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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Council Prez race: the good, the bad and the undecided

Map shows the "undervotes"  for Spokane City Council President in the Aug. 16 primary, based on ballot count of Aug. 18. (Jim Camden)
Map shows the "undervotes" for Spokane City Council President in the Aug. 16 primary, based on ballot count of Aug. 18. (Jim Camden)

The Spokane City Council President race would appear to be a toss up, particularly in many North Spokane precincts where a clear favorite has yet to emerge.
No duh, you might say, considering that winner Dennis Hession got only slightly more than a third of the vote in a four-person field.
But Spin Control does not make such prognostications lightly. Instead, we employ the very best of computer science and data analysis to confirm what you may already suspect: That Spokane voters seem less sure of their selection for the person to run council meetings for the next four years than the person to run the city.
Hey, some days, running the council is a real chore, but the city pretty much runs itself....

Incumbent Mary Verner did better than the rest of the field in the top race, almost everywhere in the city. The top two finishers for council president, Hession and Ben Stuckart, each had bases of strong support in South Spokane, where they won clear majorities in some precincts.
But north of Interstate 90, neither they nor third-place finisher Steve Corker claimed majorities in more than a handful of precincts.
Beyond that, there was a significant drop off in voting between the mayor’s race and the council president race. Almost four times as many voters left the president’s race blank compared to the mayor’s race.
Maybe they didn’t like any of their choices. Maybe they didn’t know any of their choices. Maybe they didn’t know or care about the job. After all, everyone can hazard a guess at what the mayor should do. Not necessarily so with the council president job.
But the “I don’t know/care” numbers – technically known as undervotes – reached 10 percent of the voters in some precincts.
The bottom line is that November’s general election could go to the council president candidate who works hardest in north Spokane between Francis Avenue and the river, and who gives the marginally motivated voters a reason to fill in the circle next to his name. The reward: The right to tell folks at the microphone during council meetings that their time is up, stop talking and sit down.
Properly exercised, it’s kind of like a superpower.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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