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Verner trailing challenger Condon in early returns

Tue., Nov. 8, 2011, 8:22 p.m.

In a surprise comeback, Spokane mayoral hopeful David Condon captured an early lead tonight over incumbent Mary Verner despite trailing by more than 30 points after the summer primary.

Condon, who drew more than $60,000 in last-minute campaign financing from the state Republican Party, had hammered away at growing community outrage over City Hall’s handling of a 2006 police beating that left an unarmed and wrongly accused janitor dead. The former aide to Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also targeted anger over increasing water rates and the police department’s decision to quit investigating property crimes such as burglaries.

In early returns tonight, Condon was leading Verner by a slim 3.5 percent point margin, 20,599 ballots to 18,784. The county Elections Office will run more ballots Wednesday.

“You know I just continued to do what I did in the primary,” he said. “I kept my head down and talked about a lot of the same issues. As we got closer to the general election folks started to listen. We continued to talk about the failed policy of the water rates, the failed leadership in the Otto Zehm issue and most recently the leadership in the property crimes and budget priorities.”

If the early results hold, Condon will be at the forefront of what could be a major shift in the leadership of the city.

Candidates backed by the Republican Party are leading the races for three seats on the City Council. Only one candidate backed by the Democratic Party, Ben Stuckart, won on Tuesday. He beat former Mayor Dennis Hession and will take over for Joe Shogan as City Council president.

In that scenario, Verner would be the 10th Spokane mayor in a row to serve only one term.

Speaking to her supporters a Taaj Indian restaurant in downtown Spokane just prior to the release of the tally, Verner predicted “pandemonium” once results were known. When campaign staff first got the result, Verner was pulled into a foyer where they examined numbers.

She soon addressed a quiet, packed room of supporters.

“I’m disappointed that we don’t have finality tonight,” Verner said. “It’s still too close to call, and there are a lot of ballots left to be counted.”

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