The balance of the Spokane City Council will shift to the left after a season of record-breaking campaign spending.
The first results from Tuesday’s election showed incumbent Councilman Jon Snyder easily holding on to his seat representing south Spokane with 64 percent of the vote over former Republican state Rep. John Ahern. In the other competitive Spokane council race, former Plan Commission Chairwoman Candace Mumm was beating Michael Cannon, chairman of the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services Board, with 54 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, in other high-profile local elections, an incumbent state Senator with a history of unpaid taxes and business failures appears headed to defeat in an upset loss to represent northeastern Washington. And in Spokane Valley, a longtime incumbent councilman is just three votes ahead in his bid to retain the seat.
Since Republican-leaning members gained a majority on the Spokane City Council in the 2011 election, many high-profile votes have fallen 4-3 in favor of Mayor David Condon’s proposals. That includes this year’s budget and his proposals to reduce the number of managers in the civil service system.
Council President Ben Stuckart, part of the Democrat-leaning minority soon to regain majority status, said he expects the relationship between the council and Condon to be collaborative.
“I would call this a progressive council,” he said as he arrived at Mumm’s campaign party soon after results showed Mumm and Snyder winning. “I wouldn’t call it liberal. I wouldn’t call it Democratic.”
Mumm said she was eager to sit down with Condon, who backed her opponent.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present the new Spokane,” she said at her campaign party Monday night at Central Food in Kendall Yards. She will represent Northwest Spokane, in the seat soon to be vacated by Nancy McLaughlin, a conservative who was ineligible to run again because of term limits.
Cannon said Tuesday night that he would wait to concede until more votes are counted. He noted that he was nearly 3,000 votes behind Mumm in the August primary. This time the gap is about 1,000.
“We made up a lot of ground,” Cannon said, who had a campaign party at his home attended by Condon, county Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn and other supporters. “I’m congratulating my opponent on a hard-fought race.”
Three of the four candidates fighting for the two contested Spokane council seats topped the previous record raised for a Spokane City Council candidate since voters approved the city’s strong mayor system of government in 1999.
On top of the candidates’ campaigns, two political action committees formed to focus on the races. Citizens for Honest Government, backed mostly by unions, supported Mumm and Snyder. Jobs and Prosperity for Spokane, backed largely by business interests, supported Cannon and Ahern.
More than $430,000 has been raised by and for the four candidates.
Although the candidates are running for nonpartisan council seats, the positions have increasingly been influenced by party politics. With McLaughlin leaving the council, a win by Democratic-leaning Mumm gives the council faction that leans left a tight 4-3 majority that could hamper Republican-leaning Mayor David Condon’s agenda.
State Senate race
In northeastern Washington’s 7th legislative district, Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel had a 632-vote lead over appointed incumbent John Smith in what could become a surprise upset. Both are Republicans, but Smith enjoyed strong backing from state and local GOP groups.
Dansel, 30, who was outspent nearly 3-to-1 by Smith according to the latest Public Disclosure Commission reports, wasn’t declaring victory Tuesday night but said he was “optimistic of our chances.”
Smith served in the regular session and two special sessions this year after being selected to replace Sen. Bob Morton, who retired at the beginning of this year. He had a solidly conservative voting record and endorsements from many Senate Republicans who served with him. But Dansel said he may have connected better with average voters after knocking on doors across the far-flung district.
“I think really what it was is, I’m not a politics-as-usual guy,” he said. If he remains on top, he would take the seat when election results are certified on Nov. 26. He said he’ll decide later this month whether he’ll continue to serve as a county commissioner and hold the Senate seat, which is allowed under state law.
Spokane Valley City Council
Two races for Spokane Valley City Council may not be decided for days.
Gary Schimmels, who has served on the council since the city first incorporated, leads Ed Pace, a local pastor, by only 3 votes. Rod Higgins, retired director of the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals, leads Linda J. Thompson, executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, by 143 votes.
Pace raised nearly $16,000 for his campaign against Schimmels, who promised not to raise more than $5,000. Higgins outraised Thompson $12,400 to $1,800. Higgins and Thompson competed for the same seat in February in an application process that ended in a flipped coin because the rest of council was evenly split between the two.
Incumbent Chuck Hafner easily won a new term and Bill Bates, planning commission chairman and former Rosauers vice president, will fill the seat of his half-brother, Mayor Tom Towey, who did not seek a new term. Bates easily defeated Fred Beaulac, operations manager with Hatfield Enterprises.