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Why Verner lost: Part 2. A volunteer campaign short on cash

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Verner concedes

Just before conceding, Mayor Mary Verner published a scathing comment on Facebook about her opponent’s campaign which she said is a “turning point for the way campaigns are conducted in Spokane.”

“David Condon’s race for a non-partisan local office was woven into a … larger partisan domination strategy with out-of-town consultants, push polls and shrewd positioning of issues in collaboration with media mouthpieces. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the campaigns, while more and more people have fallen into joblessness, homelessness, hunger and despair,” she wrote.

But was this campaign that much different than the other three to elect a strong mayor?

When it comes to the amount of money, no. Dennis Hession raised nearly as much as Condon in 2007. John Powers spent more than Condon in 2000.

When it comes to out-of-town consultants, no. Verner apparently is referring to Stan Shore, an Olympia-based consultant who was hired by Condon. But he also worked in each of the previous three mayoral campaigns on behalf of Hession, Jim West and John Talbott.

When it comes to partisan politics, yes. The state Republican Party’s decision to contribute more than $60,000 to Condon in the final days of the campaign is unprecedented. (And could still lead to an investigation into election rules. A complaint filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission will be considered for a possible investigation after Thanksgiving, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said Thursday.)

But party involvement in city races isn’t new. Councilman Steve Corker, a Verner supporter, has noted that parties started getting involved in nonpartisan local elections about a decade ago when the Democratic Party assisted Powers, and Tom Keefe, the former Spokane County Democratic Party, chair argues that it was Democrats who worked to turn the Condon-Verner race into a partisan battle.

Why Verner lost: Part 1. Water rates

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Condon correctly predicted outrage was coming on water rates. Even before summer bills were mailed, he began attacking the water rate restructuring. When the bills were opened, he already had defined himself as the candidate who opposed them.

On its face, focusing on sewer rate increases seemed to be the bigger issue since they are going up by higher percentages and they affect everyone equally, and most people actually pay less under the new water rate structure. But most who pay less pay a little less while some who pay more pay a whole lot more. And those people are outraged. (Just ask the people who answer the phones at City Hall.) Also, since the sewer rate increases in large part goes to build systems to keep raw sewage out of the river, focusing on sewer rates may have led savvy opponents to respond: “Mary Verner is working to keep the Spokane River clean while Condon supports dumping raw sewage in the river” — or something like that. Focusing on the water rates came with the TV campaign ad B-roll of pull-on-your-heartstrings footage of children running through sprinklers that sent the message: “These rates are so high your children may not be able to play in the sprinkler anymore, thanks to Mary Verner!”

Then billboards, posted by an anonymous person, were posted with false messages on the rates and even people whose rates had fallen started to believe that they had doubled.

Verner’s response was to point back at the Spokane City Council, which indeed led the process to restructure rates. But she signed the ordinance, and once you sign it, the public usually blames the mayor.

She wasn’t helped by indecision on the City Council about 2012 rates, which kept forcing the issue into the news until it finally made a decision in mid-September.

Verner Blasts Partisanship, Concedes

On her Facebook page, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner complained about the politicizing of this year's election. Sound familiar? Quoth: “This year was a turning point for the way campaigns are conducted in Spokane. Mine was a grassroots campaign with a small army of volunteers, over 1,000 individual donors, over 400 confirmed endorsers, and over 5,000 social media friends and fans working hard for many months to share my accomplishments and plans for Spokane. David Condon’s race for a non-partisan local office was woven into a larger partisan domination strategy with out-of-town consultants, push polls, and shrewd positioning of issues in collaboration with media mouthpieces.” More here.

Question: Why did Mayor Verner take so long to concede?

Verner needs all 2,777 remaining ballots … to tie

Mayor-elect David Condon’s lead over Spokane Mayor Mary Verner grew slightly in counting on Monday. He now leads by 2,777 votes. Coincidentally, that’s the same number of votes left to count in the race.

The race is still too close to call…

Good morning, Netizens…

 

Good journalists are never supposed to speculate on the news, but on the other hand, journalists have been speculating on the news for decades and their reputations seem none the worse for wear. If you believe this axiom, this is especially true of elections; no one ever should report an election until the last ballots have been counted, and the recount completed. History is full of instances where journalists reported what they thought was a sure thing only to eat their newsprint the next day or week.

