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Three vie for seat on Spokane County Commission

Josh Kerns said the Spokane County Commission isn’t doing enough to protect property rights and bring in jobs. Candace Mumm said the all-Republican commission needs a progressive voice.

Both are vying for a chance to unseat Commissioner Nancy McLaughlin in the August primary, but McLaughlin said she’s confident in her track record.

“I’m a known entity and people trust that,” said McLaughlin, who was appointed in February to fill a vacancy left by Todd Mielke. “I have the most local government experience, and I bring a small-business perspective.”

It’s not the first time either challenger has crossed paths with McLaughlin. Kerns, a legislative aide for state Rep. Jeff Holy, was the Spokane GOP’s second choice to replace Mielke. In 2013, Mumm was elected to replace McLaughlin on the Spokane City Council after term limits forced McLaughlin out.

Mumm’s work in that role includes infrastructure, transportation and environmental projects, as well as an effort to improve city hiring practices of women and minorities.

“I’m very accepting socially, but I’m very conservative financially,” said Mumm, a self-described moderate Democrat.

Mumm said her experience as president of the city’s Plan Commission – which develops long-term plans for infrastructure and land use – would come in handy. She also believes she could serve as a bridge between the commission and the left-leaning City Council.

In addition to economic development, Mumm said she would focus on improving the county’s courts and jails.

“Since nearly three-quarters of our budget goes toward criminal justice, that’s where our focus should be,” she said.

For Kerns, who calls himself “a real conservative,” running for elected office is a new endeavor. He’s been a delegate to various conventions and has worked on Republican campaigns in every election cycle since 2008, according to his website. He’s worked in Olympia for six years, originally for former state Rep. John Ahern.

“I’ve really got to see a lot of the good that government can do, but also a lot of the bad that government can do,” Kerns said.

Kerns said he’ll work to protect property rights and “hold the line on taxes,” and he agrees with Ronald Reagan that “the best social program is a job.”

Kerns said the sitting commissioners haven’t done enough to attract science, technology, engineering and math positions or manufacturing jobs on the West Plains – a goal also highlighted by McLaughlin.

“That’s going to require going to Olympia,” Kerns said. “I’m the only one who has that experience. I’m the one that has those relationships.”

McLaughlin, meanwhile, said she’s proved to be a responsible figure on the commission, which wields both legislative and executive power over the county’s 490,000 residents.

McLaughlin touts eight years of City Council experience and close ties with various community groups, including her church.

Her favorite political victories include drafting and pushing voters to approve Proposition 2 in 2013, which requires the City Council to have a supermajority of five votes to raise taxes.

“You either have to raise taxes or grow the tax base,” she said. “I am a grow-the-tax-base kind of person.”

McLaughlin’s District 1 encompasses the northern third of the Spokane County. Ballots for the Aug. 2 primary are being mailed this week. Only voters in the district can vote in the primary. All county voters will have a say in the November election.


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