The scramble is on for a state House seat in central Spokane, part of the fallout of Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown’s surprise decision not to seek re-election.
Brown said Thursday that she would not run again for her 3rd Legislative District Senate seat. State Rep. Andy Billig immediately said he would run for Brown’s Senate seat, leaving a vacancy that often attracts multiple candidates.
Four candidates so far have entered the race to replace Billig, who said he hasn’t decided if he will endorse a candidate before the primary.
On Friday, Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder and downtown business owner John Waite said they would run as Democrats.
Brown’s senior policy adviser, Democrat Marcus Riccelli, said Thursday that he would run. Day care center co-owner Republican Tim Benn announced his bid for the seat earlier in the week.
The race will test the strength of city politicians, who have become more involved in partisan politics over the past decade, against state politicians who may be inclined to back Riccelli, who has worked for Brown for three years.
Snyder, 43, was elected to the Spokane City Council in 2009 by beating incumbent Mike Allen, who regained a spot on the council in last year’s city election.
“I’ve been interested in the Legislature more and more as a lot of the policies I’ve been working on in the city depend more and more on the Legislature,” Snyder said.
Snyder believes he can win despite Riccelli’s support from within the party and in the Legislature.
“It requires the same personal touch that was successful for me in my council campaign,” he said.
Riccelli, 33, who lives in the Five Mile Neighborhood, had been planning a run in the 6th Legislative District until borders of the legislative districts were redrawn and his address fell in the 3rd District.
He said he believes that he has strong enough support to compete despite Snyder’s name recognition.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t confident in my ability to get my message out,” he said.
He said he will fight for education funding.
“We need to make sure that the social safety net continues to exist,” he said.
Waite has run several campaigns for state Legislature and City Council as an independent. This time, he’ll run as a Democrat.
Waite, 47, says he is fiscally conservative but socially liberal. He has been an outspoken critic of the two-party system.
He said Friday he’s being realistic by picking a party. He found that when he campaigned as an independent, Republicans assumed he was a Democrat and Democrats assumed he was a Republican.
“We live in a broken, two-party world,” he said. “I still bring an apolitical view to this – real-world solutions, not party bickering.”
Waite, who owns two downtown buildings and Merlyn’s Comics and Games, said he identifies more with the Democratic Party, which he believes is more realistic about the problems faced by the community.
The crowded field of Democrats could create an opening in the Democratic-leaning district for Benn, the only Republican to so far announce candidacy. The top two candidates in the August primary, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the November election.
Benn, who owns child day care center Little Precious Ones with his wife in north Spokane, filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission announcing his run earlier this week, even before Billig said he wouldn’t run for re-election.
Benn, 34, has been active this year in lobbying against proposed day care regulations that he says will drive small day cares out of business. He and others succeeded in persuading the Spokane City Council, including Snyder, to write a letter requesting that the state delay implementation of those regulations.
“I decided to run because I believe in small business and I believe in the people of the 3rd Legislative District,” he said. “We’re regulating small businesses out of business.”