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Allen wins second count, but a third awaits

Former Councilman Mike Allen's lead over incumbent Richard Rush grew by three to 91 on Wednesday after a recount of the Spokane City Council election for the city's south district.

The race was recounted by machine because the result from the first count was within half of 1 percentage point. Rush said he still plans to pursue a hand recount, which the Spokane County Democratic Party has agreed to finance.

Results of a hand recount in the 4th Legislative District senate race, which also was completed Wednesday and was paid for by candidate Jeff Baxter, may not give Rush much hope for much change.

Baxter paid more than $1,700 to have 10 precincts recounted in his race against state Sen. Mike Padden. Election workers who tallied the ballots Wednesday morning found two errors. Baxter lost a vote, and one vote that had been counted as blank was changed to a write-in, for the candidate “N/A.”

In the Rush-Allen race, Rush's tally was found to be too high by two and Allen gained a vote after a ballot that had been counted as blank was found to have been marked for Allen.

Election Manager Mike McLaughlin said he can't say for sure why Rush's count fell by two. One possibility is that after paper jams occurred in the machines, ballots that already had been counted may have been sent through a second time, he said.

Each campaign involved in the two recounts had observers at the Elections Office.

Baxter lost to Padden by 3,638 votes. He said he paid for the recount with his personal money and did so because results in some precincts conflicted with data campaign workers collected when going door-to-door. The outcome hints that in a future race volunteers need to do a better job reaching voters when they're home, he said.

“I didn't think anything insidious was going on,” Baxter said. “I'm just saying that we need to work a little harder in different precincts.”

Baxter said he hasn't decided if he will run again next year.

Last week, Rush indicated that Baxter may have paid for a recount to prevent Rush's race from being recounted by hand. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton originally requested that the City Council race be counted by hand to test new scanners in the county's voting machines. But she changed course after Baxter opted to pay for a recount in his race.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with his race,” Baxter said. “I don't have the time to be playing those games.”

Mapping the Undervotes in 4th Senate race

A hand recount of 10 precincts in the state Senate race between Mike Padden and Jeff Baxter gets underway on Wednesday. Baxter, who is paying for the recount, won't say at this point why he's seeking the recount.

But there is one unusual thing about the race. Well, one unusual thing beyond the fact that the race had two Republicans and takes place in an odd-numbered year.

That is the level of “undervotes”, which is what elections officials call a ballot that has no candidate marked for that particular race. About one 4th District voter in five, or 7,900, didn't pick a candidate in the race.

By comparison, only 765 voters in all of Spokane County didn't pick a side on the Initiative 1183, which ended the state's monopoly on liquor sales. OK, so that may not be a fair comparison, because one is about something really important, like booze, and the other…well, you know.

One key factor may have been the lack of a Democratic candidate. Some Ds might've just been unable to mark their ballots for an R when they got to that race.

But the map above shows where undervotes were heaviest, and they aren't all in traditionally Democratic precincts. Nor do they coincide with the precincts that Baxter has asked to be recounted: 4016, 4025, 4026, 4200, 4404, 4406, 4408, 4418, 4426 and 4436.

For a more detailed (and in most cases easier to read) version of the above map, click on the document link below.


Documents:

Recounts moved to Wednesday

Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said this afternoon that sorting ballots for recounting took longer than expected.

Therefore, the Spokane City Council recount between Richard Rush and Mike Allen and the 4th Legislative District Senate race between Jeff Baxter and Mike Padden won't start until 9 a.m. Wednesday, he said. County should be complete by 1 p.m., when the Spokane County Canvassing Board meets to certify the new results.

Recounts start Tuesday

Spokane County election officials expect to start and complete on Tuesday the first two of the three recounts they need to complete to finish work from the November election.

Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said the office plans to count the ballots from the Spokane City Council race between Richard Rush and Mike Allen and the 4th Legislative District senate race between Mike Padden and Jeff Baxter starting around 9 a.m.

The Rush-Allen recount will be completed by computer and is required because the race ended with the two candidates within a half percentage point. The senate recount will be completed manually because it was paid for by Baxter.

After this set of results is complete and the Canvassing Board meets on Wednesday, the Allen-Rush hand recount, which is being financed by the Spokane County Democratic Party, can begin.

Rush trails Allen by 88 votes.

Baxter trails Padden by 3,437 votes.