 

Now we come to the political race between Queen Mary Verner and David Condon which, if you adhere to the latest ballot count, puts Condon ahead of Verner by a small percentage of the ballots tabulated as of yesterday evening. Someone asked me if Queen Mary had conceded the race yet, perhaps thinking I had a magic ball that would grant me hitherto unseen powers and thus allow me to predict this contentious race.

 

In another dimension of time and space, perhaps, I would be holding desperately onto the vision of Queen Mary Verner handing over her ostensible crown to victor, Mayor-elect David Condon, but probably not today. Who is to say what the ballot count will be? That, my fine friends, requires speculation. At this point in time, it does appear as if Queen Mary Verner will descend from the throne, yet another victim of the one-term-mayor syndrome that has so afflicted Spokane in past years. According to every known news source I have read, hardly anyone gives Queen Mary Verner a chance to beat Condon at this late time in history.

 

It could go the “other way”, with Queen Mary winning the election, but I do not see it happening. Some have suggested this is the influence of the Ghost of Otto Zehm from his kiosk in the Great Ballroom of Community Comment, as we have many ghosts in our ballroom who regularly tinker with life. Others have suggested Mayor Verner winning the election would be a statistical anomaly, a fluke, if you will.

 

So the verdict regarding Verner-vs-Condon is not in yet. We probably won't know for certain until Monday, if then. Your results and opinions, of course, may differ.

 

Dave

Director of state GOP won’t follow Shogan’s call to resign

City Council President Joe Shogan reversed the order of this week’s council meeting to publicly call for the resignation of the executive director of the state Republican Party.

Four council members, Bob Apple, Steve Corker, Nancy McLaughlin and Richard Rush, walked off the dais in protest while Shogan spoke and the other two criticized him later for talking about campaign issues in the midst of a council meeting.

Shogan was responding to comments the executive director of the state GOP, Peter Graves, made last week to The Spokesman-Review when responding to questions about the party’s $25,000 donation late last month to the mayoral campaign of David Condon, who defeated incumbent Mary Verner this week.

Graves said the party decided to give to Condon to “take her (Mayor Mary Verner) out before she gets a chance at a free shot at a great congresswoman in the Fifth District.” Graves was referring to Condon’s former boss, Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and said that some had speculated that Verner might one day run for Congress.

Shogan called Graves a “coward” and his comments “reprehensible, repugnant and cowardly.”

“I and Mr. David Condon know the meaning of the last definition of taking somebody out ’cause I’ve been in combat and I know that meaning, and Mr. Condon has been in a combat support hospital, so he knows first hand what taking somebody out can mean,” said Shogan, a Vietnam veteran.

Condon, Verner, Hession, Stuckart … all due to appear tonight in Hillyard

Thank you, Greater Hillyard Business Association. The business group planned a “Connect with the Electeds” meeting for this evening (Thursday) starting around 6 p.m. at the Inland NW Wildlife Council, 6116 N. Market. By odd timing, the event will be bigger and more fun than first expected.

When the association put together the idea (to have local pols discuss issues related to the Northeast District), they were planning to have just the “electeds” who survived the election.

Then some races got too tight to call.  So, tonight's lineup includes some folks who were “almost elected,” as well, said Ken Clouse, the group president.

As of noon today, the lineup includes both current Mayor Mary Verner and apparent Mayor-elect David Condon, Dennis Hession and the guy who defeated him in the race for council president, Ben Stuckart.

Also scheduled to take part in the question-answer session following a dinner are Mike Fagan and Donna McKereghan, also locked in a close election for a Northeast Spokane council seat, and Council Member Amber Waldref.

The event comes with a dinner and beverage, and costs $15 for business association members, $20 for others. To register go to this link.

Mapping the vote: The difference 3 months makes

Because several people have asked, we went back to look at the vote totals of the August primary for Spokane mayor, to compare with the current count in the general election.

It's a bit tricky, because the primary featured five candidates — four challengers and incumbent Mary Verner, who finished first with nearly 60 percent of the vote. David Condon finished second with about 33 percent. But she won almost all the precincts.

This map shows the difference between Verner's vote totals in each precinct and the combined totals of all “non-Verner votes”, that is, all the challengers on the ballot, the write-ins and the Under Votes that have no one chosen in that race.

Again, Verner won most precincts, but she had some weaknesses where the total of all non-Verner votes was greater than her vote count.

