Mike Padden announced Monday that he is running for the remainder of the 4th District state Senate seat Bob McCaslin vacated last month.
A former longtime state representative and former Spokane County District Court judge, Padden, 64, is the first candidate to declare for the position.
Voters will decide in November who should complete the final year in McCaslin’s unexpired term.
Padden is running with McCaslin’s “100 percent backing” if not the support of the Spokane County Republican Party.
McCaslin, who resigned because of poor health, said in a letter that Padden has “impeccable” conservative credentials.
“He worked tirelessly for both the causes of life and limited government,” McCaslin said. “Many times, we stood shoulder to shoulder on matters before the Legislature.”
McCaslin’s letter was one of two that were read to some 40 people at Padden’s kickoff meeting Monday at a Spokane Valley hotel.
The other was from former 4th District state Rep. Lynn Schindler, who stepped down two years ago.
Schindler cited Padden’s experience – 14 years as a state representative and 12 as a judge – and called him “someone I am proud to call my friend.”
Supporters in the audience included Republican Party activists and precinct committee officers Leonard Christian and Roy Murry.
Christian ran unsuccessfully for county auditor last fall. Murry was one of three party nominees for this month’s appointment to fill McCaslin’s seat until this fall’s general election.
Precinct officers who supported state Rep. Matt Shea arranged in a series of private meetings to keep Padden off the list of party nominees presented to county commissioners.
The party nominated Shea and two candidates with little or no political experience: Murry and Jeff Baxter. Commissioners chose Baxter despite his refusal to pledge he would seek election this fall.
The nomination process left a bad taste in Christian’s and Murry’s mouths.
“I like Matt (Shea) as a person, but I’m a little disappointed in some of the stuff that went on to get his support from the party,” Christian said.
Murry regrets participating in the maneuvers, and said he now supports Padden because “it’s a great deal my fault that he’s not the incumbent.”
Former Spokane Valley City Councilwoman Diana Wilhite also was on hand to support Padden.
Wilhite had been contemplating a run against Baxter, but said she, Padden and McCaslin “had some discussion about it, and we agreed it’s time for Mike to get back in the saddle.”
Wilhite said she hopes Padden will be a mentor to her, “and perhaps in the future there will be my time.”
McCaslin denounced Shea to county commissioners, saying he thought Shea had broken an agreement for Padden to be among the nominees for appointment.
Padden said he also thought there was a deal, but he’s not sure Shea thought so. He saw nothing wrong with such efforts to round up support.
“In any event, to me, that’s in the past and I’m ready to move on,” Padden said.
He said he hopes to win party support for the election.
Although Padden can begin campaigning and raising money now, state law prohibits Baxter, Shea or any sitting legislator from raising money for an election campaign while the Legislature is in session.