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Familiar Theme In Council Clash Much Like The Mayor’s Race, Incumbent To Battle Advocate For Change

Spokane voters may see a mirror of the mayor’s race in one of their City Council contests, as a one-term incumbent battles an outspoken critic of City Hall.

Incumbent Phyllis Holmes easily topped a five-person field to advance to the Nov. 4 general election, where she will almost certainly face Steve Thompson, who endorses revolutionary changes at City Hall.

Holmes, 58, came to office four years ago with Mayor Jack Geraghty. Thompson, 41, ran in the primary on a slate with John Talbott, Geraghty’s general election foe.

Thompson leads the third-place candidate, small business owner Holly Ann O’Connell, by more than 200 votes with only absentee ballots to be counted.

The race for an open council seat will feature Rob Higgins, a former two-term council member trying to return to city government after an eight-year hiatus, and Judith Gilmore, the former Eastern Washington representative for former Gov. Mike Lowry.

As the final votes were tallied Tuesday, Higgins, 49, was out in his Logan neighborhood, picking up yard signs in preparation for the next seven weeks.

“It’s wet out there, and I wanted to save them to use in the general election,” he said.

Gilmore, 53, said she would campaign on providing change many voters have told her they want.

Higgins finished some 2,100 votes ahead of Gilmore, who was, in turn, about 2,000 votes beyond her nearest competitor, energy management specialist Ken Withey.

The two council races attracted a wide variety of candidates, from throw-the-bums-out populists like Thompson and Withey, to small business owners like Charlotte Karling and O’Connell.

Several of the candidates had a record of involvement in local civic efforts.

Karling, who finished fourth, is a former chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party. Thompson is a leader in the Reform Party, the nation’s fledgling third political party spawned by Ross Perot.

Robert Schroeder has been active in finding more parking spaces for handicapped drivers in downtown. He finished fourth in the race for Holmes’ Position 3 seat.

Charlie Greenwood served on the Board of Freeholders that drafted a county charter ultimately rejected by the voters. Greenwood finished fifth in the Position 3 race.

The voters who bothered to make the trip to the polls - only about one in five did - seemed split between the desire to back known quantities and the urge to shake up City Hall.

The Holmes-Thompson race will provide the same sharp contrasts as the mayor’s race. Holmes supports the council’s decisions on the River Park Square redevelopment project, downtown and the Lincoln Street bridge. Thompson opposes them.

But in the race for the open seat, voters opted for a less vocal critic, passing over Withey, who shared the slate with Thompson and Talbott, for Gilmore.

“I’m not so strongly opposing things as I’m saying people don’t feel the City Council is making the decisions … staff is,” Gilmore said. “Better communication needs to start with City Hall.”

Higgins said he will emphasize his experience, leadership ability and communication skills as a plus in dealing with city, county and state officials.

A third council race will be on the November ballot, matching incumbent Cherie Rodgers against Barbara Lampert. Only races with three or more candidates were on the primary ballot.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 6 Photos (2 Color)