Compare this map with the latest results (above)  where she leads in the city's core on the lower South Hill, but he's leading in most of the surrounding precincts.

Verner tells KXLY radio that Zehm, water rate campaign issues ‘don’t have a lot of substance’

Mayor Mary Verner's interview last night with Mike Fitzsimmons on KXLY 920 AM has been making the rounds on Twitter today. And it's worth a listen.

Here's some of what was said. The entire interview is in the link above.

Verner: …I do know that on your radio show you’ve helped perpetuate a lot of misinformation so I’ve been up against a series of unfolding events and a very negative misinformation campaign and I still have a lot of support in this community. So I’m really looking forward to the rest of the ballots coming in.

Fitzsimmons: You sound quite bitter.

Verner: Mike I’ve been on your show quite a few times, and I’ve also listened to some of the things that you have perpetuated on your show. I’m sorry if it comes across as bitter. I’m very disappointed in you.

Fitzsimmons: Well, we’re disappointed in you as well, which is maybe why you’re losing tonight.

Verner: Well, that’s certainly your opinion and you’ve certainly had lots of airtime to express it. ….

(The two argue about how often the mayor has accepted invitations to appear on the show.)

Fitzsimmons: I don’t want to get into it. You’re the one who brought the issue up to begin with. Perhaps you might want to look at water rates, you might want to look at the whole Otto Zehm thing if you’re really looking for the reason why you’re trailing right now.

Verner: Well, I have looked into that and those are exactly a couple of the issues that you’ve kind of put on the block that don’t have a lot of substance to them. But I’m still very pleased with the support that I have ….

Candidates prepare for results

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said she expects only one count of votes tonight.

Results should be released about 8:15 p.m. She said including today's mail, the county has received about 100,000 ballots. About 90,000 of those will be counted in the numbers released tonight.

Dalton said once all the ballots are returned, the county expects to receive between 130,000 and 140,000 ballots. What's not counted tonight will be counted later in the week.

Here's where some candidates will wait for results tonight:

Mary Verner: Taaj Indian restaurant, 128 W. Third Ave.

David Condon, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori: Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave.

Ben Stuckart: Two Seven Public House, 2727 S. Mt. Vernon St. 

Donna McKereghan: Geno's, 1414 N. Hamilton St.

Richard Rush and Joy Jones: Hamilton Studios, 1427 W. Dean

Mike Padden, campaign headquarters, 10807 E. Montgomery

Jeff Baxter, Luxury Box, 10512 E. Sprague

Condon gets second big contribution from state GOP

Mayoral candidate David Condon over the weekend got another big lift from the state Republican Party.

The GOP contributed $38,000 to Condon’s campaign on Saturday, according to reports filed to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Late last month, the party gave his campaign $25,000.

Condon, the former district director of Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is challenging incumbent Mayor Mary Verner in Tuesday's election. Last week, the executive director of the party said the GOP opted to contribute to Condon to help “take out” Verner to prevent her from challenging McMorris Rodgers in the future.

The late contribution takes Condon’s total tally to $288,000. Verner has raised about $125,000. Independent groups have spent about $26,000 on her behalf.

Most contributors are limited to $800 per candidate per election. But rules enable political parties to give much more. The state Republican Party received several significant contributions from Condon supporters in August, September and October. A Verner supporter filed a complaint with the PDC last week arguing that the party donations violate contribution limits. The state party says it complied fully with the law.

Family not offended by Condon’s critique of city’s handling of Zehm cases

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When David Condon began to publicly criticize Mary Verner's handling of the Otto Zehm case, Verner said Condon's critique was further victimizing the Zehm family “by attempting to elevate himself.”

The Inland Northwest Leadership Political Action Committee, which has spent about $25,000 on the mayoral race in support of Verner, has made similar allegations.

“Unfortunately, David Condon is now desperately trying to exploit this tragedy for political gain,” says an article on the group's website.

But last week, Breean Beggs, who represents the Zehm family and has contributed money to the Verner campaign, said Zehm family members do not feel exploited or victimized by Condon or other city candidates who have discussed the case. Beggs said that's because they feel that police oversight, training, procedures and other issues surrounding the case are legitimate issues that should be considered by those seeking city office.

