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Republicans vying for Ahern’s seat

Lawmaker abruptly announces he won’t run again

A pair of Republicans will compete against a former Democratic legislator for a newly open seat in the state House in Spokane’s 6th Legislative District.

Larry Keller, the superintendent of the Cheney School District, and Spokane attorney Jeff Holy will try to keep Rep. John Ahern’s seat in Republican hands, while Dennis Dellwo will try to return to the Legislature after a 16-year absence, and in a new district.

Ahern, who as recently as last Tuesday said he planned to run for re-election, announced over the weekend he will step down at the end of this term but may run for Spokane City Council next year.

Keller, 62, who once served as vice wing commander at Fairchild Air Force Base and became a teacher and school administrator after retiring from the service, was prepared to challenge Ahern, and said he’d stress education and a call for legislators to do a better job of working together. He’d try to be a strong proponent for more funding for K-12 education and work to implement legislation that gives “more teeth” to teacher and principal evaluations.

He said he was disappointed the Legislature needed another special session to finish its work after maneuvering over the budget, and said the state needs rational and reasonable legislators.

“They all need to move a little more to the center, both ways, and not worry about being elected in two years or four years,” he said.

Holy, 56, a former Spokane police officer and detective who ran unsuccessfully for Spokane County commissioner in 2010, announced his campaign just minutes after the incumbent bowed out and has Ahern’s endorsement. In a prepared statement, he said he’d emphasize keeping the public safe from violent criminals.

“We can’t forget that public safety is a core function of our state government,” he said. He’d also stress sustainable budgets, smarter government spending and job growth.

Dellwo, 66, served in the House from 1983 to 1996 before resigning to take a spot on the Eastern Washington Growth Management Board. That was in central Spokane’s 3rd District, which is a Democratic stronghold, rather than the 6th, which is strongly Republican.

He said he hopes his previous experience in the Legislature, coupled with working under the laws it passed, and likely a member of the majority party in the House, will overcome any partisan divide. “I’ll be selling myself as someone who has experience, who’s going to take the issues to the table and have the issues heard,” he said.

Ahern has served 10 of the last 12 years in the House – he lost to Democrat John Driscoll in 2008, but beat Driscoll in a rematch in 2010 – and had raised about $10,000 for a re-election campaign.

He said he changed his mind about running for re-election last week after Republican leaders in the House promised to push one of his key issues, removing the statute of limitation for prosecuting child sex offenders. He also wants to stay closer to family in Spokane. He said he’ll campaign actively for Holy and for Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin in her race against Democratic state Sen. Lisa Brown in the 3rd District. He may also run for Spokane City Council next year against Jon Snyder.



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