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Spokane City Council races cost candidates, supporters more than $400,000 in 2017

FILE- Spokane City Councilman Breean Beggs erupts with delight after viewing election results on a smart phone with his wife, Laurie Powers, left and fellow council member Lori Kinnear, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at O'Doherty's Irish Grill in downtown Spokane. Beggs’ contest against Andy Dunau was the most expensive race for a council seat, costing a total of more than $204,000 between the amounts spent by the candidates themselves and outside groups. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE- Spokane City Councilman Breean Beggs erupts with delight after viewing election results on a smart phone with his wife, Laurie Powers, left and fellow council member Lori Kinnear, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at O'Doherty's Irish Grill in downtown Spokane. Beggs’ contest against Andy Dunau was the most expensive race for a council seat, costing a total of more than $204,000 between the amounts spent by the candidates themselves and outside groups. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The six candidates vying last fall for seats on the Spokane City Council, and independent groups supporting or opposing their candidacy, spent just shy of $420,000, according to reports submitted to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

That total is less than the $458,000 spent on the races in 2013, bolstered largely by outside spending in the contest between Candace Mumm and Michael Cannon. Spending this year grew 10 percent over the 2015 races, when Karen Stratton and Lori Kinnear received nearly $100,000 from a political action committee formed by the Spokane Firefighters Union.

The race between Breean Beggs and Andy Dunau was the costliest contest last year and, for the first time, spending by groups not allied with either candidate – independent expenditures that are subject to more stringent reporting requirements under the local campaign finance law that was vetoed by Mayor David Condon – reached all corners of the city.

Beggs, who raised the most of any candidate to retain his seat representing the South Hill, said he felt pressure to match the fundraising total of his opponent, particularly after independent political committees began buying ads opposing his candidacy.

“Being up close and personal, it just confirmed for me that whatever we can do to reduce big money and outside money coming in, we should try to do it,” Beggs said.

Beggs raised $74,137. He received maximum contributions for the primary and general elections, totaling $2,000, from the abandoned congressional campaign of Council President Ben Stuckart, as well as political committees representing Spokane firefighters, health care workers and state educators.

Opposing groups spent $15,781 against Beggs’ campaign, all of it from the political arm of Better Spokane, a nonprofit organization whose stated purpose is to push business-friendly policies. That same group spent more than $46,000 to support Dunau, nearly matching his personal fundraising total of $50,669.

Incumbents have a clear advantage in fundraising, Dunau said, and pushed back on the notion that spending by political action committees should be regulated at the city level, as it would be under the recently vetoed local campaign finance proposal.

“That’s what politics is all about,” Dunau said. “By law and by practice, we had no contact with Better Spokane.” State campaign finance laws prohibit groups making independent expenditures from coordinating with campaigns, a fact highlighted by Mumm when questions were raised by the Spokane Regional Health District about the veracity of a mailer targeting her opponent, Matthew Howes. The mailer was paid for by a committee formed by the local firefighters union and reported as an independent expenditure in the race.

Between Beggs and Dunau, a total of $203,000 was spent in both direct expenses by the candidates and groups supporting or opposing their candidacies, according to Public Disclosure Commission filings. The 2013 contest between Mumm and Cannon topped $250,000 and is the most expensive Spokane City Council contest in history, according to campaign records.

Mumm’s contest against Howes in the northwest cost a combined $120,607, with the victor Mumm outraising Howes $48,862 to $18,997.

Kate Burke and Tim Benn’s race in the northeast Spokane district cost $94,759, including candidate expenses and those made by outside groups. In her successful bid, Burke outraised Benn $59,956 to $30,220.


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