Baxter pays for recount

Former state Sen. Jeff Baxter is paying for a partial recount of ballots in his unsuccessful bid to retain his Spokane Valley seat despite losing the race by more than 3,400 votes.

Baxter’s opponent in the contest, Mike Padden, was sworn in as senator representing the 4th Legislative District on Tuesday soon after the Spokane County Canvassing Board certified the results.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said Baxter submitted a check for $1,174 to recount 10 precincts. She said he was required to make a down payment of 25 cents per ballot. He will get a refund if the cost of the recount is less.

Baxter, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year, lost it in the November election by 3,437 votes after garnering only 45 percent of the vote.

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Baxter declined to comment when asked if he thought the race was fair. He noted that state law doesn’t require candidates to say why they are asking for a recount and said he would answer questions after a recount is completed.

Mike Padden, who was in the middle of his second day as the 4th District’s new state senator Tuesday afternoon, said he had just been informed that Baxter had asked for a recount but didn’t know “what his rationale is.”

“The vote was pretty overwhelming. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Padden said.

“There is a high undervote,” he said, referring to the term used for a ballot that had no candidate marked for that race. “But you’d expect a high undervote when there’s no Democrat in the race.”


Documents:

4th District will get new senator on Day 2 of session

Because of a quirk in state law, Spokane’s 4th Legislative District will have one senator for the first day of the upcoming special session, and a different senator for the rest of it.
Republican Mike Padden is the apparent winner of the race to fill a seat that came open earlier this year when veteran Sen. Bob McCaslin resigned for health reasons. Padden has a mathematically insurmountable lead over Jeff Baxter, a fellow Republican appointed to the seat earlier this year.
Padden, a former state representative and district judge, leads Baxter by 3,628 votes. The Spokane County elections office estimates there are fewer than 3,000 votes left to count in the 4th District.
  

AWB endorses Baxter

OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business endorsed Jeff Baxter Friday in the race for the state Senate seat in Spokane Valley's 4th District.

The AWB is meeting this week at Suncadia lodge — a resort near Cle Elum — for its annual “policy summit”. Among the policies are endorsements…mostly for initiatives in this odd-year election.

But with a contest between two Republicans in the 4th, the group went with the incumbent Baxter, who was appointed to the seat this winter after Bob McCaslin retired for health reasons. He faces another Republican, former state Rep. and County District Judge Mike Padden in November because no Democrats got into the race.

The AWB said it was backing Baxter because of his business experience. “The private sector needs to lead our economic recovery efforts,” the group said.

Legislative pay cut: Some say yes, some say no

OLYMPIA – About half of the 15 members of the Spokane-area legislative delegation have volunteered for the same level of pay cuts the imposed on state workers. That’s a level slightly better than legislators statewide.

Many who have done it, like Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, say it’s a personal decision.

“As a businessman, the buck starts and stops with me,” said Parker, who owns a chain of coffee shops. “It’s the same with us as legislators.”

Parker’s seatmate in Spokane’s 6th District, Republican John Ahern, said he doesn’t plan to ask for a pay cut, but he is donating 3 percent or more to charities, ranging from his church and the Boy Scouts to organizations that oppose abortion like Teen-Aid.

“This way I know exactly where the money is going,” Ahern said. If he took a pay cut, the money would stay in the state’s general fund, and go to state programs or agencies he doesn’t support….

To read the rest of this item, or for a list of the Spokane-area delegation's decisions on a voluntary pay cut, click here to go inside the blog
  

Baxter teeing up the ball

State Sen. Jeff Baxter is holding a campaign kickoff Wednesday night at the Mirabeau Park Hotel.

This may seem a bit late, considering Baxter announced more than a month ago he was running for the seat to which he was appointed after Bob McCaslin retired. And he filed for the seat about two weeks ago. In football, after all, the kickoff happens at the beginning of the game, not sometime in the middle of the first quarter.

Regardless, he'll have appearances by some name Republican supporters, including Sens. Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, the Senate minority leader, Sen. Mike Baumgartner of Spokane and Rep. Matt Shea of the Spokane Valley. It starts at 6:30 p.m.

Name supporters are a factor in this race between Baxter and former state Rep. and District Judge Mike Padden, who has the support of state Rep. Larry Crouse and former state Rep. Lynn Schindler, as well as McCaslin's endorsement before he died.

Both candidates are Republicans. There's no primary, not because of that, but because there's only two of them in the race.

