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Republican incumbents carry the day in local races

Wed., Aug. 6, 2014

A slate of inconsequential primaries delivered results Tuesday night as both candidates in a number of two-person races moved forward to November’s general election with a better idea of where their support lies.

It was a night for incumbents in the Republican Party as state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and state Rep. Matt Shea all took commanding leads of at least 10 percentage points over their opponents. In the largest spread, Knezovich walloped his challenger, Doug Orr, besting him by 33,000 votes of just 74,000 cast in early returns.

Republican Larry Haskell leads his Democratic opponent, Breean Beggs, by 15 points in the race to run the Spokane County prosecutor’s office.

Despite the GOP-friendly night, the mood at the Spokane Democrats party at West Central’s Toad Hall was joyous.

Among the 150 or so Democratic revelers, Rich Cowan, who fell behind Baumgartner by almost 4,000 votes, said he feels “pretty good” about his showing in the primary.

“We need more family-wage jobs,” Cowan said. “That just isn’t something (Baumgartner) appreciates.”

Cowan, who ran and lost against Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers two years ago, said he wants to go to Olympia to end partisan bickering. He cites his 25 years at the head of local film company North by Northwest Productions as experience enough to be effective in Olympia. Baumgartner, who is running his first race as an incumbent, once again faces a well-heeled Democrat in a swing district. Four years ago, Baumgartner unseated Chris Marr as both campaigns raised $1 million between them. This go-around, Baumgartner has outraised Cowan 2-1, but together they’ve brought in more than $500,000.

Baumgartner said the primary results showed that voters were “not too keen on returning to the liberal Olympia politics that Rich Cowan represents.”

The last time Knezovich ran for re-election in 2010, he received 97 percent of the vote. He didn’t quite achieve that spread this time, but he has a theory why.

“I didn’t have an opponent last time,” he said.

This time he does, but he still received an overwhelming majority (72 percent) of the vote.

“This is what you’d call a super poll,” he said. “I actually think I’ll do better in the general.”

His opponent, Doug Orr, wasn’t available for comment Tuesday night.

Shea, who represents Spokane Valley in the Legislature, easily won the primary, but nearly 11 percent of voters casting ballots in the 4th Legislative District didn’t make a choice in his race, leaving the section blank. Called “under-votes,” it’s a large enough number that his opponent, Josh Arritola, could see a boost in his campaign if he can pull them to his camp.

“This is a very winnable race,” Arritola said. “We’re going to keep doorbelling. The precincts that we won were the precincts we doorbelled.”

Shea did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In the race to replace outgoing Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker, Haskell grabbed 11,000 more votes than Beggs, or about 15 percent.

Haskell spent 16 years in the prosecutor’s office, which he said gives him the expertise needed for the job.

Beggs, who led the Center for Justice for six years and represented Otto Zehm’s family in their lawsuit against the city of Spokane, said Haskell represents “the status quo” in a moribund agency.



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