For the first time in more than four decades, Spokane voters have given a mayor a second chance.
Mayor David Condon coasted to victory with 62 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election. A Spokane mayor hadn’t been re-elected since 1973, the year before Condon was born.
He easily defeated Shar Lichty, a political organizer who had never run for political office.
At the same time, voters were content with the City Council and the liberal majority that leads it, sending back City Council President Ben Stuckart with 63 percent of the vote. Stuckart defeated former state legislator John Ahern.
Voters also backed incumbents Karen Stratton and Mike Fagan to return to the council. In the open seat representing the South Hill, Lori Kinnear, a city council aide, appeared likely to beat businesswoman LaVerne Biel, a decision that will strengthen the liberal majority on the council.
Condon’s re-election seemed virtually assured after more prominent potential opponents said they wouldn’t run, but he faced criticism in recent weeks for his handling of troubles in the police department.
Those troubles didn’t haunt him on election night, as a sea of supporters cheered Condon during his victory speech at downtown’s Barrister Winery.
Condon said his re-election dispelled two myths: First, he declared, there is no one-term curse on the city’s mayoralty.
“And the myth that Spokane is stuck in a rut is over,” Condon said.
With his wife and children surrounding him, Condon promised to work with Stuckart and the expanded majority on the council, and assured those who voted against him that he was committed to being “the mayor for all citizens.”
“This was not a campaign for David Condon. It was a campaign for Spokane,” Condon said before receiving a kiss from his wife, Kristin, and a high-five from his son, Creighton. “Whether I like it or not … it’s all over on Dec. 31, 2019, and it’s all about leaving a Spokane better than we found it.”
Stuckart, celebrating at David’s Pizza near the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, echoed the theme of progress in the city.
“This election is about continuity,” he said. “I was an incumbent. The mayor was an incumbent. Mike Fagan and Karen Stratton were incumbents. We all won re-election. Voters said Spokane is moving in the right direction.”
Stuckart, a combative leader of the council who has been criticized by some for what they see as an attempt to wield power beyond that of his office, dismissed such critics as missing the good that has happened under his and Condon’s leadership.
“They can disagree with me politically, but we all agree we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “We are united as a city. The vote totals are reaffirmations that we are doing the right thing. We haven’t seen something like this since the 1970s.”
Stuckart promised to bring the council’s tabled paid sick leave proposal forward in the new year.
In Spokane’s northwestern District 3, Councilwoman Karen Stratton retained the post she was appointed to last year after Steve Salvatori resigned for work in Texas. Stratton received about 55 percent of the vote, beating her opponent, Evan Verduin, by more than 1,100 votes in Tuesday’s count.
Stratton said she was less interested in the 6-1 liberal coalition under Stuckart than the new female majority on the council. There are now four women on the council and three men.
“This is the first time in history that we’ve had this many women on the council,” Stratton said. “We’ve got some smart, strong women on the council and I’m excited to see what we can do.”
Stratton said her priority was “first and foremost getting the police department straightened out and getting a police chief hired.”
Verduin would not concede the race, but he said he didn’t expect the results to change much as the ballot count continues.
“The numbers are there, and I don’t expect it to change significantly,” he said. “The voters have spoken. From my perspective, it’s discouraging but it’s obvious the way this thing will wrap.”
Verduin said he was happy that “the will of the voters is being represented,” and that the council seat is no longer filled by an appointee of the council. He added that he hoped there would be more collaboration between the council and the mayor.
The race in District 2 for a seat representing south Spokane was closer than Stratton’s race, with Lori Kinnear winning 53 percent of the vote. Her opponent, LaVerne Biel, was down by more than 800 votes.
Kinnear said she was “still processing” the likely win, but like Stratton was excited about the number of women on the council.
“Amber and I just looked at each other and gave each other that high five,” she said of Councilwoman Amber Waldref. “There are four women on the council now. That’s amazing.”
Kinnear, who has worked as a legislative aide for Waldref and former Councilman Richard Rush, said she was excited to be elected and work with Stuckart.
“If everybody worked that hard, well, it would be wonderful,” she said.
Biel said she hoped she could catch Kinnear as more ballots are tallied.
“It’s not over. There are still 17,000 ballots outstanding. It’s still tight,” she said. “We’re a little disappointed. But I feel like I ran a good race.”
In Spokane’s northeastern District 1, incumbent Councilman Mike Fagan bested his opponent, Randy Ramos, with 54 percent of the vote. Fagan did not return a call seeking comment.