Baxter to run for Senate seat

OLYMPIA — RepublicanJeff Baxter will run in this year's special election in an effort to keep the state Senate seat he now holds by appointment.

Baxter announced today that he will seek election to the Spokane Valley's 4th Legislative District seat. He was appointed to the post earlier this year by Spokane County commissioners after Sen. Bob McCaslin announced his resignation after 30 years because of health problems.

Immediately after taking office, Baxter said he was uncertain whether he would run for the post later in the year: “I just got here. Give me a couple days or weeks.” Tuesday he said  he was “committed to continuing to represent Spokan County residents during this challenging time.

Baxter, 50, is a Spokane Valley businessman who owns three companies connected to bank cards.

Already in the race is Mike Padden, a former state representative and former Spokane County district judge.

WA Lege Day 47: The razzing continues

OLYMPIA — Spokane-area freshmen senators continue to get razzed even when they aren't making their first floor speeches.

More senior members were joking around the Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, during the vote on his first bill, when they observed it was hard to tell all these  young faces apart. Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, suggested that they be regarded as the Spice Boys, with Hill as Baby Spice and Mike Baumgartner of Spokane as Sexy Spice in honor of his appearance in a list in The Inlander.

And what about the guy sitting at Sen. Bob McCaslin's desk, he was asked. That's Old Spice,” Hobbs said of recently appointed 4th District Sen.Jeff Baxter.

Everyone was politicking…not that there’s anything wrong with that

Now that most dust has settled from filling the Spokane Valley’s 4th District Senate seat, it may be safe to answer the question of who was guilty of committing politics to fill that spot.

Answer: Everyone.

While it’s generally true if everyone’s guilty, no one can claim the moral high ground, the problem seems to be that some people don’t like to be thought of as resorting to politics to get what they want. They believe there’s something inherently evil or icky about it. For them, here are two words of advice:

Grow up… .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Baxter: Shocked, honored, thrilled

Diane Baxter adjusts the flag pin on her husband Jeff Baxter's lapel before he is sworn in Monday.

OLYMPIA – As he paused from unpacking books Monday onto mostly empty shelves above a mostly empty desk in his mostly empty office, the Spokane-area’s newest senator reflected on the last month: “It’s been a whirlwind.”
In 30 days, Jeff Baxter went from being a Valley businessman active in local GOP politics, to a nominee for an open seat, to taking the oath of office in the Senate chamber. He got his assignments – Judiciary, Human Services and the budget-writing Ways and Means committees – met with Gov. Chris Gregoire and began getting acclimated with the Capitol.
He’s hardly had time to catch his breath since Friday afternoon, when he almost missed the Spokane County commissioners’ appoint him to replace 30-year-veteran Bob McCaslin. It took so long to find a parking space near the courthouse that he and his wife Diane were just walking in the hearing room when he heard one commissioner make a motion to appoint him, another second it and the third vote yes.
“By the time I got to my seat, I was a senator,” he said. “I was shocked. I’m honored. I’m thrilled.”
  

To read the rest of this item, click here and go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 36: Baxter sworn in

OLYMPIA — Wasting no time after being named to the open 4th District Senate seat Friday evening, Jeff Baxter was sworn in Monday morning in a brief ceremony before the day's session got underway.

With his wife Diane holding the family Bible, Baxter took the oath of office administered by State Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson while other senators from the Spokane delegation as well as State Rep. Matt Shea looked on.

Baxter was given some heavy lifting, drawing assignments to the Ways and Means, Judiciary and Human Services and Corrections committees.

Baxter named to 4th District Senate seat

Bulletin: Republican District Leader and small businessman Jeff Baxter was named to replace state Sen. Bob McCaslin this afternoon by Spokane County Commissioners.

My colleague John Craig has full details here, but not everyone who reads Spin Control checks The Spokesman-Review's Web page, so we thought we'd give him a plug.

Commissioners to fill McCaslin’s senate seat by March

Spokane County Commissioners said yesterday that they will do background checks and have requested more information on the three men up for consideration to fill Bob McCaslin's vacant senate seat. He resigned Jan. 5 for health reasons.

The 4th legislative district precinct committee officers met over the weekend and voted to forward three names to the commissioners: Rep. Matt Shea and district leaders Jeff Baxter and Roy Murry.

Read John Craig's story for more information on the three men and the appointment process.