Spokane County commissioner
Voters set Spokane County government on a conservative course Tuesday, electing a Valley activist to replace Commissioner Steve Hasson.
Kate McCaslin, who promised to cut spending and streamline government, defeated Democrat Ron Hormann. In September’s primary, she eliminated Hasson from the race.
In a second race, Commissioner John Roskelley appeared headed for a landslide victory over Republican challenger Lila Howe.
It could be a frustrating four years for Roskelley, who was elected last November to complete the final year of Skip Chilberg’s term. Chilberg left office to accept a growth management appeals job.
Hormann promised to embrace the Growth Management Act, and probably would have teamed with Roskelley, a conservationist, to give broad protection to wetlands and other sensitive lands.
McCaslin likely will side with Commissioner Phil Harris, a Republican and property rights advocate, on major land-use issues.
During the campaign, McCaslin said that if she were elected she would seek a reduction in the required 200-foot buffer between new construction and major streams. Harris had wanted a 50-foot buffer, but was out-voted by Hasson and Roskelley.
In recent weeks, Harris repeatedly said the county should go slowly in implementing the Growth Management Act. County residents need more time to learn about the issue, he said.
Commissioners are expected to set urban growth boundaries by the end of the year. Any slowdown would mean McCaslin, not Hasson, would be part of the trio deciding where urban growth will be encouraged and where it will be banned.
“I see nothing in the cards that tell me it’s going to be delayed,” Roskelley said.
The urban growth boundaries aren’t the only decision that could be settled before McCaslin takes office.
Commissioners in December may decide to raise monthly sewer bills, setting the money aside for improvements to the sewage treatment plant. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3, and Hasson has made the issue his top priority.
“That’s a pretty major decision,” said McCaslin. “I would hope that I would at least have a say on that. At the very least, I’ll be at the hearing.”
Serious and polite, Roskelley and McCaslin likely won’t air their disagreements in public.
“My job as a county commissioner is to work with whomever the voters give me to work with,” said McCaslin. “It’s the expectation of the public.”
“We need to respect each other,” said Roskelley.
They likely will find broad common ground on financial matters. Harris recently praised Roskelley as “tight with a buck,” a phrase that also fits McCaslin.
During her campaign, McCaslin promised to refuse the commissioners’ pension and automatic pay increases, and fight to link raises to job performance. She acknowledged that those are largely symbolic gestures.
Although it was her first run for office, McCaslin has volunteered or consulted for a number of Republicans over the past 12 years. Her experience showed; McCaslin ran a flawless campaign, raising more than twice as much money as Hormann and assembling a crew of 100 volunteers.
Before the primary, she hosted a series of community meetings, where she asked voters their concerns and promised to make government more responsive.
Hormann’s showing Tuesday was significantly better than in September, when he faced no Democratic challenger in the primary. Democratic party leaders speculated many of the party faithful cast ballots for whichever Republican they thought would present the weakest challenge to Hormann.
Howe, a former member of the Stevens County planning commission, promised to roll back county regulations and took a hard line against growth management. She raised more money than Roskelley, though neither was as well-funded as Hormann and McCaslin.
Roskelley said his work in the courthouse left him little time to campaign. He had no campaign staff and few yard signs, and said he felt uncomfortable asking for contributions.
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