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Roskelley Conquers First Political Mountain

Wed., Nov. 8, 1995, midnight

Voters foiled a Republican sweep of the Spokane County Commission by electing John Roskelley, a political neophyte better known for scaling mountains.

Roskelley was leading GOP nominee Martin Burnette by 27 percent late Tuesday. Independent candidate Chris Anderson was tallying 9 percent of the vote even though he dropped from the race in late September, throwing his support behind Burnette.

“I just had the feeling from doorbelling that there was a high percentage of people out there who wanted a change,” Roskelley said.

“My direction is to get the confidence of the employees down there (courthouse),” he said, “and make Spokane County government work better.”

About 50 Roskelley faithful gathered in a cramped, roasting suite at the Sheraton, some drinking Andre champagne.

The Roskelley clan was relaxed - daughter Jordan, 6, slept in an adjacent room while 13-year-old brother Jess watched “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

Roskelley, 46, a professional mountain climber and photojournalist, sipped a Coors Light between television interviews.

“It’s too early to get optimistic,” Roskelley warned earlier in the evening, knowing only a miracle would derail a win.

Roskelley said his door-to-door campaign fell short in the Valley, where few votes had been counted three hours after the polls closed. “I hope these people support me.”

Six floors up in the Burnette headquarters, a wood-paneled suite with a bar and panoramic view of the skyline, 30 people watched the returns quietly.

Burnette, sipping a soft drink, seesawed between optimism and denial.

“I’m not discouraged with the results, just frustrated at the process,” Burnette said, referring to the long wait for numbers. The Quebec secession vote last week, he noted, took only three hours to count.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” the Republican financial adviser muttered. “It’s early in the game, early in the game.”

Finally, with the inevitable nearing, Burnette, 43, said, “There’s no doubt about it: It would take a quantum leap to change that gap.

“We’re certainly hopeful there’ll be a turnaround in the results,” Burnette said. “I’m pleased with the kind of results we’ve had for (a campaign) just over the past 4-1/2 months.”

Roskelley will join Republican Commissioners Phil Harris and Steve Hasson, who publicly said they could work with either candidate. Privately, Harris and Hasson were pulling hard for Burnette and predicting as late as Tuesday he would win.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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