 

These were the official statements released by Verner and Condon last week after the verdict:

Verner:

“The jury in the trial was in the best position to render a verdict in this case.  And, we accept their decision. This verdict is only one step toward closure and healing for our community.  I remain committed to completing a thorough internal and external review of all aspects of the case.   Our citizens rightfully require their elected officials to acknowledge mistakes and problems and make changes to avoid them in the future.  That’s what we’re going to do.”

“I appreciate your ongoing support of our community, and I am pleased to serve you.”

Condon:

“This is a sad day for our city, a slow-motion train wreck … first the indictment, now the trial and verdict, and next the civil lawsuit which may cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It is an indictment of the mayor and her legal team and of the police department, as well as of an individual officer.  My heart goes out again to the family of Otto Zehm with the hope that this sad spectacle can soon be brought to a final conclusion.”


County GOP endorses - scratch that - recommends Condon, Hession, Allen, Fagan and Salvatori

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The Spokane County Republican Party, which has previously declined to endorse candidates running as Republicans against Democrats when they declined to sign the county party's platform, has sent out recommendations for how to vote in Tuesday's nonparitsan city elections.

The picks include: David Condon for mayor, Mike Fagan, Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen for City Council and Dennis Hession for City Council president. The candidates apparently didn't have to sign any pledges to win the recommendations.

Condon, Fagan, Salvatori and Allen have clear ties to the party, though the party declined to back Allen in his 2009 bid for council. And while Hession has enjoyed some Republican support in past races, he also has been more aligned with the Democratic Party, at least on some environmental and social issues.

The party posted the following statement with its recommendations: “The Spokane County Republican Party acknowledges the non-partisan nature of local elections and makes no claim that recommended candidates are in any way affiliated with the Republican Party.  The following recommendations are not intended to serve as an endorsement of any issue or candidate.”

We're not sure what the difference is between recommending a candidate and endorsing one.

Has Condon closed the gap?

It was clear on the evening of Aug. 16 that the race for mayor was Mary Verner's to lose.

But a lot has happened since then, including the conviction of Officer Karl Thompson.  

So will she hold on?

As far as we at Spin Control know, there has been no scientific polling of the race, at least not the kind of unbiased polling newspapers like to have for campaign 'horse race' stories.

Last month, the Condon campaign wrote to potential donors that polling showed him within 3 points of Verner. Condon, however, has declined to release details of the poll. His campaign expense reports indicate that his campaign paid Pollis Political Service, which is a political strategy consultant firm, not a scientific polling company, for the poll.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the poll isn't relevant. Spin Control heard from someone who received the phone poll and it went something like this (this is extremely paraphrased):

1. Do you support Verner or Condon?

2. If you knew Mary Verner increased water rates would you be you more or less likely to vote for her?

3. If you knew Mary Verner messed up the handling of the Otto Zehm cases would you be more or less likely to vote for her?

4. If you knew Mary Verner eliminated the city's property crime detective division would you be more or less likely to vote for her?

5. Now who do you support for mayor, Verner or Condon?

The politics of ‘It totally sucks’

Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe declined to comment this week about her “totally sucks” comment becoming a major highlight of the David Condon campaign for mayor.

DeRuwe made the comment last month soon after sending a news release announcing that the department eliminated its property crime detective division earlier this year.

Mayor Mary Verner has argued that the change was about reallocating existing resources and that property crimes still will be investigated by detectives who now also will investigate other crimes. Chief Anne Kirkpatrick says fewer property crimes are being investigated but that the department still works many cases.

The statement from DeRuwe is pretty powerful and was quite a gift to the Condon campaign. My only question as someone who grew up with a mom who detested the word “sucks” is: How will posting it on televisions over the dinner hour play with the 'Wheel of Fortune' crowd?

2011 elections: Who’s spending what

OLYMPIA – Led by a multi-million dollar battle for who controls liquor sales in Washington, initiatives and candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot have spent more than $18 million on trying to sway voters in the last three weeks.

This may come as no surprise to state residents who can’t turn on the television without seeing firefighters argue whether voters’ lives will be better or worse if state-run liquor stores go the way of the Model T. Other state initiative campaigns have their own TV messages, and campaigns big and small are filling mail boxes with slick mailers.

Campaigns were required this week to report all spending through Tuesday to the State Public Disclosure Commission. While more money will be spent by some campaigns that remain flush with cash, that won’t be reported until Dec. 12, when most bills are paid and many campaigns tally their final account.

