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Lisa Brown, incumbent Nadine Woodward to move onto general election

Spokane Mayoral race
Savanna Rothe/SPR
Spokane Mayoral race

The two most high-profile mayoral candidates, incumbent Nadine Woodward and former State Department of Commerce Director, Lisa Brown, will move onto the general election.

Initial primary results show Brown in the lead, with close to 47% of the vote. Woodward took about 39% of primary votes.

More than 36,000 ballots were cast in that race, and a little less than 3,000 votes separate them.

Tim Archer, a former firefighter, came in third with about 11% of votes.

Woodward and Brown are also the most well-funded candidates in the race, with Woodward receiving a record-breakingamount of donations, as well as independent expenditures from the real estate industry, as well as commercial property owners and the building industry. Brown has strong union support, as well as the backing of many progressive voices and the local Democratic party.

Tim Archer is the former president of the Spokane Firefighters union and the most conservative candidate in the race, will not move on. He argued Woodward had failed to engage with the public, and shouldn’t have enforced the governor’s vaccine mandate for public employees.

Preliminary results show candidate Patrick McKann, who owns a yurt building business, came in fourth with a little more than 2% of votes.

Candidate Kelly Stevens, who works for the city’s streets department, took less than 1% of votes, with coming in last.

Preliminary results show around 25% of voters turned out in city wide races.

Woodward was first elected in 2019 on a campaign that also was heavily focused on homelessness and public safety. Before that, she spent nearly three decades in TV news at both KXLY and KREM.

When she first ran for office, and in a recent KHQ debate, Woodward said law enforcement and jail are necessary tools to address Spokane’s homelessness, and addiction challenges. During her term, Woodward added a new police precinct downtown and moved more officers to patrol.

Brown spent 20 years as a Washington State legislator, including as the Senate Majority Leader. She previously served as the chancellor of Washington State University Spokane, made an unsuccessful bid for Congress, and most recently was the director of the Washington State Department of Commerce.

In her campaign for mayor, Brown has called for a navigation center, a one-stop shop for homeless services that uses data to help people leave the cycle of homelessness. She says the city should also invest in street medicine teams to meet unhoused people where they’re at.

Woodward has said the Trent Resource and Assistance Center, a warehouse turned shelter rented to the city by developer Larry Stone, is a navigation center. Brown says it offers some services, but isn’t using the data driven approach she’s called for.

In a press release, Woodward said she won the primary, arguing that with Tim Archer’s vote she has a clear path to victory.

“I’m honored to receive so much Spokane support. I ran for Mayor in 2019 because I wanted to make positive changes for the city I love, and we have. I look forward to continuing our work to build safer communities, responsible homeless approaches, and attainable housing in our beautiful city.”

Brown responded by calling out the negative campaign ads against her, saying the results showed voters were tired of personal attacks.

“The truth is we don’t blame the mayor for homelessness,” Brown said. "We blame her for spending millions of dollars on a warehouse without running water and calling it a shelter. We don’t blame the mayor for rising crime. We blame her for a citywide police response rate of 42% and a shortage of 70 uniformed officers. Spokane deserves leadership that gets results.”

In the race for City Council President, preliminary results showed Betsy Wilkerson in the lead with 48% of votes. Kim Plese was in second with 36% of votes. Candidate Andy Rathbun trailed behind with 15% of votes.

The city council president serves as a leader for the city’s legislative body. They set the council’s agenda, work with council members on policy and regulation proposals, and preside over the group’s meetings. The president can also convene special meetings. Informally, they also serve as a voice for the council, work with the mayor’s office and represent Spokane before the Washington legislature.

Of the three candidates in the primary, only Wilkerson had experience in elected office. Plese and Rathbun ran in part over dissatisfaction with the progressive lean of the city council’s majority.

Wilkerson said experience is needed to address the issues the council and city face. She also emphasized continuity, telling Spokane Public Radio that the council had launched good ideas, and that she wanted to help those policies continue. Wilkerson garnered endorsements from the Spokane Regional Labor Council, the Spokane Firefighters Union, County Commissioner Amber Waldref, interim city council President Lori Kinnear and progressive political group Fuse Washington.

Plese’s campaign ads emphasized that she was officially a nonpartisan candidate, though she told Spokane Public Radio in June that she hoped incumbent conservative Mayor Nadine Woodward would win her re-election bid. Woodward likewise endorsed Plese for the city council presidency. Plese’s other endorsements include the Spokane Association of Realtors, the Spokane Police Guild, Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels and Trent Avenue homeless shelter owner Larry Stone.

Rathbun, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, ran a very small campaign, and told several media outlets he did not expect to emerge from the primary. He reported no fundraising in this year’s race, and no expenditures. Rathbun ran in part because of frustration over Spokane’s recent housing policies. Those rules and regulations, he said, prompted him to sell rental properties he owned. He told Spokane Public Radio that another factor in his decision to join the race at the filing deadline was that he didn’t want Wilkerson to cruise through the top-two primary automatically.

According to the Spokane County Elections office preliminary results, there are still an estimated 5,000 ballots left to count. Turnout county wide was around 21%.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.