August 17, 2011 in City

Verner sends signal with landslide win

Condon vows to close mayoral gap; Hession leads council president race
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner announces her early lead over challenger David Condon on Tuesday night at the Sidebar & Grill.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

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• Inside: A closer look at ballot measures and contested races around the region /A8

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner on Tuesday got a huge boost in her effort to bunk the curse of Spokane’s incumbent mayors.

She garnered a landslide top finish in Tuesday’s primary, nearly doubling the vote total of second-place finisher David Condon. In the first count of ballots, she took 61 percent of the vote to Condon’s 32 percent. Another batch of ballots is scheduled to be counted today.

Spokane voters haven’t given an incumbent mayor a second term since 1973.

The ballot gulf between Verner and Condon indicates Condon faces an uphill battle in his effort to overcome Verner’s message that she’s been a strong leader for Spokane in a time of economic turmoil.

Summer news from City Hall didn’t necessarily favor the incumbent, with proposed increases in utility rates and developments in the federal criminal trial of a police officer that have called into question the city’s oversight of law enforcement.

“Regardless of what the news has been on any given day, my job is to serve the citizens, to be steady, reliable and focused,” Verner said.

Condon expressed confidence he can close the gap.

“For someone who has only been campaigning for three months, I’m pleased. The goal was to get through the primaries, to start to get people to know who I am,” Condon said at a small campaign party at the home of Spokane City Council candidate Steve Salvatori. “Now we’re able to focus this fall on what Mary has done the last four years and what she hasn’t done. I’m excited to start that debate.”

Voters also appear willing to give the last Spokane mayor tossed from office another look. Dennis Hession, who lost the office to Verner in 2007, took first place in the only other citywide race, for City Council president. Hession, who served as City Council president in 2004 and 2005, likely will face Ben Stuckart, who is leading City Councilman Steve Corker for second place. The results mean at least a temporary end to Corker’s political career. He finishes his second term on the council at the end of the year.

After getting results Tuesday night, he conceded and called his opponents to congratulate them.

“I think the voters have two outstanding candidates that will serve the city well,” he said at a campaign gathering at the Maxwell House, a landmark in the West Central neighborhood.

Corker said he plans to return to his international consulting business, continue teaching and spend more time with his granddaughters.

Hession, speaking from an election party of family and friends at his home, said he was “gratified” by the results.

“I hope that it’s a reflection of my hard work and my commitment to the citizens of Spokane,” he said.

Stuckart said he’s confident that he can beat Hession and remained focused on his theme of serving as a fresh voice.

“Mr. Hession has a record as City Council president and as mayor that he’s going to have to run on,” Stuckart said from his election celebration at the Two-Seven Public House on the South Hill.

In November, voters will select three other members of the Spokane City Council, but just one race drew enough candidates to be on Tuesday’s primary ballot: a seat representing Northeast Spokane. Conservative radio host Mike Fagan topped the list of six candidates. He will face second-place finisher Donna McKereghan, a former member of the state Legislative Ethics Board. Both have run for a northeast council seat before and made it to the general election, but both lost by wide margins.

Fagan promised to be focused on job creation.

“We definitely have a job to do with regard with the rest of the campaign cycle,” he said.

McKereghan said she was impressed by the candidates who finished behind her for their commitment and volunteer endeavors in the community.

“I will be asking some of my fellow candidates to be working with me toward victory in November,” McKereghan said.

Voters in Spokane strongly supported eight proposed City Charter changes, including one that will allow a City Council member to run for City Council president even after serving two consecutive terms on the City Council. A proposal that changes the language but not the substance of setting the salaries of elected leaders had a narrow lead.

Two charter amendments failed. Voters didn’t like the idea to allow the city to call for more than one special election within a six-month period or the most controversial proposal, stripping the Spokane Park Board of its right to condemn property.

Park Board President Ross Kelley called the result “good news.”

“We were mostly concerned that the whole concept that was being considered had not been given a real good discussion or a good hearing with the Park Board or with City Council,” he said.

City Councilman Richard Rush said that widely different margins in the 11 proposals showed the voters studied the issues.

“I’m glad people took the time to dig into something that is very opaque and hard to find,” Rush said. “My faith in the voters is confirmed.”

Results in a race for a Spokane Valley City Council seat will pit opponents for the two main coalitions jockeying for power in the city. The winner will replace retiring Councilman Bill Gothmann.

Marilyn Cline, who has the support of Mayor Tom Towey, took first place. Ben Wick, who was endorsed by Gothmann, took second.

Cline attributed her success in the primaries to her longtime residency in Spokane Valley.

“I’ve lived here 66 years,” she said. “I have a lot friends.”

Wick said he was “fairly confident” that he can make up the gap in the November election.

“I look forward to talking to the rest of the valley citizens,” he said.

A six-way race to replace Garret Daggett, who isn’t seeking a new term, on the Spokane School Board will come down to Deana Brower and Sally Fullmer.

Brower, who won the endorsement of the Spokane Education Association, took first place with 38 percent of the vote.

“I think voters are looking for leadership in our school board that comes from experience and a collaborative approach to getting the job done,” she said Tuesday night.

Fullmer has won support from opponents of the school board’s decision last year to build a new Jefferson School on Hart Field and has wide backing from the conservative Christian community. The We Believe We Vote Coalition gave Fullmer its highest recommendation for agreeing with all of its views. An attempt to reach her Tuesday night was unsuccessful.

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