Spokane voters showed a split personality Tuesday when they picked an incumbent mayor and one of his most vocal critics as their top mayoral contenders.
Mayor Jack Geraghty led the pack of five candidates in the primary election, with John Talbott coming in second. State Rep. Duane Sommers finished a close third, with former Mayor Sheri Barnard trailing behind.
Self-described inventor David Howell, who disappeared from the campaign radar screen days after he had filed for office, barely made a showing.
On a drizzly election day that saw only a 23.2 percent turnout at the polls, Spokane voters couldn’t decide whether they want the status quo or the exact opposite.
Talbott said the election results proved his campaign “touched a button” with residents frustrated by the city’s direction.
“My campaign has been asking about things people are concerned about - the Lincoln Street bridge, the HUD loan for River Park Square, street repair and accountability …
“It’s been about leadership, leadership, leadership.”
Geraghty had a different take on the vote tally, saying it demonstrated faith in Spokane’s future.
“I think Mr. Talbott has been a critic of city government for many years,” Geraghty said. “I’m going to emphasize my issues - the future of this community, growing the economy and jobs, … all the issues that are going to help us maintain our quality of life.”
The two top vote-getters are a study in contrasts.
Geraghty, 63, wants to see downtown revitalization efforts completed. Talbott, 63, wants to see the council turn its focus away from the core to the entire city.
Geraghty said he’d try to find a steady source of outside dollars to fix the streets. Talbott said he’d find the money in the city’s budget.
While Geraghty takes hits from critics who say he’s a weak leader, Talbott is bashed by those who say he can be too caustic.
Geraghty, a public relations consultant and former county commissioner, touted his campaign as a way to “keep Spokane moving forward.” He wants to see new housing downtown and a completed comprehensive land-use plan.
Talbott, a retired Air Force colonel, heralded his candidacy as a way to make government more accountable to the people. He wants the council to hire an independent auditor who can assess whether the city manager is doing his job and tax dollars are wisely spent.
A disappointed Sommers said Talbott touched a nerve with voters on several issues, particularly his opposition to the Lincoln Street bridge - which Sommers supported.
While Sommers said he wasn’t offering up “radical changes” at City Hall, he did want to see the budget priorities rearranged to put streets at the top.
As for Geraghty’s showing, “a lot of people want the status quo to continue,” Sommers said.
The four-term Republican state legislator said he doubted he’d try again for the city’s top spot, but will continue his legislative career.
Barnard - who described her stunning defeat when she sought re-election four years ago as a “blessing” - took Tuesday’s loss in characteristic good cheer.
Barnard’s platform was the most dramatic, calling for the the ouster of City Attorney James Sloane and the closure of the $110 million waste-to-energy incinerator.
“I did what I thought was right, and now I’m done,” she said. “I’m proud of (the issues) I brought up.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo