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Spin Control

Baker, the county assessor, will face Republican challenger from his office

Ralph Baker takes the oath of office for Spokane County assessor on Tuesday afternoon, replacing Duane Sommers. 
 (Christopher Anderson/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Ralph Baker takes the oath of office for Spokane County assessor on Tuesday afternoon, replacing Duane Sommers. (Christopher Anderson/ / The Spokesman-Review)

Another Republican Spokane County officeholder will face a challenge within the party and within his office. But it appears this time the incumbent won't discipline his challenger.

Vicki Horton, a residential appraiser in the county assessor's office, filed paperwork this week with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicating that she will challenge her boss, Assessor Ralph Baker, in the August primary.

Last week, Deputy Prosecutor Dave Stevens, a Republican, announced he was challenging his boss, GOP Prosecutor Steve Tucker. Stevens criticized Tucker's leadership and referred to Tucker as "an absent administrator." Tucker placed Stevens on paid leave the next day.

Baker confirmed on Tuesday that he plans to run for reelection. When told by a reporter that Horton was running, Baker said: "That's great." He added that he was surprised she decided to pursue the office but that he had no reason to discipline her for running. Baker called Horton "a very good employee."

Horton, who is the union shop steward for the office, said Baker is "a very nice person," but added: "I have a few things I would like to see different."

She said the office needs a better relationship with other county departments, like the treasurer's and auditor's offices. Horton has been an appraiser in the office since 2001. Horton, 55, also is the former chief deputy assessor in Clearwater County, Idaho.

Baker, 57, said his goal for the office is to continue improving technology to help the office work more efficiently, especially because of recent layoffs.

"There is more to be done in the assessor's office that I can affect change on," he said.

This is the second time that Baker has faced a challenge from within his own party. In 2006, he won a close and bitter primary challenge against then-Spokane City Councilman Brad Stark.

Baker was appointed to the job in 2005 after serving as the chief deputy assessor for two years. He was elected to the position in 2006.

One Democrat also has entered the race.

Andrew Jackson, 47, a software programmer who lives in Spokane Valley, announced his bid last fall. He said he wants to improve morale and the office's interaction with the public.

Jackson is the son of Sally Jackson, a longtime Democratic activist who recently led a campaign to revoke Spokane Valley's status as a city. He pointed to his math and computer science degrees as well as former experience as a manager as evidence that he's ready to lead the assessor's office. He said he's met with former assessor employees, including former Assessor John McBride, about the duties of the job. This is Jackson's first run for office.

The assessor's office calculates property values, which are used by the county treasurer to determine how much people owe in property taxes.

(ABOVE PHOTO: Ralph Baker takes the oath of office for Spokane County assessor on Jan. 4, 2005, replacing Duane Sommers. Photo by Christopher Anderson, The Spokesman-Review.)

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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