Spokane Valley’s conservative city council received a radical makeover on Tuesday.
Voters rejected most the incumbents on the Spokane Valley Council, tossing out Mike Munch, Ed Pace and J. Caleb Collier, and putting a fourth in danger of losing a race that was too close to call by the day’s end.
Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins was losing his race by less than 1 percentage point to Chris Jackson. More ballots will be counted today.
Only Pamela Haley is certain to retain her seat among the five incumbents on the ballot.
Pace said he was slightly surprised at the results, and wonders if the Valley is now swinging more liberal and Democratic.
“If this was four years ago, I don’t think it would have been like that,” he said. “They pretty much cleaned our clocks.”
The council has considered several conservative initiatives in the past two years, including a proposal to make the city a “Second Amendment Sanctuary City” and a “parental rights” declaration aimed at stopping the health district from preventing unvaccinated students from attending schools during a disease outbreak.
But the biggest controversy it has faced was the firing of City Administrator Mike Jackson in 2016. Two city council members resigned in protest.
In the race for Spokane Valley Council Position 7, challenger Linda Hatcher Thompson unseated Munch, who was appointed to his seat in 2016, with 57 percent of the vote. Thompson, who has been executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council for more than 25 years, ran unsuccessfully against Higgins in 2013.
Thompson said she was surprised by the results.
“It’s so wonderful to see that people are supporting the idea of community engagement and transparency,” Thompson said. “I’m so excited and honored with votes that I have so far.”
Brandi Peetz unseated Collier, who was appointed to City Council to fill a vacancy in 2016 in a race that has been described by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich as the most combative political race he’s seen in the city.
“It’s been a rough campaign. It’s been trying, emotional and really hard on my family and myself,” Peetz said. “I have never, ever, wanted to be in politics as much as I do now. I want to make a positive change.”
Peetz said increased honesty and transparency from City Council seems to be a common theme among Spokane Valley voters.
“I want people to be able to trust politicians and their local government to meet their needs and best interests,” she said. “I think we have a pretty good shot at that with some great people in office. They are amazing. We have really great skill sets and putting us all together will be a good thing.”
Pace will relinquish his seat – which he’s held since 2014 – to challenger Ben Wick. Wick collected 58 percent of the vote in the race for position 4.
Pace said there was an “awful lot of ads, radio and television commercials, in which the Spokane County sheriff spoke in favor of our opponents stating we are going to raise the 6 percent utility tax which is just not true.”
Wick, who served on the Spokane Valley City Council from 2012 to 2015, was an outspoken critic of the parental rights provision that was proposed by Pace. He instead wants to focus on public safety, roads and infrastructure.
“The results show the Valley wants some change,” he said. “I wish Pace well. We both tried very hard. I thank him for his years of service.”
Former Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite said while the Spokane Valley is conservative, citizens didn’t feel as though current council members explained their decisions clearly and why it benefits the community. She backed many of the winners in Tuesday’s election.
The public also was upset the City Council didn’t communicate why Jackson was terminated.
“The public was upset that City Council didn’t say anything about Mike Jackson’s firing,” she said. “He was very popular with public.”
Wilhite, a former Spokane County Republican Party chairwoman, said the shakeup in city leadership will change how things are done in Spokane Valley.
“These people that are going to be elected, I think they’ll do homework, study issues and look at what’s best for the Spokane Valley,” she said.