Washington voters – or at least the relative few that cast ballots in the summer primary – seemed willing to stick with the familiar Tuesday.
Turnout was light in most areas, but incumbents seeking to extend their terms in office survived primaries for the Spokane City Council, Spokane Valley City Council and the 7th District state Senate race.
In the two contested races for nonpartisan Spokane City Council seats, incumbent Councilman Jon Snyder, battling for a second term, will face John Ahern, a former five-term state lawmaker, in November, while Candace Mumm will face Michael Cannon to determine who will replace Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
Snyder, in Spokane’s District 2, captured 55 percent of the ballots cast in the three-way race, opening up a comfortable lead over his nearest opponent, Ahern.
“We feel good,” Snyder said. “But I’m actually pretty surprised. I didn’t think with Ahern’s name recognition that we’d break 50 percent.”
For his part, Ahern said he thought he’d do better but added that Snyder and LaVerne Biel, who finished in third place and won’t advance to the general election, “raked me over the coals.”
Ahern predicted an easy choice for voters in south Spokane.
“There’s a great philosophical chasm between us,” said Ahern, who served as a Republican during his decade in the Legislature. “He’s on the liberal side. I’m on the conservative side. … I think the voters will have a clear-cut decision about who they’d like to have in this.”
Without an incumbent in District 3, voters in northwest Spokane had four candidates from whom to choose.
Still, primary voters had a clear favorite: Mumm.
Like Snyder, she easily breached the 50 percent mark, winning twice as many votes as her nearest competitor.
“It just really tells me that Spokane is ready for a fresh, independent voice,” Mumm said.
Mumm, who is supported by Council President Ben Stuckart in his quest to break the conservative majority on the council, said she didn’t think any larger political issues played a part in her win.
“People weren’t so connected to city politics. They were looking for qualifications,” she said. “They liked that I understood the local issues. I’m from here. I’m not from the Valley. I’m not Ohio. I’m from here.”
Michael Cannon, who’s supported by Spokane Mayor David Condon, said he was confident because vote totals in the primary don’t translate easily to the general election, especially in a crowded field.
“Still, it shows we have work to do, but we knew that all along,” he said. “The primary seemed mostly to be about name ID. We all had similar positions on things and we didn’t dig deeper on our positions.”
Meanwhile in Spokane Valley, Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels barely held on to his chances for another term, heading to November’s election to face challenger Ed Pace, who pulled in more votes than Schimmels but was kept to just 36 percent of the ballots cast.
Schimmels, who has served on the City Council since the city incorporated in 2003, appears to have lost favor among the Positive Change group that holds five of the seven council seats.
In the special election for a legislative seat, appointed state Sen. John Smith will face Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel for the right to fill the remainder of former Sen. Bob Morton’s term representing northeast Washington’s 7th District. Both are Republicans.
Smith easily finished first in the off-year primary, with more than half the votes cast in the three-way race. He said the general election campaign will likely focus on the economy in the hard-hit district.
“This economic downturn has not been easy on any of us,” said Smith, an organic farmer and business consultant. “People are craving to hear a positive message that we can get better.”
Dansel said he thought the fall campaign will turn on the two candidates’ records and issues like creating a business-friendly environment in the resource-based district. He predicted “a tough battle to the end.”
The third candidate was retired Air Force special investigator Mike Brunson.