Mountain-climbing author and political novice John Roskelley trounced die-hard Democratic incumbent George Marlton in the primary for the District 1 seat on the Spokane County Commission.
Marlton, a lawyer who was appointed to the job in June by Commissioners Steve Hasson and Phil Harris, lost his third commission race since 1982.
In the Republican primary, financial consultant Martin Burnette easily won his first political contest against newcomers Art Meikel and Mike Davis.
Spokane City Council member Chris Anderson, running as an independent, also qualified for the Nov. 7 election as the second highest vote-getter of the six candidates. The commission job pays nearly $56,000.
Roskelley, 46, who resists the label of politician, won huge.
“It’s pretty impressive,” he said. “To take this percentage, it looks like my team really did a good job out there. I just had great support from my family and people who really believed in me.”
Roskelley had been testing the waters since he returned from an expedition in South America in early May. He conquered nearly a month of 100-mph winds and rain to scale 8,000-foot Mount Sarmiento on the island of Tierra del Fuego off Chile and Argentina. When he got back home, he learned Commissioner Skip Chilberg was resigning to take another job.
Marlton was appointed a few weeks later.
“I never did feel like we were behind even though George (Marlton) was in the office,” said Roskelley, whose opponent sought to brand him an environmental extremist. “However, I don’t know politics that well.”
It’s not known how much Marlton’s campaign suffered over highly publicized, offensive remarks he made at the courthouse Sept. 8 in front of a reporter.
Marlton, 50, unleashed a string of scatological and sexual references while feigning masturbation and joking that a campaign worker had offered him oral sex.
Telephone calls to Marlton were not returned.
Even Republican Burnette, 43, was surprised at Roskelley’s “phenomenal” victory. But Burnette said he’ll be ready for the general election and will accentuate the differences between him and Roskelley.
While Roskelley believes the county budget is only a skeleton of what it once was, Burnette said he’ll go after some of the bone if elected.
“If we’re really going to bring back the county budget (to solvency), we’re going to have to continue to do more cutting,” Burnette said.
Burnette campaigned for Commissioner Harris last year. He overcame allegations that his civic activities - touted in his campaign literature - were overstated.
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