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The People Have Spoken 

Results and analysis from last week's election

click to enlarge Councilwoman Candace Mumm fended off a challenge from Matthew Howes.
  • Councilwoman Candace Mumm fended off a challenge from Matthew Howes.

MOVE TOWARD MODERATION

Ed Pace thought it would be a close race. He knew his opponent, Ben Wick, a former Spokane Valley City Councilman, had a chance. But even if Pace lost his race for SPOKANE VALLEY CITY COUNCIL, he thought the two councilmen who share many of his constitutionalist, libertarian political views — Caleb Collier and Mike Munch — were safe to carry the torch.

When the results came in last week, he was shocked. All three of them lost, and it wasn't even close.

"I was surprised that all of us got beat so badly," Pace says.

Spokane Valley residents sent a message that they wanted change in their city council. And in a shift from previous Valley elections, this time it was the more moderate candidates who fared better than the candidates further to the right.

Munch received just 43.5 percent of the vote in a loss to Linda (Hatcher) Thompson, director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council. Brandi Peetz, a member of the Spokane County Sheriff's Citizen's Advisory Board, racked up 57.2 percent of the vote against Collier. And Pace, who recruited candidates to run against him last year, lost to Wick by a 58.5-41.5 margin, according to results released Monday.

Even Mayor Rod Higgins finds himself in a dogfight, narrowly edging his opponent, Chris Jackson, by just 251 votes, or 1.6 percentage points, as of press time. Pam Haley, who describes herself as a moderate, is the only incumbent who had it easy, taking 61.3 percent of the vote against challenger Angie Beem.

The word of County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich seemed to carry plenty of weight. Knezovich endorsed four of the five winners of the elections, the only exception being Higgins.

"I think the sheriff's endorsement was critical," Thompson tells the Inlander.

Pace says he sees a shift to the left, both locally and nationally, as a major factor. But there were other factors, including Pace's "parental rights" ordinance proposal, which received support from Munch and Collier. It would have restricted schools and health agencies from making decisions about whether or not students can come to school during an outbreak if that student hasn't been vaccinated. It would also have restricted schools from making decisions on curricula and gender-neutral bathrooms.

Thompson says Valley voters sent a message "that folks want the City Council to focus on City Council business," Thompson says. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

QUO MAINTAINS STATUS

For all the hype and possibility of the three SPOKANE CITY COUNCIL races up for a vote — each race potentially in doubt — the ultimate verdict was: Almost nothing changed.

Each time, the incumbent triumphed. Each time, the more liberal candidate won. The balance of power will remain wildly lopsided in favor of the left, with six liberals allied against Councilman Mike Fagan, ever the lonely conservative.

Yes, Councilwoman Candace Mumm was besieged by angry business owners and big billboards for her support — or at least acceptance — of the controversial plan to reduce a section of Monroe Street from five lanes to three. And yes, an inaccurate attack ad from a Mumm-supporting, Spokane-firefighter-funded PAC was roundly condemned, increasing the chance of voter backlash against Mumm.

But it didn't matter. Mumm pulled off a solid 53.1 percent to Matthew Howes' 46.9 percent.

Sure, at 28, Kate Burke is young, something her opponents attacked her for. And sure, if there was any district that seemed willing to elect a conservative like Tim Benn, it was the one that twice elected Fagan, Benn's conservative radio co-host. And sure, she chose to speak out about being sexually harassed by a former councilman — and call out two councilmen currently serving — despite allies warning her to keep quiet until after the election.

But when the final tallies came in, Burke won with the biggest margin of any council candidate: 58.4 percent to 41.6 percent.

Yes, Councilman Breean Beggs' habit of floating ideas like soda taxes opened up plenty of avenues for attack ads. And yes, a flood of independent money spent by the conservative-leaning business PAC Better Spokane — funded by major real-estate players like the Wolff Company and Walt and Karen Worthy — rapidly overwhelmed Beggs' fundraising advantage. And yes, his opponent, former Park Board member Andy Dunau, was able to tie himself to both skepticism over the Riverfront Park bond project and opposition to Beggs' anti-oil-train initiative.

In the end, that didn't mean squat. Beggs chugged away with 57.9 percent of the vote while Dunau was stuck at 42.1 percent.

On one hand, this tells you that, for all the criticism flung at the city council for potholes, property crime and business regulations, voters remain satisfied — or at least apathetic — regarding the council's performance. Spokane has plenty of experience with throwing the bums out. But over the past four years, not a single council or mayoral incumbent has been tossed.

It also reaffirms something that's become increasingly clear: Despite our two-term moderate Republican mayor, Spokane — as a city — leans to the moderate left. While we're not willing to get behind Shar Lichty for mayor, or vote for relatively untested liberal experiments like the "democracy vouchers" or Beggs' oil-train ordinance, we voted for bus funding hikes, twice, and narrowly supported the state minimum-wage increase initiative. (DANIEL WALTERS)

'UNENFORCEABLE'

Voters handily rejected Spokane PROPOSITION 2, which would've made it a civil infraction to bring train cars of uncovered coal or untreated crude oil through the city.

The 57.6 percent rejection of the measure (as of Monday) was a victory for the handful of industry opponents who majorly outspent proponents on advertising and mailers.

The opposition committee, Citizens to Protect Spokane's Economy, raised more than a quarter of a million dollars, mostly from six rail, coal and oil companies, and reported spending $161,797.59.

The proponent committee Safer Spokane, on the other hand, reported raising just more than $7,000, mostly from citizens, and spending $5,930.

Jim Lee, Safer Spokane chairman, thanked all their volunteers and supporters, and said while they knew it was a long shot, they hadn't expected the opposition to raise or spend so much on advertising to defeat the measure.

"The staggering amount of misinformation issued by the no campaign, not surprisingly, created a lot of confusion among voters, and voters who are confused tend to vote no. They created enough fear and doubt to achieve their objective," Lee says by email. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

'GENERAL CONTENTMENT'

Eight months after he was chosen to fill a vacancy on the SPOKANE PUBLIC SCHOOLS board, Michael Wiser won the seat in last week's election, receiving 63 percent of the vote.

"The solid support that I saw reflects good support for our school district overall, the work of the board and the staff and a general contentment in the community with the direction," Wiser tells the Inlander.

Wiser, who currently oversees strategic planning and project management for CHAS Health, was challenged by Jennifer Thomas, director of business development for the Jonah Project. The two disagreed on a couple of key issues: Thomas would have opposed sex ed curriculum for middle schoolers developed by Planned Parenthood, while Wiser says Planned Parenthood's involvement wasn't a deal-breaker for him. And Thomas was open to arming campus resource officers, while Wiser does not want them armed. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

INCUMBENTS RULE

Of the four judicial races in Spokane this year, only two JUDGES drew challengers. Both incumbent judges easily retained their seats.

Spokane County public defender Jocelyn Cook lost to Judge Tony Hazel, who received 61.7 percent of the vote. Hazel spent most of his career as a prosecutor in Spokane before Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him to replace the late Judge Sam Cozza in May. In an interview, Hazel emphasizes his work on the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, a panel dedicated to exploring reforms to the criminal justice system. He says he intends to continue that work as a judge.

The second contested race went to Municipal Court Judge Tracy Staab, who defeated city prosecutor Adam Papini with more than 73 percent of the vote. Leading up to the election, Papini did very little campaigning after he was arrested for a DUI in June with his young son in the back seat. (MITCH RYALS)♦

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