Earlier this year, activist Nicolette Ocheltree launched the "500 Drag Queen Strong" Facebook page to counter the opposition to the Spokane Public Library's Drag Queen Story Hour. But in July, she set her sights higher, officially filing a last-minute write-in campaign for the position of Spokane mayor.
While she only got a handful of voters in the primary — there were only 196 write-in votes for mayor total — she plans to continue her campaign. Fresh off a primary result that featured progressive mayoral candidate Ben Stuckart languishing at 38 percent and his progressive council ally Breean Beggs under 36 percent, we asked Ocheltree a little bit about her thoughts about the race. The responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
INLANDER: Why not run through the traditional means as opposed to running a write-in campaign?
OCHELTREE: One of the reasons why is because I decided to run late. The choice was, like, not to run, or run as a write-in candidate. But also, it's that $1,680 [filing fee], right? That's a fee I can't afford. And I couldn't really, in good conscience, ask all these people for whom $5 [donations are a] lot more to them than $5 is to somebody else. I just couldn't do it.
In the last few years, Spokane has narrowly supported liberal candidates and initiatives. Why didn't the more progressive candidates Ben Stuckart and Breean Beggs do better?
I think that Ben has a lot more work cut out for him. We're lucky that Nadine Woodward and Shawn Poole [weren't the two candidates to get to the general election]. That was way more of a risk than Ben probably wanted to admit.
I think that Spokane is way more red than people want to admit.
We have a lot of these sorts of radical Christian groups here. And they have started registering to vote and coming out to be more active in politics more than ever, and they're largely part of the Republican base.
Do you consider yourself to the left of Ben Stuckart?
I would say that's probably the best place to put me. And yet I'm extremely fiscally conservative. I am a budget hound. And I think a lot of my positions on guns also make me appear more conservative than people care to admit.
I'm not going to fall on a divide just because the divide exists, especially with my background in philosophy. I see a dichotomy like that. I'm always wondering if it's a false dichotomy.
Are you worried that you're making it easier for Stuckart's opponent, Nadine Woodward, to get elected?
When it comes to trying to pull votes from either Ben or Nadine, it's gonna be much easier to pull them from Nadine than it is from Ben. I think you'd be surprised how many people who were going to vote for Nadine were like, "Oh, I just wanted to vote for a woman who is, you know, an investigator who looks into issues." And I was like, "Oh, yeah, no, that's more me than it is her." You know what I mean?
Going forward, honestly, it would behoove Ben to sit down and take me seriously or not ignore me.
What are your concerns about Ben Stuckart?
I think that his heart is in the right place. But I think that he's kind of been sort of changed by the system. I still think that he's more concerned with making things better for small businesses than he is for the average human. His ideas for walkability are about, you know, turning these areas into better areas for small businesses where people can come in and walk around and consume.
It's much easier to try to make a city a better place for small businesses than for people who are poor. You can't sit down or go pee downtown without buying a cup of coffee or being forced into something like that. ♦