No candidate for Spokane office has had as much air time this campaign season as Mike Fagan, and he hasn’t had to dig into his campaign funds to get it.
Fagan co-hosts a conservative local talk show five mornings a week on KTRW 630 AM, and a couple of his opponents question Fagan’s decision to keep his show while running for office.
“It bothers me, but at the same time, I don’t know that he really has that much of an audience,” said Gary Pollard, one of Fagan’s five challengers.
Fagan isn’t the only radio show host in the race for the seat representing Northeast Spokane.
The other, however, is on leave from his once-weekly show during the campaign. John Waite was taken off the air by his station, KYRS 92.3 FM, when he officially became a candidate.
Fagan co-hosts the “Right Spokane Perspective,” with George McGrath, a longtime attendee of Spokane City Council meetings. The program focuses on local politics, but also includes national issues. Last fall, for instance, the two hosts spent part of a show praising a Florida pastor who was planning to burn the Quran.
Fagan said he researched the possibility of keeping his show with the Public Disclosure Commission and found that he would not violate campaign rules. McGrath and Fagan pay the station for the airtime and find donors to sponsor it.
He said he doesn’t discuss his campaign on the air.
“I haven’t ever announced that I’m running for City Council on the show,” Fagan said. “This is a labor of love.”
Waite said Fagan is probably correct that the show doesn’t run afoul of state campaign finance rules, but added it likely falls under federal broadcasting rules that could require the station to provide equal air time to opponents.
Waite, an independent who has mixed political leanings, hosted “Make Government Work” until early June – just before he filed to run.
“It’s ethically a good decision, probably,” Waite said of his station’s decision to not keep him on the air during his campaign.
Waite said he isn’t too worried about Fagan keeping his program.
“He has a little, tiny advantage because of that,” Waite said.
Still, Waite said if both advance in Tuesday’s primary election, he will consider demanding equal time.
Fagan invited Waite and two others running for the seat, Donna McKereghan and Chris Bowen, to appear on his show prior to announcing his run in June.
McKereghan, like Waite, said she was treated fairly during the program and given a chance to present her views. Both said that Fagan told them when they were off the air that he would not run for City Council. (Fagan said he wasn’t trying to mislead McKereghan and Waite; he simply changed his mind.) McKereghan said she has no concerns about Fagan’s show.
Candidates Pollard and Luke Tolley said they were approached by Fagan last weekend at the Hillyard Festival to see if they were interested in appearing on his show.
“I told him I was flexible and to see if Gary (Pollard) had any time restraints, and I never heard anything after that,” Tolley said.
Pollard said he’s trusting “the proper authorities” to ensure that broadcasting rules are being followed.
“It seems like it wouldn’t be right,” Pollard said. “But maybe it is.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter