Spokane Valley City Council incumbent Gary Schimmels is advancing to the November general election, where he will face challenger Ed Pace.
Schimmels has been on the council since the city incorporated in 2003. In 2009 he aligned himself with a group of candidates running on a slate called Positive Change; all of them won. In this election, however, major Positive Change donor Jack Pring is supporting Pace, as is Councilman Arne Woodard and Elizabeth Grafos, wife of Positive Change Councilman Dean Grafos.
Pace received 36 percent of the votes counted on election night while Schimmels drew 34 percent. Dee Dee Loberg took third place with 28 percent and will not be on the general election ballot.
Pace, who has raised more than $8,500, said he expected to advance through the primary based on the feedback he and his campaign team was receiving. “As I told people (Tuesday), now the hard work starts,” he said. “This is real campaigning that starts now.”
At the start of the election season Schimmels filed paperwork with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission pledging not to raise or spend more than $5,000. That’s a decision that Schimmels will revisit in the face of Pace’s fundraising. “It might not change and it might change,” he said. “At this point, it’s in the air.”
Schimmels said he was disappointed by the low voter turnout. In the city of Spokane Valley only 19 percent of all ballots were returned by election night, although some ballots will likely trickle in throughout the week. “That’s just crazy,” Schimmels said. “Everybody is asleep here. I figured there would be more interest.”
Elsewhere in the county, appointed incumbent John Bjork lost his bid to keep his seat on the Spokane County Fire District 9 board. He received nearly 26 percent of the vote while Judy Personett received 39 percent and Jim Bennett took 34 percent.
Bjork said he was disappointed. “It was quite an experience to be a fire commissioner and I would have really liked to continue for another six years,” he said. “We’re in a rural area and I’m just not that well known around the district.”
In the town of Latah, more than 57 percent of the ballots were returned, which is high for a primary election. Council candidate Larry LaBolle received 43 percent of the vote and will advance to the general election along with the current mayor, Teresa Galvin, who received 40 percent of the vote. The third candidate, Dan Keller, earned 14 percent of the vote.
“I thought the turnout was great,” said LaBolle. “I am surprised it was that close. I’m surprised Teresa didn’t have the majority of the vote.”
Despite the tight race, LaBolle said he hasn’t really thought about a more active campaign. He would like to have some sort of event in the park, maybe a potluck picnic, which would feature all the candidates so residents can learn about their views.
In Rockford, council candidate Robert Tollefson received a whopping 70 percent of the vote. He will face Chuck Collison in the November election. Appointed incumbent Larry Van Every received 11 percent of the vote, even though he recently withdrew from the race and resigned his seat because of a family emergency.
Tollefson said his job as the manager of the Rockford Mini-Mart, the only store for miles, probably gave him an edge. “I am fortunate to work in a very public spot,” he said. “I’m a little shocked it was that high. I thought it would be a little closer than that.”
Tollefson said he plans to continue a low-key race. “About the only campaigning I might do is put together a flier and walk around town and hand it out,” he said.