The field of candidates to replace retiring Democratic state Rep. Alex Wood is growing.
Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple confirmed this week that he will compete for Wood’s seat representing the 3rd Legislative District, the most reliably Democratic district in Eastern Washington.
Apple is in his second term on the City Council. In an interview Wednesday, he said he would leave his City Council seat a year early if he won.
The Spokane City Council is “not a part-time job,” Apple said.
Also running for Wood’s position are Andy Billig, president of the Spokane Indians Baseball Club, and Louise Chadez, a longtime social worker in Spokane who ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 2002. Wood announced in December that he would not seek an eighth term.
“We have a nice diversity of opinion,” said Spokane County Democratic Chairwoman Amy Biviano. “It gives us a chance to start a conversation and promote our Democratic values.”
Apple, who first won his City Council seat in 2003, has name recognition, but Billig has a lead in raising money. He’s already gathered more than $23,000 in donations.
Asked about Billig’s fundraising lead, Apple described the field of candidates as “a big-money guy and two regular people.” Attempts made to reach Chadez and Billig were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Apple is a longtime community activist who has been involved in the Democratic Party for several years, but he also has experience in the GOP. Apple ran in a 1986 Republican primary for a 6th Legislative District seat. In an interview Wednesday, Apple said he doesn’t remember ever running as a Republican.
In the past few years, Apple has been one of the most likely on the City Council to be at the losing end of a 6-1 vote. Those votes include his opposition to tax subsidies for the Kendall Yards development in West Central Spokane and creation of a red light camera enforcement program.
Biviano said the party may endorse one or more candidates before the August primary. But Apple’s hope for party backing could be hampered by his apparent endorsement of a Republican running for another legislative seat. Until Wednesday, Apple was listed on former state Rep. John Ahern’s Web site as a supporter of Ahern’s bid to return to the state House representing the 6th District. In an interview on Tuesday, Apple denied endorsing Ahern.
“I don’t know why (my name) is on there,” Apple said. “If (Ahern) wants to stick his foot in his mouth, I’m going to let him do that.”
But Apple’s denial contradicts a document released by Ahern’s campaign.
Apple’s name and signature appear on a list of people who signed a document agreeing to endorse Ahern. The top of the page with the names includes the statement: “By signing below, I give permission to Citizens for Ahern to use my name in campaign materials.”
Ahern and his campaign manager, Josh Kerns, said they saw the city councilman sign the page while Ahern was campaigning at the Republican booth at last year’s county fair.
“He said, ‘Sure, I’ll endorse John Ahern’ and signed his name,” Kerns said.
Ahern said now that Apple is seeking office as a Democrat, he’s not offended that Apple says he’s not a supporter.
“We’ve already taken Bob’s name off,” Ahern said.
Meanwhile, no Republican candidates have committed to running for the seat. City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she has been asked to run but that she’s “about 98 percent sure” that she won’t because she wants to concentrate on her city duties.
Cindy Zapotocky, the county’s GOP chairwoman, said she is hopeful Republican candidates will step forward.
“I’m an eternal optimist. The wind is changing,” Zapotocky said. “There’s a real concern about runaway government.”