Voters in Spokane Valley will not know for at least several days, perhaps longer, whether City Council incumbent Gary Schimmels will keep his seat or if challenger Ed Pace will take over.
On election night Schimmels, who has served on the council since the city incorporated 10 years ago, led by only three votes. (This section went to press before Spokane County released a second round of results on Wednesday.)
“I’ve never seen anything that close that I’ve been involved in,” Schimmels said. “I’m ahead by three votes. That’s really a hell of a deal.”
During the campaign Schimmels relied largely on his name recognition and a last-minute advertising push. He pledged to raise and spend no more than $5,000. Pace, on the other hand, ran an aggressive campaign and spent most of the $15,500 he collected on advertising in newspapers and on the radio as well as mailers.
Pace said he knew the race would be close. He heard from some members of the community that it was time for a change while others questioned why they should oust Schimmels when the city was doing so well, Pace said.
“I’ve worked a lot harder than he did,” Pace said. “I campaigned really hard. I had a good number of volunteers out doorbelling and phone calling. I had a lot more advertising.”
A couple of recent council votes dampened his efforts, Pace said. Schimmels was in favor of creating an ordinance to regulate barista attire and voted against raising the property tax, both hot topics. “That has been one of my campaign points, that Gary has spoken in favor of raising property taxes and now he voted against it,” Pace said.
Even if he doesn’t win, Pace said he would find a way to be involved in the community. “However it turns out, it’s all good,” he said. “It’s the will of the voters. I worked hard and I didn’t do anything really negative, so I feel good about it.”
Schimmels said that candidates who are ahead on election night usually win, but his margin is so razor thin that he’s not counting on that. There are no givens, he said, adding, “Stay tuned.”
The race between the two Spokane Valley candidates was not the only close one. In Fairfield, Alene Felgenhauer and John Jesseph are tied for council position 2, with 33 votes each. In Latah, City Council incumbent Patricia Neumann has a one vote lead over challenger Melanie Meagher.
Liberty Lake councilman Odin Langford is leading Mike Tedesco by 13 votes. In the East Valley School District, board member Heidi Gillingham is trailing challenger Justin Voelker by 30 votes. Spokane Valley City Council incumbent Rod Higgins leads Linda Thompson by 143 votes while Spokane Valley Fire Department commissioner Ron Schimdt is ahead of former Spokane Valley Mayor Mike DeVleming by 113 votes.
In other races the numbers have been much more decisive. Bill Bates easily won a position on the Spokane Valley City Council, taking 66 percent of the vote, as did council incumbent Chuck Hafner, who received 65 percent.
New leadership will be coming to the town of Rockford, where Mayor Micki Harnois is losing to former Councilman Steve Meyer, who received 64 percent of the vote. Fred Helm, who has been a vocal critic of recent decisions made by the East Valley School District board of directors, is on track to win a seat on the board by defeating incumbent Kerri Lunstroth with 57 percent of the vote. Kevin Freeman is winning the race for Millwood mayor with 68 percent of the vote.
Replacement fire levies in Rockford and Spangle passed easily, while Spangle residents also approved a levy to pay for policing provided through a contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.