Tuesday’s deadline covers some of the most intense spending of any campaign season…

Click to go inside to read the rest of this item.

State GOP pours cash into Condon campaign

Spokane mayoral candidate David Condon advertises himself as “nonpartisan” on his signs, but that didn't stop the former aide to Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers from getting a $25,000 contribution from the state Republican Party.

The contribution, the largest so far in a Spokane city race this year, was received by Condon's campaign on Thursday, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Condon already had a big lead in fundraising over Mayor Mary Verner. As of Friday, Condon was reporting about $245,000 raised compared to Verner's $121,000.

Verner, who has been endorsed by the Spokane County Democratic Party, got only $800 from the state Democratic Central Committee.

Verner, Condon debate handling of Zehm case

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Here's the latest of election video.

Condon: “To find out that the city started to know some of the facts in 2009 and here we are nearly two years later not dealing with those facts, that's what was troubling me.”

Verner: “We can not critique every aspect of this matter while the litigation is ongoing. I feel we would interfere with the execution of justice to do so and that is my heartfelt belief.”

Democratic chairman says Verner took ‘high road,’ as former Dem chairman takes to airwaves for Condon

 

Not surprisingly, the campaign of David Condon is taking full advantage of the endorsement he got from former Spokane County Democratic Chairman Tom Keefe. Keefe is featured in the Condon TV ad above and is the first endorsement listed on a Condon mailer that arrived at homes this week.

Condon, the former district director for Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has been working to distance himself from the Republican label, though McMorris Rodgers recently headlined a fundraiser for his campaign.

Meanwhile, Verner's campaign has a released a statement from the current chairman of the Spokane County Democratic Party, David Smith. He addresses the Otto Zehm matter, which is the issue that Keefe said pursuaded him to back Condon.

“Mary Verner was not mayor when Otto Zehm died. She was sworn into office a full eighteen months after his death. She could have chosen to augment her political capital by joining in the public condemnation of Officer Thompson,” Smith said. ” Instead, despite her professed grief for the family of Otto Zehm, she chose to accept the political risk inherent in standing up for Officer Thompson’s right to a fair trial. Doing so took courage.  Standing up for the constitution always does.”

Here is Smith's full statement responding to Keefe's endorsement:

Verner’s message on water rates sounding more like Condon’s

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The second video on the mayoral race features one of the hottest topics: water rates.

Since this was filmed, Verner announced that she would float a new water rate proposal to City Council before the end of the year.

City Council President Joe Shogan already has started debate by introducing legislation to go back to rates based on the old water rate structure that was in place until last year. The result would be that rates would increase on those who use less and fall for those who use more.

Shogan said at a meeting Monday that he expects to hold a hearing on the topic sometime next month. Shogan, like Verner, supported the structure change last year, but now believes it should be changed.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Verner will introduce her water rate proposal in time to be considered by the council during debate on Shogan's plan. It will be developed in consultation with HDR Engineering, which advised her and the council when setting rates last year.

Shogan said he introduced his rate proposal to spark debate and is open to Verner's idea or others that may emerge.

Condon questions decision to send city utility drivers to ‘green driver’ training

David Condon, who is challenging Spokane Mayor Mary Verner in her bid for reelection, criticized Verner's speech to City Council on Monday for not mentioning new water rates or the “tragic loss of confidence in our police and legal authorities.”

“Overall, the Mayor told a nice bedtime fairy tale, with green elves and happy worker,” Condon said in a news release. “But it's time to wake up and see the real challenges facing our city government.”

Condon's response criticized the decision to send city utility drivers to “green driver” training.

A part of Verner's speech mentioned steps the city has taken to reduce energy consumption. She noted that the city spend about $8 million a year on its power bill.

“Taking these steps to reduce energy expenses are a sustainable and responsible approach to cost management,” Verner said in her speech, according to prepared remarks.

Asked about his criticism of “green driver” training, Condon said such training might reduce expenses a bit, but it's a sign that the mayor is focusing on small programs that won't solve the on-going, annual multi-million dollar deficits.

“We need to make some long-term policy changes,'” he said.

Longtime Dem backs Condon, blasts Verner over Zehm

Former Democratic County Chairman and one-time congressional candidate Tom Keefe said today he is reaching outside his normal partisan boundaries to endorse David Condon in the mayor's race.

