Today on the Inland Journal podcast, we put a wrap on the 2019 municipal election for the city of Spokane and some of the other cities in Spokane County. We’ll hear who Spokane’s new mayor will be. We’ll hear about the city council president’s race where there isn’t yet a clear winner, and who will be sitting on the council next year. We’ll also look at results from Spokane Valley.
Nadine Woodward is apparently Spokane’s new mayor-elect. Woodward leads Ben Stuckart by a 52%-47% percent margin, with thousands more ballots to be counted.
Last night, Woodward said the voters wanted a change, and she intends to deliver that.
“I’m anxious to see the changeup of the Spokane City Council. And we need that. Right now we have a six-to-one imbalance. We have a city council that has created its own echo chamber. All they do is listen to themselves, they don’t listen to the people, we need to change that,” she said.
Woodward cited the homeless issue and housing shortage as among her first priorities. She says she will also begin work on putting together a transition team.
“I’ve got a lot of jobs, a lot of work to do. I have positions to hire, so I’m not going to say what I’m going to do on day one, maybe test out the chair, and test out the view from that window, it will be nice," she said. "But listening to people. I’ve got two months of hard work, of transition, and I’ll be listening to lots of people out in the neighborhoods. Lots of people that I want on my transition team, for the initiatives we want to accomplish.”
Woodward’s opponent, outgoing City Council President Ben Stuckart, said he wasn’t ready to talk after leaving his Election Night gathering.
Woodward says she is looking to forward to working with Cindy Wendle, if Wendle is indeed the new city council president. That race is still too close to call.
Wendle leads Breean Beggs by fewer than 800 votes in the race for Spokane City Council president. Both candidates believe they can win the race.
Tuesday night, Wendle told SPR that she is looking forward to working with Mayor-elect Nadine Woodward. She says the two did communicate during the campaign.
“We both did encourage each other as female candidates, and as first time candidates in politics, and that kind of back and forth, but we haven’t really talked much about what it’s going to look like if we are both in office," she said.
Wendle says, if she wins, she looks forward to having a dialogue with other council members, and try to put differences aside to find solutions to the city’s problems.
Beggs said he is cautiously optimistic that he can still pull out a victory.
“In the political world we identify people based on their political leanings, and the ones that are coming later are tending to be more progressive, so we’re really hopeful that all these late ballots that have come in are going to put us over the top," he said.
Beggs says he believes the result of the race should be known by Friday. The next vote count will be released Wednesday at 6 pm.
Two Spokane city council members are ahead after the first round of ballots have been counted. Lori Kinnear has a big lead over her challenger, Tony Kiepe, in the South district race.
In the Northwest, Karen Stratton leads Andy Rathbun by 400 votes out of 13,000 counted in her quest to win a second term.
“I’m glad that I ran a positive campaign and I would characterize this race as being probably one of the most difficult races that I’ve been involved with because I think it got personal and it got mean spirited from my opponent," Stratton said.
She was referring to the publicity surrounding the news that she and her husband had once filed for personal bankruptcy.
Rathbun, despite being behind, is upbeat about his chances of reversing the outcome.
“I’m not down and out at all. I’m running against an incumbent and the initial votes are in and we’re only 400 votes down and we’ve got quite a few days to go," he said. "In the primary, we did better day by day as the votes came in and I think we’re getting stronger votes here at the end that are going to help us to a win.”
County officials estimate there are 34,000 votes left to count. It’s not known how many of those are in the Northwest district.
In the South district, Spokane City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear is headed toward a big victory in her quest for a second term on the city council.
Kinnear has about 67% of the vote to Tony Kiepe's 32% after the first night of ballot counting.
“I think [she's ahead] because I have a track record of listening and getting results for them, so they air their concerns. It’s not about me, it’s about them. They air their concerns and I look for solutions," she said.
In the Northeast, political consultant Michael Cathcart appears ready to take a seat on the Spokane City Council.
The executive director of the group Better Spokane is leading Tim Benn by nine percentage points in the Northeast district race to replace Mike Fagan on the council.
“It’s hard to say for sure [why voters chose him], but I think the different styles of our campaign may have been part of it," Cathcart said. "We really just tried to focus on the positive vision, the things that we can accomplish for northeast Spokane, especially. I think the message really resonated with the voters, to do something different than what we’ve been doing to really improve the situation for our part of Spokane.”
Cathcart had something else to celebrate Tuesday night, the passage of two propositions on the city ballot.
Proposition 1 opens collective bargaining involving city employees to public scrutiny, including open negotiating sessions and public access to the contracts negotiated.
“I’ve been very confident about Proposition 1 since day one. That’s the transparency measure. I’ve heard nothing but real positive comments about it. Everything we’ve seen has been over the top supportive," he said.
Proposition 1 had about 78% ‘yes’ votes Tuesday night. Proposition 2, which forbids the city from pursuing a local income tax, is winning with 73% approval.
Looking now at races outside the city of Spokane…
One incumbent easily won a Spokane Valley City Council race and another incumbent is in trouble.
Arne Woodard won 55% of the vote in defeating Lance Gurel for another term on the council.
“I really do think they see me with a servant’s heart, which I truly have, and I am their servant, not one to lord over them. I think that’s what’s really being said," he said.
Woodard’s seat mate, Brandi Peetz, is in a very close race with Michelle Rasmussen to keep the seat she won four years ago. With about 12,000 ballots counted, Rasmussen leads by four votes. That race may not be decided for several days as ballots continue to be counted.
In the third race in Spokane Valley, Tim Hattenburg defeated chiropractor Bo Tucker to win an open seat. Hattenburg took 54% of the vote. Hattenburg has run unsuccessfully for office before. He credits his experience in the community and his time serving as a trustee on the Spokane County Library District board for helping voters become familiar with him.
“I actually had people say, 'You’re the library guy,’ which was a really neat compliment because it’s hard not to like libraries," he said. "All of that combined really made a difference and I just can’t thank our team enough for getting out there. There were days we had 20 or 25 people go out and we’d hit 700 or 800 doors a day.”
In nearby Liberty Lake, voters may be ready for a leadership change. Councilman Shane Brickner is leading the incumbent, Steve Peterson, in the race for mayor. Brickner has 56% of the vote after the first night of counting.
Three Spokane area school district put levies before voters Tuesday, with mixed success.
The West Valley school measure has 53% support, more than the simple majority it needs. A levy in Cheney is trailing by a few votes, but is essentially in a 50-50 draw. A measure in the Mead School District is in much more trouble, receiving only about 42% of the vote.
Other local districts, including Spokane, decided against submitting levies, even though they’re facing budget challenges after the legislature made major changes to the state school funding formula in 2018.
That’s it for our post-election rundown. Ballots will continue to be counted for several more days and the election will be certified in a little more than two weeks.