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WSU junior LaKecia Farmer eyes Pullman City Council seat

Sat., Aug. 3, 2013

Don’t expect LaKecia Farmer to pick up the tab on a celebratory toast if she emerges victorious from a three-way race in the Pullman City Council primary Tuesday.

“I will celebrate by sleeping,” Farmer, a 20-year-old Washington State University junior and Spokane native, said Friday with a laugh. “I haven’t slept since I started campaigning.”

If she wins in November, Farmer will likely be the youngest elected official in the state. But that’s not the only thing making her candidacy unique.

Farmer is black, gay and comes from a low-income, single-parent home.

Eileen Macoll and Marcus Crossler, two Pullman rental property owners, join Farmer in a race for two slots on the November ballot. The three candidates are vying for an at-large seat to be vacated by Farmer’s friend, supporter and roommate, 23-year-old Derrick Skaug.

“He calls me ‘the unicorn,’ ” Farmer said of Skaug. “I hate it, but it’s true.”

Her political ambitions don’t surprise Farmer’s mother, Linda Wright, who still lives and works three jobs in Spokane. From her daughter’s middle-school years until she left for college after graduating from Lewis and Clark High School in 2011, Wright said, her daughter helped her fill out her mail-in ballot by explaining candidates’ positions and ballot issues.

“The only thing I used to do was sign the ballot,” Wright said.

Farmer attended classes in Cheney during her high school years through Running Start, taking the 6 a.m. bus every morning to Eastern Washington University. She found an open and welcoming community that encouraged her to reveal her sexuality to her friends and eventually her religious family.

Farmer found her mom’s shocked reaction strange because Wright had bought a tuxedo for her to wear while taking a female date to prom. But surprise turned to anger and then acceptance within hours.

“She came up to my room that night and said, ‘LaKecia, it’s OK, I love you,’ ” Farmer said.

When she enrolled at WSU, Farmer’s nascent interest in politics began to grow. On her first day there, she met Skaug, who was pitching involvement in the Young Democrats.

“She was looking to get involved right away,” Skaug said. A position as liaison to the Whitman County Democrats grew to her being elected president of the student group and taking a trip to last year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Wright said her daughter’s interest in politics was likely spurred by growing up in the home of a divorced parent. The separation took a toll on all her children, which include LaKecia’s twin sister, Le’Ecia; sister Chloe, 28; and brother Ian, 26. But it seemed to take the biggest toll on LaKecia, Wright said.

“I think throwing herself into what she loved saved her a lot of hurt,” Wright said.

Farmer has been throwing herself into campaigning over the last several weeks, despite many of her friends being out of town for the summer. She worries about fellow students not voting because of their absence, but she sees the race as a toss-up going into the Tuesday primary.

Whatever the outcome, Wright is sure her daughter hasn’t lost the political fever. She’s not ruling out the White House in Farmer’s future.

“I just hope she remembers her mom,” Wright said.

Where they stand

The top two vote-getters in the Pullman primary will square off on the general election ballot in November. Marcus Crossler is a planning commissioner and member of the police advisory board in Pullman. Crossler has two children and owns his own rental property business. A native of Moscow, Idaho, he moved to Pullman in 2003 when he married his wife.

Crossler said the marketability of Pullman and attracting businesses is the biggest issue facing the city.

“We need to attract a different set of businesses, from mom-and-pop to big-box stores,” Crossler said.

Eileen Macoll is the former vice chair of the Washington State Democratic Party. She is president of the Whitman County Landlord-Tenant Association. Macoll could not be reached for comment Friday.

Farmer is entering her junior year as a double major in political science and philosophy. She is speaker of the student Senate and president of WSU’s Young Democrats.

Farmer said she would bring a unique student perspective to the City Council, including university-city partnerships in student fees to reduce deficits in the general fund.

“The biggest thing in Pullman is our budget,” Farmer said.

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