Officially, municipal races in Spokane are non-partisan. But sometimes the county organization or prominent party members endorse candidates who are politically well aligned. When that happens, it's sometimes considered news, but rarely is it NEWS.

But this is not one of those cases. Instead, it's an instance of a longtime Democrat endorsing a known Republican. Keefe is a former congressional aide whose service goes all the way back to Warren G. Magnuson; he ran for Congress against Republican Rep. George Nethercutt in 2000.

Condon is the former district manager to Nethercutt's successor, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and a GOP campaigner before becoming a candidate.

The reason for the cross-party endorsement? The Otto Zehm case…

Condon revises water rate ad

Mayoral candidate David Condon has released a new version of a campaign ad attacking Mayor Mary Verner for water rates.

Condon said in an email that changes were made based on a truth-test article about the ad that ran in Saturday's Spokesman-Review.

A quick review indicates that his changes are probably enough to remove “false” labels that the article placed on some portions on the ad, though some would still would be in the “kinda true” range.

For instance, in attempt to better explain that “Water Departments workers are getting 10 percent pay hikes,” text goes on the screen to explain that “city worker salaries” will increase by 5 percent this year and an additional 5 percent next year. That's a good clarification from the first version, though it could create the impression that all city workers are getting that raise, when really that raise affects members of Local 270 who have at least four years of experience. That's a good portion of the city work force (largely in the street, sewer, water and trash departments), but doesn't affect, firefighters, police officers, administrators, library workers and others.

Verner, Condon clash in Rotary debate over style

One of the first mayoral debates between Mayor Mary Verner and her November election opponent David Condon was at its core a focus on style.

Condon promised to take charge of the bureaucracy.

“It’s a question of leadership,” he said. “The mayor has to be in charge and not let the departments have their own way and set their own agenda.”

Verner argued that her inclusive decision-making process has led to better outcomes.

“City government under my leadership is a much more efficient and responsive public service organization, and I want to complete the reforms that I have started,” she said. “I begin by listening – listening to our businesses, listening to our citizens, and then I determine exactly what the problem is. And then I go about fixing it for lasting reforms within the city.” 

Spokane debate season in bloom; Verner, Condon will debate twice on Thursday

Spokane candidates will give their pitch for city office at two debates on Thursday.

The League of Women Voters will hold candidate debates for mayor, City Council president and for each of the three City Council seats on the November ballot. The group also will have a debate for the open Spokane School Board seat and forums focused on the Spokane County animal control proposal, the Community Bill of Rights initiative as well as three state initiatives.

The event starts at 5 p.m. at Spokane City Hall and is open to the public. It will be taped and will air eight times on CityCable 5, starting at 9 p.m. Saturday, according to a city news release.

Mayor candidate Mayor Verner and David Condon also will debate at noon at the weekly downtown Rotary Club meeting at the Spokane Athletic Club.

Read on to find out about two other debates next month that were recently announced.

Mayor responds to Condon’s criticism of Verner’s handling of Zehm case

 

Below is Mayor Mary Verner's full response to the statement released earlier in the day by her opponent in the November election, David Condon, followed by Condon's statement. Condon offered harsh criticism of Verner's handling of the Otto Zehm matter. Verner's response was delivered by her campaign, not by the city.

MARY VERNER'S FULL NEWS RELEASE: 

Mayor Mary Verner says she is deeply disappointed in former Congressional aide Dave Condon’s reckless attempt to use the tragedy of the Otto Zehm death for his personal political ambition.

Condon wrote a campaign news release today, criticizing the mayor, city police, city attorneys, and city staffers.

Verner beat the field in most precincts

(Click on map to enlarge)

By now, everyone knows that Spokane voters like to chew up mayors and spit them out after one term, so Mary Verner's ability to win the primary is noteworthy.

But just how noteworthy might be best shown by the above map of precinct results, which shows that she didn't just beat second place finisher David Condon in enough precincts to place first. She actually beat the field — all challengers' vote totals combined — in all but 11 of the city's 123 precincts.

And in 12 precincts, she beat the field by more than 100 votes. Condon outpolled Verner in seven precincts, but in six of them, she got more than 40 percent and the vote for the other three challengers was negligible.

One way to look at this — and it's much more likely that Verner will look at it this way than Condon — is that right now, the voters who want to keep Verner far outnumber the ones that want to replace her with anyone else.

