Spokane Council Races Narrowed To Two Candidates

Aug 7, 2019

These are the six finalists running in three Spokane city council district races: (from top left, clockwise) Tim Benn, Lori Kinnear, Andy Rathbun, Karen Stratton, Tony Kiepe, Michael Cathcart

There are still thousands of ballots still to be counted, but it appears the November general election match ups are pretty much set in three Spokane city council races.

Two sitting council members are in a good position heading into the fall campaign.

Lori Kinnear won 59% of the vote in winning a three-way primary in the South district and Karen Stratton polled at 48% in winning a six-way race in the Northwest.

The race in the Northeast is much closer, perhaps in part because there’s no incumbent. Two candidates known for their conservative views are in line to replace Mike Fagan, the current council’s most conservative member. Tim Benn and Michael Cathcart are less than a percentage point apart after the first vote count.

Cathcart is a political consultant and executive director of Better Spokane.

“I took the position of hey, we can do a heck of a lot better in our community and re-prioritize resources, make sure law enforcement is getting what they need, hiring more officers. I’m a huge advocate for inserting more accountability into our homeless spending," Cathcart said.

Benn says their views on the issues are similar. The difference is in fundraising, where Cathcart raised nearly six times as much money for the primary.

“So far in the election he’s had big money and PACs behind him and so he’ll definitely have a lot more money and I’ll just have to try to work harder and we’ll see if the voters respond to advertising or a local message,” Benn said.

In the Northwest, Karen Stratton hopes to continue her family’s political tradition. She watched the election returns Tuesday night with her mom, Lois, a former state legislator. Her late father was a former city councilman. Stratton says safety in the neighborhoods and parks was the top issue she heard on voters’ doorsteps, followed by homelessness.

“And the third one probably was alleys and residential streets. I had lots of discussions with people on the shapes of their alleys, sidewalks and streets," Stratton said.

Her status as an incumbent apparently helped her. Her opponent, retired Air Force navigator Andy Rathbun, has raised nearly twice as much money, but his vote percentage is about half of her 48%. So he’s focused on one strategy for the next three months of the campaign.

“Just to get my word out, more recognition for my name," Rathbun said. "She’s got a lot of name recognition herself and generationally. She always talks about she’s a legacy, a lot of elected officials, her parents.”

In the South, Lori Kinnear is also benefitting from incumbency and a good economy. She says people have recognized the city’s in good shape. When she knocked on doors, she heard things she didn’t expect.

“I had a woman that was very concerned about the bullfrogs in Cannon Hill pond. Ok, that’s probably something that needs to be dealt with. But they weren’t big issues," Kinnear said.

She raised about seven times more money than her November opponent, Tony Kiepe. She’s ahead by 36 percentage points, which gets him thinking about how he’s going to narrow that gap.

“That’s a good question," Kiepe said. "Are you happy with the way things are going with the homeless situation? Has she improved our roads? The answer is no. Have you made it easier for businesses?”

Votes will continue to be counted for another two weeks. The election is scheduled to be certified August 20.