Spokane’s two main political parties tuned up for the fall elections Saturday by listening to candidates who want their support and deciding which issues constitute their core values.
In other words, they held their county conventions.
Nearly 500 Republicans gathered at Cowles Auditorium on the Whitworth College campus to hear would-be governors, lieutenant governors, insurance commissioners and even a state schools superintendent. That job is officially nonpartisan, but King County Councilman Chris Vance made no pretense that his campaign would be.
Many candidates who couldn’t make it sent stand-ins.
Candidates were wary of bypassing Spokane - dubbed “the Republicans’ idea center and stronghold” by state Sen. Ann Anderson, who’d like to be lieutenant governor next year.
GOP delegates celebrated their big 1994 victories in the state and across the nation, and hoped for even better times this fall.
Five miles and a political universe away, some 200 Democrats gathered at Rogers High School auditorium to listen to another set of speeches. Those candidates wanted to reverse the results of 1994, particularly the congressional election which replaced 30-year incumbent and House Speaker Tom Foley with Republican George Nethercutt.
Nethercutt challenger Sue Kaun of Spokane seemed to unite different factions of the frequently feuding local party.
Kaun noted that two years ago, Nethercutt promised to be a listener, not a speaker. She led the crowd in a chant of “George isn’t listening,” while ticking off his votes to cut environmental regulations, eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and end the ban on the manufacture and sale of some military-style assault weapons.
Judy Olson of Garfield, a former official with state and national wheat growers’ associations, criticized Nethercutt for not representing farm interests. And another Nethercutt challenger, Don McCloskey of Spokane, said he would fight for jobs with living wages and a safe environment for children.
Over at Whitworth, GOP gubernatorial candidates tried to distinguish themselves in a seven-person field.
“I’m tired of coming to Spokane and having to drive to Idaho to see a new factory being built,” said Tacoma attorney Jim Waldo, who promised to focus on jobs and prosperity if he wins.
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng promised to dismantle and revise the state’s welfare mega-agency, the Department of Social and Health Services. “We’ve all heard of dysfunctional families. Well I believe that DSHS is a dysfunctional institution.”
Vance received some of the loudest applause of the morning by promising to give parents more choice in the schools their children attend and end “mushy, attitudinal outcomes based education,” followed by a shot at first lady Hillary Clinton. “I’m sorry Hillary, but I don’t want your village raising my kids,” Vance said, a reference to Clinton’s book title, “It Takes a Village.”
The two parties’ platforms had little in common, except that both were shorter and more general than previous years’ statements of beliefs and principles.
The GOP platform fit on two sides of a single sheet of paper. It called for “back to basics education,” a two-year limit on welfare benefits, and supported sanctity of life “from the point of conception” to death. Delegates turned down amendments to support government regulations that ensure healthy air and drinking water, and to change campaign finance laws by eliminating political action committees.
Dick Bond, a former state representative, said cutting off PAC funding was naive: “The only thing that allows Republicans to compete with unions is PACs, and anybody who doesn’t understand that doesn’t belong here.”
Democrats approved a seven-page platform - brief by historic standards - that opposed vouchers for schools, but included statements on environmental regulations to protect air and water, mass transit and a North Spokane Beltway, freedom of choice on abortion and “a terminally ill person’s right to die with dignity.”