November 8, 2007 in City

Rush wins; Hession still trails

By and The Spokesman-Review
 

Liberty Lake

Eight votes were counted Wednesday in the Liberty Lake mayor’s race, and they split equally. That means incumbent Steve Peterson keeps a 16-vote lead over City Councilwoman Wendy Van Orman.

Mayor Dennis Hession gained a bit of ground on Councilwoman Mary Verner in the second day of counting, but Hession still has a significant gap to cover to keep his job.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s new count totals were enough to convince Spokane City Councilman Brad Stark to concede to Richard Rush, guaranteeing three new faces on City Council next year.

A day after becoming the probable mayor-elect of the state’s second-largest city, Verner was back at work at Upper Columbia United Tribes. Verner said if she wins, she will continue her job there until just before taking office when results are certified Nov. 27.

“I need to work straight through to make a smooth transition,” Verner said.

She said she wouldn’t declare victory and meet with city staff until a win is certain.

“I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but I also don’t want to waste time getting started,” she said.

Attempts to reach Hession after Wednesday’s new vote count were unsuccessful.

A Spokesman-Review computer analysis of the city’s voting patterns shows that Verner owes her lead to strong support in north Spokane – particularly West Central and precincts between North Division and North Market – as well as Browne’s Addition and the lower South Hill. Hession did well in the city’s downtown precincts, the upper South Hill, the residential areas expanding on the Moran Prairie, and Indian Trail and Five Mile.

Hession won Wednesday’s ballot count, taking about 52.5 percent of about 5,900 ballots tallied late in the afternoon, gaining most of his ground on the South Hill and the far northwest precincts in the city. But to overcome Verner’s lead – currently 2,607 votes out of about 39,000 counted so far – he’ll have to win a much larger percentage of the votes in subsequent tallies.

There’s no way to know exactly how many city ballots have yet to be counted because voters had until Tuesday evening to mail their ballots. But if the city reaches 55 percent turnout, that would leave about 16,000 ballots left to be counted. To win, Hession would need nearly 60 percent of them. That percentage would go down if more ballots come in, but up if fewer are returned.

A Verner win could set into motion a variety of personnel changes.

One guaranteed opening would be on City Council to take over the last two years of Verner’s term.

City Council President Joe Shogan said he expects to open an application process for the seat in early December.

As mayor, Verner would have the ability to replace the directors of any city department. During the campaign, she noted her support for keeping Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, but said she wouldn’t discuss other possible hires and fires out of respect to those in place.

Of the two City Council races that were too close to call Tuesday, the race between Steve Corker and Lewis Griffin tightened, but only slightly. After Wednesday, Corker leads 52 percent to 48 percent.

In the other race, Stark said Wednesday his deficit was too much to overcome and called Rush to congratulate him.

Stark, whose district is the same as Verner’s, said “unequivocally no” when asked if he would consider applying for the open seat that could be left if Verner becomes mayor.

“I have a couple of things in the hopper. We’ll see,” Stark said. “We got a hell of a lot done the last four years.”


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