The candidates for Spokane Valley City Council seats are settling into two camps – those who are supported by the council’s Positive Change members and campaign donors, and those who are not.
Whether elected or appointed, the council incumbents have amassed the most cash and the incumbents share several major campaign donors. Councilman Chuck Hafner, who was appointed to his council seat this year, quickly raised $5,350 but hasn’t collected any donations since the filing week in June showed that he is running unopposed. His top contributors include real estate agent Gordon Curry ($500) and former Senator Bob McCaslin, who donated $500 before he died earlier this year.
Councilman Dean Grafos has amassed the largest campaign chest so far, having raised $13,521 in addition to a $5,000 personal loan. Senator Jeff Baxter has donated $500, as has the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and Curry. AAA Sweeping, which as a contract with the city, has donated the maximum of $800. Brett Sargent, who owns AAA Sweeping, also made a personal donation of $200.
Last year Grafos requested an emergency comprehensive plan amendment to rezone property owned by Pring Corp., and University City owner Jim Magnuson, which was passed by the council in January. In April Jack Pring donated $800 to Grafos, but donating to political candidates is nothing new for Pring. He supported the five Positive Change candidates, including Grafos, with large donations in the 2009 elections. All were elected.
Pring gave public comment on the emergency rezone during a city council meeting in January and acknowledged making the donations but said he wasn’t expecting any favors. “I did it with no strings attached,” he said at the meeting.
Grafos said he doesn’t take campaign donations into consideration when he votes. “My vote is based on what I believe and what I believe is best for the city,” he said. “It has nothing to do with money people might give me.”
He and his wife have lived in the Valley for many years and people they’ve gotten to know have donated to his campaign, Grafos said. “My wife used to climb trees with the Schimmels boys,” he said. “I’ve been in business all those years in the Valley. I just know a lot of people.”
Grafos has also received $200 from Mayor Tom Towey, $100 from Hafner, $50 from councilwoman Brenda Grassel and $50 from councilman Arne Woodard. The donation from Hafner was received in March, two months before Grafos voted to appoint Hafner to the council.
Pring is also throwing his support behind several other candidates, donating $300 to Woodard, $800 to Hafner and $800 to Marilyn Cline. Cline is part of a four way race for Position 6, which is being vacated by councilman Bill Gothmann. So far she has collected $4,686 in mostly smaller donations. She has received $500 from Cheryl Kettrick of A to Z Rentals, $400 from Curry, $100 from Grafos’ wife Elizabeth and $100 each from Towey, Woodard and Hafner.
Some of the same names pop up on Woodard’s balance sheet of $2,515 raised. He has received $200 from Curry and $200 from Grafos Investment, which is owned by Grafos. He has also received donations of $100 each from Hafner and Towey.
Most of their challengers, however, have less cash to spread around. Gothmann, who is not running for re-election, has nearly always cast his votes on major zoning issues in opposition to the Positive Change council members. He has donated $1,500 of his own money to candidates who are not being supported by Positive Change donors. He gave $500 to Ben Wick, who is running for the seat Gothmann is vacating, as well as $500 to John Carroll and Dee Dee Loberg.
Gothmann said he made the donations because he believes the council needs more diversity in its ranks. Six of the seven council members are older men and three of them have real estate licenses, he said. “I call Ben Wick and me very similar except in age,” he said. “He comes from a scientific background. John (Carroll) comes from a business background. He does not own any real estate along Sprague, so that’s a plus.”
Loberg calls herself a community activist homemaker, Gothmann said. “We need that kind of representation of people who are not in business,” he said. “The present council had a very narrow agenda and they’re selecting people who agree with that narrow agenda.”
He also sees his support as part of his duty to mentor others to follow in his footsteps. “They don’t necessarily have to agree with me,” he said.
The best-funded of the challengers is planning commission chairman Carroll, who is running against Grafos. He has raised $5,240, which includes a personal loan of $2,000. His list of contributors includes fellow planning commissioners Rustin Hall ($100) and Marcia Sands ($200) and former mayor Diana Whilhite ($100). Major contributions include $800 from Service Master of the Valley, which Carroll owns.
Coming in second in funding among the challengers is Ben Wick, who is one of four candidates running for Position 6. One challenger, John Baldwin, has announced he will not be accepting any donations and Lewis Higgins has not yet reported receiving any contributions. The race for Position 6 is the only one that will appear on the August primary ballot. So far Wick has raised $3,455 in donations. One of his largest supporters is Gothmann. Retiree Betty Meyer has given $700 and Wagstaff manager Tim Wick has donated $600.
Dee Dee Loberg, who is running against Woodard, has raised $800 so far, and most of it came from Gothmann.