President Clinton will share a ballot in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene this November with 20 other active or potential candidates for his job.
Officials in both cities say they won’t take Clinton’s name off the ballot just because national Democratic Party officials want them to.
“Our city has already acted on this,” said Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty of the CityVote ballot that includes Clinton’s name. “It’s a done deal.”
“We haven’t given any thought to changing the ballot,” said Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell, adding that national Democrats haven’t even contacted his city.
Other cities in the Northwest that are taking part in the straw vote also are refusing to remove the president’s name, despite the objections of national Chairman Don Fowler, who said the party frowns on straw polls.
CityVote, on the Nov. 7 ballot in about 20 cities around the nation, would be the first time Clinton will be matched against the Republican field as well as possible independent candidates Colin Powell and Ross Perot.
Now that the cities appear unlikely to agree to Fowler’s request, Washington state Democratic chairman Paul Berendt is suggesting a new strategy, one that would knock all the candidates off the ballot. The party, or some of its members, could file suit to keep Washington cities from joining the first-ever urban primary.
“This is bad for democracy,” said Berendt, who has written to Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro and auditors in counties where CityVote will be on the ballot. “It drags this whole presidential election process out an extra six months.”
Washington cities don’t have the legal authority to hold an advisory vote on presidential candidates, Berendt contended.
Yes they do, said Spokane City Attorney Jim Sloane and several county and state election officials.
Spokane operates under a charter that allows the council to put advisory measures before the voters, Sloane said. CityVote is an appropriate advisory ballot, he said.
“The future of urban policy will be dramatically impacted by the winner of the next presidential election,” Sloane said. “We’re very confident with the power of the city of Spokane to go forward with this.”
Thurston County Auditor Sam Reed said voters in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater also would have the presidential straw poll on their ballot.
In Idaho, state and local Democratic officials haven’t raised near the fuss with the straw poll, which will be on the ballot in Moscow as well as Coeur d’Alene.
Ryan Hill, a state party spokesman, said they were aware of the objections being raised by the national party.
“But we haven’t adopted any position on our own,” said Hill, adding state officials were sent a copy of Fowler’s letter by city officials in Moscow, not from the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Hill wasn’t even aware that Coeur d’Alene was participating.
Neither was Bob Brown, the Kootenai County Democratic chairman.
“I think straw votes taken a year before the election will be pretty meaningless,” Brown said. “But I certainly don’t have any objection to it.”