sustainability program at City Hall, and his votes occasionally line up with those of conservative Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.
Dave White — the only Republican in the race — is campaigning on traditional conservative issues: balancing the budget, strengthening the Second Amendment, protecting state sovereignty and lowering taxes, especially those recently passed on bottled water, soda and candy. Most surprisingly, he also plans to work for the legalization and 50 percent taxation of marijuana, which he says would fund social services and better law enforcement for the city.
As for his campaign fundraising, which is currently somewhere around $100, he says it’s a non-issue.
“I’m the only one who’s put out a plan and I just feel like the people should have a choice,” White says. “I’m literally a David among three Goliaths.”