June 5, 2011 in City

Spin Control: Ladies, gentlemen, start your campaign engines

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OK, candidates, listen up. Filing week starts Monday. Those of you who like the personal touch of filling out your forms and paying your fees in person can head down to your county elections office anytime through Friday afternoon.

Turn in your form, pay the fee – 1 percent of the annual salary for the position you desire – and qualify for a spot on the August primary ballot. Remember, there may be some special requirements for a particular position, such as length of residence inside the borders of the particular city or district you wish to represent. Being eligible to vote is a pretty common one. Having a pulse is understood, even if it isn’t stated anywhere in the statutes, ordinances or bylaws.

Most offices up for election this year are nonpartisan – mayor, city or town council member, fire district commissioner, school board member or cemetery district commissioner.

Spokane County has one partisan race, for the 4th Legislative District Senate seat that became open early this year when longtime Sen. Bob McCaslin retired, and Valley businessman Jeff Baxter was appointed to the seat. Baxter is looking to fill out the final year of that term, and former Spokane County District Judge and state Rep. Mike Padden is also seeking the job.

Whoever wins would face election again in 2012.

They’re both Republicans, and no Democrat has yet surfaced in the strongly GOP district. Rep. Larry Crouse is endorsing Padden and Rep. Matt Shea is supporting Baxter, but Crouse said last week he didn’t see any friction developing: “All four of us are good friends.”

For prospective candidates on the fence, remember the rules change a little bit from one jurisdiction to the next. The city of Spokane has two citywide races, for mayor and council president, and one council race in each of its three districts.

The city of Spokane Valley has four council seats up for election, and the positions are elected citywide. Some school districts elect their boards districtwide, while others have geographic districts. A candidate has to live in the district to be eligible to run, and some cities or districts have a minimum residency of a year.

Also remember that once you file, you can change your mind and drop out. But you won’t get your money back, and if you wait too long, your name will still be on the ballot.

Election trivia question

Spokane voters haven’t re-elected a mayor since 1973. Who was it?

(A) Neil Fosseen

(B) Dave Rodgers

(C) Ron Bair

(D) Jim Chase

Answer below.

Ah, for the old days …

The first day of filing – actually the first few minutes – used to be the busiest and most interesting part of the week. Candidates would line up and camp out the night before in an effort to be the first to file for a particular office. They’d play cards, tell stories, pass around a flask or two, make a dawn patrol run for coffee and doughnuts.

Being first in the door would mean the candidate’s name was listed first on the ballot for that position, a spot that can be worth a few percentage points, particularly in elections involving relatively unknown candidates or relatively uncontroversial offices.

Candidates shouldn’t go searching for their sleeping bag, though. The law was changed and now the ballot order is determined by a lottery after filing closes on Friday. Getting there at the crack of dawn Monday gives you the same chance of the top spot as beating the filing deadline by 30 seconds.

In Spokane County, the office will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other counties may open earlier or close later, so be sure to check if you’re timing a special trip.

Or you could save yourself the trip, file online and pay with a credit card. The Washington secretary of state’s office, at www.sos.wa.gov, has links to all the county elections offices. It also has addresses. You can print out a petition of candidacy, write a check and mail it in.

Spin Control, a weekly column by Olympia Bureau Chief Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items, reader comments and videos at www.spokesman.com/blogs/spincontrol. Trivia answer: The last mayor re-elected in Spokane was (B) Dave Rodgers.


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