City Council District 2 was decided at the courthouse instead of the ballot box

click to enlarge Betsy Wilkerson (left) and Tyler LeMasters
Betsy Wilkerson (left) and Tyler LeMasters

Spokane City Councilmember BETSY WILKERSON was raring up for a big race to defend her seat in District 2, which includes downtown Spokane and the South Hill. She'd been appointed to the city council two years ago — replacing Breean Beggs when he became council president — but now was facing a real election.

But where at least 30 other people applied to be appointed to her seat two years ago, only one Republican actually applied to challenge Wilkerson for her seat: Local realtor TYLER LeMASTERS. It was always going to be a tough race for a Republican — it's the city's most liberal district — but at least it would give voters a chance to weigh in on the race.

But Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for the local Planned Parenthood, quickly began to get suspicious: Social media posts had suggested LeMasters hadn't moved back to the area until November of 2020 or later. Shortly after the primary, Dillon and another local Democrat sued LeMasters for violating the requirement that a candidate had to be living in the district for at least a year before filing for a city council seat.

He was booted off the ballot via a Spokane County Superior Court decision, leaving Wilkerson as the only name remaining.

LeMasters, who argued that his years working for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers should have been exempt under the city charter's "civil service" provision, said the result was frustrating.

"Voters should decide who represents them, not the court system and not Planned Parenthood."

Asked if he was concerned he had taken away the option from voters to select their preferred candidate by challenging his standing, Dillon argued that "voters deserve a candidate that meets the qualifications. You want somebody representing you that does have the experience and connections with the district."

Wilkerson herself had mixed feelings about the development. She acknowledges that it's nice to be able to focus on other issues, but says, "in some ways, I wish I had an opponent, so we could just duke it out in the public."

But she still can, LeMasters says. Why not debate him anyway, he suggests, and have the Inlander host?

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...