August 6, 2014 in City

Two Spokane County incumbents face strong challenges

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Democrat Mary Lou Johnson reacts Tuesday night during a party at Hamilton Studios in Spokane after learning she leads the race for Spokane County Commissioner District 3. She will advance to the November general election against Republican Al French.
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Two incumbent Republicans in the Spokane County Courthouse appear to be facing tough challenges from Democratic opponents.

GOP County Commissioner Al French was virtually tied with Democratic challenger Mary Lou Johnson, with each scoring 36 percent of the vote in the county’s initial returns Tuesday night for the District 3 seat.

Independent candidate Bonnie Mager, who tried to take back the commissioner seat that she held as a Democrat four years ago, was trailing.

In a three-way race for county treasurer, incumbent Republican Rob Chase was running neck-and-neck against Democrat Amy Biviano, both with 39 percent of the Tuesday returns.

Republican Mary Kuney trailed with 21 percent.

French, 63, said the vote “reaffirms in my race that party affiliation is stronger than name recognition.”

Still, the results showed he could face a stiff challenge in November. More than half of voters picked a Democrat, or the former Democrat, Mager.

District 3 encompasses large sections of Spokane, including Democratic-leaning neighborhoods on the North Side. He said a strong Democratic vote in the primary was not a surprise, and that could change when the seat goes up for a countywide vote on Nov. 4.

“We are happy we are moving forward,” French said.

Johnson, 67, is a newcomer to elective politics. She is a former nurse practitioner, nursing educator and attorney in U.S. District Court.

On her first campaign, she said she takes voter trust seriously.

“It’s been a pretty powerful experience,” she said.

During a gathering of Democrats in Hamilton Studios in West Central Spokane, Johnson got a loud round of cheers when the results were announced with her leading by 62 votes on election night.

Mager, 63, who ran as an independent, criticized French for being too cozy with the people who have money and power.

She said she knew that running as an independent was a risky decision.

“I’m not sorry I did it,” she said, calling her totals a “respectable showing.”

In the county treasurer race, Chase, 60, pointed out he faced another Republican in Kuney, so he considers his vote total “a good showing.”

“I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said.

Chase is a Republican with a libertarian bent who argued for reducing high penalties and interest charged against delinquent property taxpayers.

Biviano, 39, argued that her training and work experience as a professional accountant makes her a better choice to run the treasurer’s office.

“We had a great night,” Biviano said. “It’s clear this is going to be a long fight. It’s also clear voters want a change.”

In the county clerk’s race, write-in Democrat Mary Wissink appeared to have qualified to have her name on the Nov. 4 ballot against appointed Clerk Timothy Fitzgerald. Write-in candidates need 1 percent of a primary vote to have their name placed on the November ballot. More than 5 percent of voters selected a write-in candidate.


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