November 5, 2013 in City

Conservatives lose control of Spokane City Council; voters oust state senator

Fairchild tax is trailing; two Spokane Valley council races too close to call
 

Progressives appear poised to regain control of the Spokane City Council, and in northeastern Washington voters have ousted a state senator with a history of unpaid taxes, business failures and links to a controversial church.

In Spokane, Democratic activist Candace Mumm is leading conservative Michael Cannon in the race to replace Nancy McLaughlin, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. And incumbent Councilman Jon Snyder is trouncing former Republican state Rep. John Ahern.

The races have set new Spokane records for municipal campaign spending.

Mumm, a former TV broadcaster whose campaign was backed by numerous labor unions, was leading Cannon by a 10-percentage-point margin of 6,384 to 5,314. Cannon was backed by business interests and Spokane Mayor David Condon, a longtime Republican operative.

Snyder secured his second term with a commanding 30-percentage-point victory over Ahern — 8,312 to 4,584.

Although municipal politics are nonpartisan in Washington state, the candidates openly aligned themselves along traditional Republican and Democrat lines. Tonight’s outcome appears to restore the 4-3 advantage held by progressives until two years ago.

In northeast Washington’s 7th legislative district, incumbent John Smith appears to have lost his state Senate seat in an upset to Ferry County Commissioner John Dansel. Both are Republicans.

Smith was appointed in December to temporarily serve in the seat vacated by longtime state Sen. Bob Morton, who retired, and quickly emerged as one of the legislative chamber’s most conservative members.

But his background includes some high-profile business failures and he entered the Legislature in January still owing thousands of dollars in unpaid state taxes. Smith also was plagued by a past that included family ties to a church with views considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center to support white supremacy, though he disavowed any formal connection to the congregation.

Although he coasted through the primary, Smith’s business record and debts became a big campaign issue as Dansel questioned his credentials and suitability to represent the economically struggling region.

Meanwhile, a proposed new tax to protect Fairchild Air Force Base from encroachment was trailing. Just over half of the county’s voters, 51 percent, opposed the new tax but the tight margin could change as more ballots are counted in the days ahead.

Statewide, a ballot measure that would require genetically modified foods to be clearly identified on labels appeared to be failing, mustering just 45 percent support in early returns.

More than 60 percent of Spokane County voters opposed the measure, I-522, as did most voters in Eastern Washington.

In Spokane Valley, incumbent Councilman Gary Schimmels was leading challenger Ed Pace by just three votes, 5,793 to 5,790.

With four contested council races, the conservative Spokane Valley’s campaigns were marked by across-the-board pledges by all candidates to avoid tax increases.

Rod Higgins was leading Linda J. Thompson for the Valley’s position 1 seat on the council, 5,842 to 5,699.

Chuck Hafner beat Donald Morgan for the position 5 seat, 7,128 to 3,771. And, Bill Bates beat Fred Beaulac, 7,079 to 3,526.


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