Hot Messes

A Senate race gets sexy, protesters continue to Occupy Spokane, and Idaho makes The Daily Show.

Michael Baumgartern: The next U.S. Senator from Washington?
Michael Baumgartern: The next U.S. Senator from Washington?

2012: The Year of Vanity

Earlier this year, The Inlander selected Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner as one of the “sexiest people” in Spokane. In 2009, Huffington Post readers selected U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., as the “sexiest senator on Capitol Hill.”

If you vote by looks alone, it might be a pretty tough choice in 2012, because earlier this week, Baumgartner announced he was challenging Cantwell for her Senate seat.

“I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to beat her for the same reason we won the most expensive legislative district race in state history,” Baumgartner says. “We have better ideas, and we’re going to work harder.”

The race he mentions was his first, and it was pricey. Baumgartner raised $450,000, and his opponent, Chris Marr, collected $550,000.

To beat Cantwell, he’ll need these fundraising chops: She has $2.7 million in the bank.

But he’ll also need to convince the historically liberal west side of the state to vote for him. Which might explain why he’s focusing on his experience in war zones and his desire to “end the wars in a responsible way.” He’s called the wars “seemingly endless,” a critique originally directed at his own party, but now Baumgartner hopes to pin it on President Obama and Cantwell.

“Libya. That’s a war where there’s not a vital American interest at stake. There was never an authorization for war from the Congress,” Baumgartner says. “And Sen. Cantwell didn’t hold the president to account.”

But with national polls showing that voters are more inclined to vote on the economy and jobs, Baumgartner is quick to note that these are “issue No. 1.” He says that the second-most-important issue for him is the “size and scope of government funding.”

Still, America’s foreign policy is central to his campaign.

“I would hope that, in a time when America has over 150,000 troops in some pretty nasty places, that voters consider [foreign policy] at least as issue No. 3.”

Asked which national politician he would model himself after, he says, “Paul Ryan. … It doesn’t mean I agree with him 100 percent on everything. But he’s driven by facts and data to get the policy right.”

He says not to read into this. “I’m not a Tea Party member. I’m a Republican Party member. But there’s a lot of important things on a national stage that the Tea Party has brought up,” he says. “I think the Tea Party’s focus on fiscal responsibility and core constitutional priorities is not just good for the Republican Party but for both the parties.” (Nicholas Deshais)


It may have been one of the most expensive seating arrangements in Spokane County history.

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled last week that the county did not comply with the state’s Public Records Act when a local neighborhood group sought information on a 2005 county seating chart that showed a spot for “Steve.” The Neighborhood Alliance alleged that the chart suggested that then-Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris gave his son, Steve, a job ahead of a formal hiring process.

When the alliance sought more information from the county to prove its suspicions, it filed a public records request. When the county didn’t fulfill this request, charges of a cover-up emerged, and the alliance filed a lawsuit.

And now, with the Supreme Court siding against the county in the matter, the total cost in penalties may top $100,000.

Ironically, Bonnie Mager made the records request before successfully defeating Harris in 2006. She says she recused herself from the issue as a commissioner. But her fellow commissioners, Todd Mielke and Mark Richard, insisted on continuing the fight, racking up legal fees.

Mielke says it made sense to defend the county. “Sometimes, we pursue legal issues because we need clarity from the law,” he says.

Mager says she hopes precedent has been set. “I think public records are the only powerful tools that the citizens have to make sure the government was not doing things behind our back and breaking the law,” Mager says. “It’s like any other penalty — hopefully, it will dissuade them from venturing down that road again, but there’s no guarantee.” (Daniel Walters)

Spokanites Occupy Median

A group of protesters with amorphous causes has continued the Occupy Spokane protest into a second week.

Spokane’s protesters are inspired by “Occupy Wall Street,” a protest in New York City’s financial district that began last month. The protest is generally aimed at bringing attention to unethical corporate business practices.

A declaration from the New York protest, also distributed by protesters in Spokane, rails against bailouts to corporations, “illegal” home foreclosures, student debt. and poisoning of the food supply “though negligence,” among other things.

The protests have spread to cities nationwide. On Monday afternoon, Occupy Spokane consisted of fewer than 10 people in the median of Riverside Avenue near the Spokane Club, singing songs and waving signs at cars passing by on Monroe Street.

“My purpose is to peacefully protest,” says David Reid, an unemployed steel worker who participated in the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. “It’s just to get people to recognize what is going on. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer.”

Jody Ashe, a Chattaroy resident says the protesters plan to stay indefinitely.

“This movement is the catalyst that is going to change the world,” Ashe says. So far, only one thing has changed for the protesters: On Saturday, police told them to take down their tents and other “permanent” structures. (Chris Stein)

Watch Your Mouth

When news broke this week that the family of Texas Gov. Rick Perry owned a secluded hunting camp with a racist name, the Republican presidential candidate’s already fading star got a little dimmer.

At the gate of his ranch, carved in granite was one word: “Niggerhead.”

His opponents generally took a pass on commenting, with one notable exception. Herman Cain, the only black Republican presidential candidate who has gained in the polls while Perry has failed, called the ranch’s name “insensitive.”

But Perry is far from alone. Leave it to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to add a bit of context to the issue.

“Everybody’s rushing to condemn Texas, and, sure, there’s a lot of racist shit that goes on in Texas,” said Wyatt Cenac, one of the show’s correspondents, in a bit this week. “But guess what? There’s Niggerhead Rapids, Idaho; Niggerhead Point, Fla.; Niggerhead Pond, Vt.; Niggerhead Creek, N.C.; … Niggerhead Mining District, Wash. Did you know that there are over 100 places that are called ‘Niggerhead’ in this country?” Now we do. Moments later, a map filled the screen, showing more racist geographical names. Idaho, unsurprisingly, got the first two mentions: Chink’s Peak and Dago Peak.

But, as Stewart asked in the same bit, what does this say about America?

“It says there aren’t enough black people making maps,” Cenac replied. But it probably says more than that. (Nicholas Deshais)

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About The Authors

Nicholas Deshais

Nicholas Deshais is a former news editor and staff writer for The Inlander. He has reported on city, county and state politics, as well as medical marijuana, transportation and development. In May 2012, he was named as a finalist for the prestigious Livingston Award for an Inlander story about (now former) Assistant...

Chris Stein

Chris Stein is a staff writer at The Inlander. He covers social services, downtown Spokane, Eastern Washington and Spokane city hall. His work has been published by the Associated Press, VeloNews and the Santa Barbara Independent. He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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...