French owned the north side, where he is a longtime resident, winning or tying for first place in 39 of 71 precincts during the August primary. South of the river may as well have been a different city, though: French won just two precincts, both right on the river, and placed third among the three major candidates in 43 of 48 south-side precincts -- "Third by a lot," he says.
It's not that a north-sider can't win on the South Hill, French says, noting he pulled 40 percent of south-side votes when he ran against Mayor Dennis Hession for city council president in 2003, and nearly 60 percent in a 2001 city council race when all city residents could vote for all council seats.
No, French says the new, earlier primary reduced turnout in certain precincts.
"It revealed to me the early primary has a tendency to marginalize low- and middle-income families," he says.
French says the total votes in precincts such as those in Hillyard and northeast Spokane were half what they have been in previous elections.
"What's different? I still part my hair on the right side," French says.
His strategy, he says, was to focus on northwest Spokane, especially Indian Trail, rely on the northeast to deliver its usual votes and split the South Hill three ways.
What went wrong in the calculation, he says, was running against two south-side lawyers, and the northeast turned out in half its usual numbers.
"I'm really pleased with the votes I got out of the northwest" -- he won 12 of 21 high-vote precincts west of Monroe and north of Wellesley -- "but even though I won the majority of the precincts in the northeast, I didn't win enough votes to overcome the south," French says.
The math is striking, French says, in that higher income precincts in Indian Trail or on the South Hill had good turnouts while lower-income precincts sagged dramatically. He suspects moving the primary to August has a bigger impact on lower income, single-parent households.
"They don't have the disposable time to invest in politics," when their kids aren't in school, he says. "That's not as much of an issue in middle- or higher-income neighborhoods."
The Man from Black Rock
Councilman Brad Stark has raised the most cash among all six candidates in the three races for council, thanks largely to a blizzard of $1,000 checks from developer Marshall Chesrown back in April.
Stark has raised $21,749 in cash contributions, according to reports filed online with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). Richard Rush, Stark's challenger for the District 2 (south side) council seat has raised the second-largest amount: $14,563.
The difference between the two is Chesrown and his Black Rock Development, Inc., which won city council approval May 14 to proceed with the billion-dollar Kendall Yards development.
Out of the seven top contributors who've written checks to Stark for $1,000, five of them come from Chesrown, Black Rock Development Inc., Kendall Yards Development Inc., Legacy Ridge Development Inc. (another Black Rock project) and River Front Properties LLC (another name for Kendall Yards), on April 6, 9 and 11.
"I approached him," Stark says. "When it comes to politics there is this notion of quid pro quo and corruption, but this is just the opposite. I think this is a demonstration of shared values, shared vision and shared work ethic. We both want to see Spokane develop with various urban centers and strong neighborhoods."
Nobody else got money from Chesrown before the council vote. He has since tossed $3,500 to Hession as well as $1,000 to French in August.
"Folks will see into it what they want to see into it. There is no quid pro quo," Stark says.
A Bountiful Union
City councilwoman and mayoral candidate Mary Verner still lags far behind incumbent Mayor Hession in the arena of fund-raising -- he, with oodles of business support, has $180,676 to her $75,000 -- but she's has made recent gains.
Verner this week posted a $10,000 check from the Everett-based Washington State Council of County and City Employees. This, with the $7,500 contributed last month by the Spokane Firefighters' union, Local 29, are the two biggest single contributions to any candidate in this year's city races.
For the life of us, we couldn't find online campaign finance reports for city council candidates Lewis Griffin and Bob Apple the other day.
A helpful guy at the PDC gave us the skinny that Luddites like Griffin and Apple, who use actual paper and the Postal Service, only show up when their reports are scanned (use the "view actual reports" button instead of "search the database").
But as the nice man was scoping things out we inadvertently busted Apple -- Sorry Bob! -- when all of a sudden the guy goes into Clint Eastwood mode and says, "Hey, this Apple guy is missing two reports ... (expense and contribution summaries due Aug. 14 and Sept. 10). I'm going to call him right away."
Apple, the next day, acknowledged the call from the campaign cop but says it's all a misunderstanding. "My campaign person has talked to them. I've talked to them. Everything is turned in. I don't know what their problem is."
As for Griffin, the PDC guy says, "He's got all sorts of stuff in there ... it looks like he's been filing regularly."