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Carpetbaggery, Part 2

Thursday’s post challenging Councilman Bob Apple’s label of “carpetbagger” on a city judicial candidate brought more than a dozen comments, including one from Apple himself.

” I honestly believe any body still considers an elected official who would literaly refuse to live in the area they are elected for would qualify as a carpetbagger. Now Mrs Staab wants us to, elect her as a Spokane City Municipal Court Judge and only hearing cases of Spokane City residents however will not reside within our City as Brian Whitaker dose and as a result, he has my vote. Honestly I cannot imagine voting any other way concerning this simple question.” he wrote.

To save occasional readers from scrolling down, the Reader’s Digest version of this discussion goes like this: Judge Tracy Staab, who is seeking election to the position to which she was appointed earlier this year, lives outside the city limits in Spokane County. The law allows that, although Apple and some others think that regardless of what the law allows, Staab ought not to hold the post. In an e-mail, to constituents and others last week, Apple said he was voting for her opponent, Bryan Whitaker, because she’s a carpetbagger.

The term carpetbagger dates to the 19th Century and  comes from a description of outsiders who move into an area to take advantage of something, such as a political race. It doesn’t apply to Staab, the post argued.

In his rebuttal, Apple makes two interesting arguments. One is that she would “literally refuse to live in the city”. Ignoring for a moment the all too common misuse of literally, Apple seems to be suggesting that Staab should move from the county to the city to be eligible for the job.

That would actually be carpetbagging, because she’d be moving in an attempt to get elected.

The other argument is that he’s using the word properly because under his definition, which he believes is acceptable to “anybody”, that’s what a carpetbagger is.

That’s the argument Humpty Dumpty made to Alice, that a word “means just what I choose it to mean, nothing more nor less.”

But on this side of the looking glass, words mean what they mean.

Should Apple be called on the carpet?

Is it too much to ask that people who hurl political epithets during campaign season at least get them right?

OK, that was a stupid question. It probably is. But still…

In an e-mail to constituents last week, Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple described whom he is endorsing for various city elected positions this year, and how he’s voting on several ballot measures. No big deal. Apple has the same right as everyone else, and has no less right to an opinion by being elected to the council.

At least one reader e-mailed his objections, questioning whether Apple was out of line for his endorsement of judicial candidate Bryan Whitaker – not for anything nice he said about Whitaker but for a label he hung on opponent, Municipal Judge Tracy Staab.


The reader suggested it was libelous, which it probably isn’t on its face. It’s a political term in the midst of a campaign, and political speech is among the most protected by the courts.

Being legally protected, however, doesn’t make it correct…

Liner notes from the Supremes on muni court race

The state Supreme Court’s ruling that district court judges had the right to hear City of Spokane cases is a big relief for the folks at City Hall. But it has a little boost for one of the municipal court judges face election this November, also.

Judge Tracy Staab has drawn criticism from some quarters for not being a city resident. That’s didn’t faze the mayor or the City Council when she was appointed, but it recently drew crticism from the Spokane County Republican Party.

High court ruling reiterates the legislative standard that a judge doesn’t have to be from the city limits, but only city voters get to elect them:

“From its inception, the statutory scheme governing municipal departments provided specific procedures by which they could be staffed with judges … The statute did not limit who was eligible to be appointed or elected, but only city voters could vote for municipal judges.”

GOP memo ponders Staab’s political leanings

The debate over Municipal Court Judge Tracy Staab’s residency isn’t going away.

A memo circulated with local GOP leaders indicates that Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, who is active in the party, has questioned the party’s decision to oppose Staab’s candidacy.

Party leaders formally opposed Staab’s attempt to retain her judgeship in the November election because she lives outside the city. Spokane Municipal Court judges rule only on cases from within city limits, but state law allows the judges to live outside the borders – as long as they live in the same county.

County GOP knocks Staab

Spokane Municipal Court races are non partisan, but the County Republican Party is weighing in on one of the races and criticizing Judge Tracy Staab.

The GOP’s problem with Staab is not judicial activism or any decision she’s made. Instead, it’s residence.

As in, Staab doesn’t live in the city. The county executive board concluded at a recent meeting that “a municipal court jduge, like any other elected office, should be required to live within the position’s respective jurisdiction.”

This issue came up when Mayor Mary Verner nominated Staab for the newly created seat on the bench. Councilman Bob Apple voted against her, saying he thought the judges should live in the city, but all the other councilmembers voted for her and she got the appointment.

Staab is the only appointed municipal judge to draw a challenger in the election. She faces Bryan Whitaker.

GOP didn’t say whether it’s endorsing Whitaker…just that it’s opposing Staab.