Far-right candidates in Spokane Valley fared poorly in election compared to more moderate opponents

click to enlarge FROM LEFT: Pamela Haley, Ben Wick and Laura Padden are 
the winners (so far) in the Spokane Valley City Council races.
FROM LEFT: Pamela Haley, Ben Wick and Laura Padden are the winners (so far) in the Spokane Valley City Council races.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the Spokane Valley City Council was ruled by a far-right majority. Candidates for open seats who outflanked their opponent on the right would win elections, and many councilmembers had ties to Matt Shea, the fringe former state representative who was accused of "domestic terrorism."

But today, while the Spokane Valley council remains conservative, it's more moderate than in years past. And after last Tuesday's election, it appears voters in the Valley would like to keep it that way.

Wayne and Brandon Fenton, father-and-son owners of the Black Diamond who openly defied Gov. Jay Inslee's lockdown orders, were demolished in this year's election by the more-moderate incumbents, Pamela Haley and Ben Wick, respectively. Wick — who is Spokane Valley mayor, a position chosen among councilmembers — took 65 percent of the vote in preliminary returns, as did Haley.

The City Council race between former Mayor Rod Higgins and James "JJ" Johnson, as of press time, is too close to call and is likely headed for a recount.

In a fourth Spokane Valley race, Laura Padden unseated incumbent Linda Thompson, with Padden ahead 53 to 46 percent. While Thompson is a moderate candidate, Padden, who is married to state. Sen. Mike Padden, isn't as far right as the Fentons.

Johnson says he's not too surprised with the results in Spokane Valley.

"When I was out knocking on doors, most of the people I talked to were looking for leadership willing to work with others, willing to come together and set aside differences in order to get something down," Johnson says. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

THE REALTORS' BIDDING WAR

The Spokane Association of Realtors summoned nearly $250,000 in state and national independent expenditures to support City Council candidates Jonathan Bingle and Mike Lish. Now that the election totals have come in, was it worth it?

That all depends on your definition. In one sense, the more than $100,000 they spent on Bingle's race was a smashing success — he won by more than 13 percentage points — while their larger investment of almost $145,000 for Lish came up oh-so-narrowly short. Zack Zappone, a progressive who campaigned with explicitly anti-Realtor messaging after losing out on their endorsement, squeaked through by a little more than a percentage point.

"If I were the Realtors, I would be embarrassed I spent so much money on Mike Lish," says Jim Dawson, Eastern Washington director of the progressive activist organization Fuse. "How many times do they need to lose to stop spending so much money?"

In another sense, you could see the money spent on the Bingle race as the real waste — a 13-point victory probably didn't need that much cash to win — and the razor thin Lish race as the smart play. If anything, it may have been smarter for the Realtors to spend more on the Lish race.

Either way Darin Watkins, government affairs director for the Spokane Association of Realtors, says they were successful in simply setting the agenda.

"We were able to keep housing front and center as part of the political debate," Watkins says. "We believe it's one of the critical issues."

Statewide, the Realtors were largely successful, handily winning the Seattle mayoral and council races they poured money into, and helping give their biggest investment, Vancouver City Council candidate John Blom, a half percentage-point lead as of Friday that may or may not hold. (DANIEL WALTERS) ♦

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