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Library District Plan Holds Narrow Lead

Unpublished correction: The name of Mukogawa is misspelled in this story.

County races

A plan to form a rural library district in Stevens County appeared to be passing narrowly Tuesday night, while early returns showed Pullman voters rejecting a proposal to shrink their city.

Elsewhere in the counties around Spokane, voters showed a preference for incumbents.

Stevens County Commissioners Fran Bessermin and Fred Lotze were well on their way to re-election with wide margins over their Democratic challengers in early returns. The county’s District Court judge, Pamela Payne, had an overwhelming lead over challenger Patty St. Clair.

Pend Oreille County Commissioners Mike Hanson and Karl McKenzie were re-elected. Ferry County Commissioner Gary Kohler was on his way to being reelected.

Republican Dennis Snook was leading Democrat Chris Kroupa for the Ferry County commissioner’s position being vacated by Democrat Ed Windsor.

In Whitman County, Republican County Commissioner Nora Mae Keifer was leading Democratic challenger Charlie Russell, who attacked county spending as extravagant.

Palouse City Councilman Steve McGehee, a Democrat, was losing by a large margin to Republican farmer Hollis Jamison. Jamison beat incumbent Commissioner Jim Potts in the GOP primary.

The Pullman de-annexation proposal, a first in Washington, asked voters whether they wanted to jettison 64 acres added to the city in March. Developer Marysue Itani wants to build homes there. De-annexation proponents say they’re sick of disorganized growth. Opponents said such charges are a smokescreen for the real issue: people don’t want growth in their back yards.

Stevens County voters apparently do want libraries in their back yards. A proposal to establish a library district, which probably would have cost taxpayers 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, was winning in early returns.

It wasn’t clear, though, whether mainstream conservatives or religious conservatives will control the Republican Party in Stevens County. The party has been locked in a power struggle since Commissioner Allan Mack died in March and precinct officers nominated a successor.

The religious right dominated the party convention in March by turning out in force for the caucuses. But party regulars maintained a narrow lead in precinct officers and nominated retired logger Fred Lotze.

Religious and ultraconservative precinct officers supported former Commissioner John Hodde, whom Lotze outpolled almost 2-1 in the Republican primary election in September.

Ultraconservatives also supported Loon Lake retiree Tony Delgado’s challenge of incumbent Commissioner Fran Bessermin in the Republican primary, but she edged him out 971-776.

Running unopposed in the Democratic primary for Bessermin’s position, Suncrest restaurateur M. Grant McMullen made a strong showing with 28.2 percent of the overall vote. But Bessermin had 39.9 percent in the primary, and ultraconservatives had no choice but to embrace her in the general election.

McMullen was outspokenly critical of far-right elements in the county, including County Commissioner J.D. Anderson.

“This is not the Old West,” McMullen said, arguing that ultraconservative politics were scaring off businesses that might move to Stevens County.

Democrat Jeff Johnston used more moderate rhetoric in his campaign against Lotze. Even some Republican stalwarts praised the quality of the young county Road Department worker’s issues-oriented campaign, but Johnston had little chance against Lotze - a lifelong county resident with a long record of public service.

In Pend Oreille County, incumbent Commissioner Mike Hanson, a Republican, edged out Democrat Sandi Lewis with 51.3 percent of the final unofficial vote, 2,167-2,046. Commissioner McKenzie, a conservative Democrat, defeated his Republican opponent, Wanda Stenzel, with 54.7 percent of the vote, 2,278-1,869.

Ferry County Commissioner Gary Kohler, a Democrat, was leading Republican challenger David Schumacher in early returns. Schumacher described himself as a “constitutionalist” who wanted a coalition of counties to challenge federal authority.

Kohler represents the county’s southern district, which is mostly inside the Colville Indian Reservation. At the north end of the county, Republican Dennis Snook was beating Democrat Chris Kroupa for the commissioner position being vacated by Democrat Ed Windsor.

, DataTimesILLUSTRATION: Photo

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