Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession was leading a five-way primary battle Tuesday night, but two of his challengers weren’t far behind – a possible sign that the incumbent could have a tough November battle to keep his job.
Hession was leading City Councilwoman Mary Verner by 1 percentage point. She appeared to have a wide enough lead to hold off Councilman Al French and advance to the general election.
Voters sent a mixed message elsewhere on the ballot. Councilman Bob Apple easily topped a five-person race to advance to the November election in a competition against former Logan Neighborhood Council Chairwoman Donna McKereghan. But they also appeared uneasy with Councilman Brad Stark, who will advance, but only after finishing behind neighborhood activist Richard Rush.
Voters also awarded former councilman Steve Corker a first-place showing for the Northwest council seat. He likely will face the former city administrator of Liberty Lake, Lewis Griffin.
In the city of Spokane Valley’s sole primary, Rose Dempsey, a church music director, and David Crosby, a real estate agent who serves on the Planning Commission, appear headed for the Nov. 6 ballot in the race to replace departing Councilman Mike DeVleming.
Almost all mail-in votes received by the county elections office by Tuesday were counted in Tuesday night’s tally. County Auditor Vicky Dalton said she expects 3,000 to 6,000 more votes to be received in the next couple days.
After results were broadcast on televisions at Hession’s campaign party at the Steam Plant Grill, the mayor predicted that one theme of the November election will be continuity. A sitting Spokane mayor hasn’t won an election since 1973.
“It’s a showing of confidence,” Hession said . “We have accomplished a lot and the citizens are responding to that.”
But French, speaking from his election party at the The Swinging Doors saloon, said Hession has “nothing to get really excited about.” French said he wasn’t yet conceding the race to Verner and Hession.
“There’s great opportunity for Mary or I to be the next mayor,” said French, noting that Hession raised three times as much money as he or Verner.
Speaking to a roomful of supporters at the Perry Street Café, Verner toasted her volunteers with a glass of champagne and quoted a line from Robert Frost, saying that she and they would “take the road less traveled” in her journey toward becoming mayor.
“We’re going to travel a different way, all the way to City Hall,” she said.
In a later interview, Verner said one of the issues in the general election will be accountability for the statements or claims either candidate makes. Both Hession and French had made claims in their campaign literature about creating jobs, she said, but had trouble backing them up with hard data.
“Vague claims you can’t substantiate is always dangerous ground,” she said.
But the surprise issue of the primary, Verner said, was garbage, more specifically, the city’s decision to end garbage pickup in some alleys. While residents were angry about the switch, they seemed angrier about the lack of public input before the city began sending out notices of the change.
The race for council president wasn’t much of a race at all, since city Councilman Rob Crow – after he already was on the ballot – announced he was dropping out. But as late as Tuesday afternoon Crow said he was concerned he would advance to the November election.
His fears weren’t realized. Incumbent Council President Joe Shogan won a bit more than 50 percent of the vote – the only city of Spokane candidate to win a majority of votes Tuesday. Retired nursing aide Barbara Lampert easily came in second over Crow.
That sets up a rematch between Shogan and Lampert, who competed in the 2003 election for the Northwest council seat.
“I never take anything for granted but I have run against Barbara before and I had 78 percent when I did,” Shogan said.
Other than Shogan, Apple fared the best of any incumbent seeking to hold onto his seat. He said he planned to campaign in the general election on a theme to “continue what we’ve been doing at City Hall,” particularly on improving roads and the economy.
He said he also wants the city to work harder at fighting methamphetamine and “looking out for people in need.”
He’ll face Donna McKereghan, who said she plans to meet with the other three candidates who challenged Apple to form an advisory committee.
“We ran such a cordial campaign,” McKereghan said. “I’m hoping that we can continue to work together.”
In South Spokane’s 2nd District, Rush celebrated his first-place showing in front of The Shop on South Perry while election results flashed on a painted brick wall nearby, which is known in the neighborhood as the South Perry Summer Theater. He told supporters they’d done “a better job than I’d thought possible.”
One way or another, all three challengers in the district ran against the current direction of city government, he said, and he was encouraged by the strong majority that lined up against Stark.
“I’m assuming the people who voted for (the other challengers) are not happy with the incumbent,” Rush said.
Stark did not return calls seeking comment. His wife, who is nine months pregnant, was reportedly in the hospital Tuesday. City officials said they had not heard any news from Stark.
In Northwest Spokane’s 3rd District, Corker predicted the general election would come down to a choice for voters between his experience in elective office and Griffin’s experience in administrative office.
A former councilman who has also run for mayor and the state Legislature, Corker far outdistanced a crowded field and pulled in nearly 40 percent of the vote, and about 2,000 more than Griffin who had a lead of about 400 votes over Dan Peck.
Griffin said he thought the general election would hinge in part on name recognition, where Corker now has an advantage. “I’m going to have to get out there and work harder,” he said.
In Spokane Valley, Dempsey had about 43 percent of the votes counted Tuesday night, while Crosby had about 30 percent, or about 350 votes ahead of taxi service owner Joseph Edwards.
Aside from an elected law-enforcement position Edwards once held in Kentucky, none of the candidates has pursued public office before, and the primary had been low-key.
“Now I’m going to have to go to work,” Dempsey said after Tuesday’s tally found her ahead of the field. “I want people to feel like they can tell me what their problems are, and maybe I’ll be able to do something about it if I get elected,” she said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Crosby said he didn’t intend to be available for interviews after the results came in, adding “I have no intention to look until tomorrow morning.”