David Condon is no Jim West

David Condon opened his campaign declaring that Mary Verner was no David Rodgers (the last mayor to win a second term).

On Tuesday night, Condon offered some reasons for hope for his campaign, comparing his run to Jim West's 2003 bid for mayor.

Condon said the gap between him and Verner likely was attributable to voter turnout in primaries that often favors incumbents.

“Just a few years ago, when Jim West ran against the incumbent, he got 31 percent (of the vote) and went on to win,” he said.

It's hard to fault Condon for offering conflicting analyses when just confronted with the gulf he has less than three months to close.

But there are flaws in Condon's comparison.

Spokane primary voters have not been favorable to incumbent mayors, at least in the last two mayoral primaries. In fact, Verner last night became the first incumbent Spokane mayor in the strong-mayor era to a majority of the primary vote. John Powers came in third, thus losing his reelection bid in the primary in 2003. Dennis Hession had enough support to advance to the general election in the 2007 primary, but he barely came in first place, with 34 percent of the vote.

Condon is correct that Jim West took 31 percent of the primary vote in 2003. The big difference was that in that crowded field, 31 percent was enough for first place. Condon won 32 percent of last night's vote, but Verner won 61 percent.

To reach the 50 percent mark in November, Condon not only needs the votes cast for the three candidates who lost, Mike Noder, Barbara Lampert and Robert Kroboth. He needs to change the minds of many who supported Verner. That is a task that's much more difficult than what West faced in 2003.

So as far as his run for mayor is concerned, David Condon is no Jim West.

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Hession's 2007 primary finish.

Sunday spin2: I am shocked — shocked! to find gambling going on

Reporters have been known to bet on almost anything, from when a jury will come back to which candidates will win the races they are covering.

It’s a tendency that even some professional gamblers find appalling. So when a Craigslist ad offered a cash prize for the best handicapper of Tuesday’s mayoral race, it caught some eyes in the newsroom.

Even more curious, the referenced website seemed to be that of Mike Noder. But a closer look showed that it wasn’t his mikeforspokane site, but a mocking site, mike4spokane, set up by someone he describes as a former friend turned critic.

To be fair, the mike4 site is close to being an equal opportunity annoyer of all five candidates. The photo of Mary Verner looks like it was shot by the photographer who did Michelle Bachmann for Newsweek, and the shot of David Condon makes his head seem as round as a balloon. The other three candidate’s photos are so out of focus as to be almost unrecognizable.

Only 13 people found their way to the site and left a prediction before the contest closed. The average: Condon 40 percent; Verner 38 percent; Barbara Lampert 9 percent; Noder 7.5 percent and Robert Kroboth 3 percent. Actual results may vary.

The politics of water rates

What might be the most curious thing about the current City Council debate on water rates is the timing.

Here the council is debating what may be the biggest political hot potato of the year even though ballots are sitting on kitchen tables ready to be marked in time for Tuesday's primary election.

If anyone questions the political ramifications of the rate boost proposals, consider this: Two mayoral candidates were in the audience Monday night: Mike Noder and David Condon. (Condon, by the way, said he has concerns about the proposed increase and would have voted against it.)

Council observers are used to politicians proposing a rate freeze in election years and more quietly asking for increases out of the election cycle. The chart showing percentage increases over the last decade clearly points to election-year hesitation on rates among mayors and councils.

But Mayor Mary Verner has gone ahead with steep proposed increases in water and sewer this year despite this being an election year. Not only that, the debates on the water and sewer rates were scheduled for this summer — in time to be considered by voters. Until last year, the council voted on utility rates along with the city budget in December.

So why the change?

Verner was angered by the council's decision last year to increase sewer rates by more than she had proposed to balance its decision to reject her administration's proposed water rate increase. She accused the council of playing with the rates out of concern for the utility taxes they generate for services like parks, police, fire and libraries. As a result, she and some council members opted to set utility rates for 2012 well before the council approves the budget to avoid setting utility rates to generate utility taxes.

And don't forget that as a candidate for mayor in 2007, Verner accused Mayor Dennis Hession of playing politics when he proposed rate freezes for 2008. Verner has said if former leaders hadn't balked at increases, she wouldn't be in the predicament of asking for boosts like the proposed 8 percent request for water.