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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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District 3 candidates distinctly different

Two City Council candidates running in District 3 of northwest Spokane are giving voters a distinct choice in the Nov. 8 election.

The race features a practiced political veteran against an energetic neighborhood activist; the tall, silver-maned Steve Corker vs. the perky and engaging Nancy McLaughlin.

“I guess I’m refreshingly new,” McLaughlin said last week.

Corker said, “The last thing the council needs is a new face.” He pointed out that the council next year will only have one or two members with four years of experience. “Do you want a new fresh choice, or do you want someone with experience?”

The winner will replace two-term Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers, who is prevented from running under the city’s term limit law. Joe Shogan, elected two years ago, is the district’s other council representative.

Corker, 64, is a longtime Democrat. McLaughlin, 47, is a Republican precinct committee officer. The office is nonpartisan.

Experience could be a significant issue.

The council currently has four members with less than two years in office and two others finishing their fourth years.

A successful recall against Mayor Jim West on Dec. 6 may result in one of those council members being elevated to mayor, leaving another opening on the council.

McLaughlin points out she has substantial experience working with her neighbors in fighting off a gang problem in her area in 1995 and in resolving a controversy surrounding an unpopular former principal of Madison Elementary School, near where she lives.

“I was able to bring about collaboration among parents and teachers,” she said during a recent League of Women Voters forum.

“We can move forward. We don’t have to move backward,” she continued.

The candidates are not engaging in direct attacks, but are calling attention to the distinctions between them.

“Nancy is a good campaigner,” Corker said, but moments later he questioned her background as a church-going opponent of extending city benefits to unmarried partners of employees.

“I don’t know where she is coming from,” Corker said. “How many times do we have legislation that deals with pro-life, pro-choice, the war in Iraq… .”

Getting control of the city budget, maintaining public safety services and looking at the possibility of regional government are more important, Corker said.

In addition to values and integrity in government, McLaughlin is emphasizing the need for more jobs and a strong economy.

McLaughlin is a member of the Rock of Ages Christian Fellowship and worked last spring on an unsuccessful referendum seeking to overturn the council’s domestic partners benefits ordinance.

Corker said he supports domestic partner benefits as a matter of fairness.

McLaughlin pointed out that Corker was a member of the City Council during some of its most contentious years from 2000 through 2003 and “didn’t do much to keep the contention under control.”

The issue that pervaded the council during those years was the city’s participation in redevelopment of River Park Square and its costly parking garage.

“I don’t have the 41 years of experience Steve Corker has,” McLaughlin said.

Corker’s experience includes a position on the board of the now-bankrupt Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co. During his campaign for council in 1999, Corker took contributions from political action committees under former Metropolitan CEO C. Paul Sandifur Jr.

Corker resigned from the Metropolitan board in 2004 pending the bankruptcy.

He is engaged to and has lived for the past two years with Helen Sandifur, who divorced Sandifur Jr. in 2004.

McLaughlin is married.

Corker gave up the chance for re-election to the City Council in 2003 and ran for mayor, losing in the primary election.

He is now working actively on the recall campaign against West. Not only did he sign the recall petition, but he helped gather some of the 17,434 signatures that were used to qualify the recall for the ballot. “I think the attitude is enough is enough,” Corker said of West using his office for personal benefit.

McLaughlin, too, said West should go. She signed the petition and will vote in favor of recall. “I strongly believe we need characters of high moral integrity,” she said, and after news reports of West’s personal behavior were published in May, “things changed.”

Corker and McLaughlin are taking opposite stands on this fall’s tax issues. The City Council, at the request of the mayor, is asking voters to increase the regular property tax lid by $3.3 million to close a $6 million cash shortfall expected for 2006 and to avoid loss of dozens of police and fire officers. The mayor is also asking for an increase in the city utility tax from 17 percent to 20 percent. Both increases would be for two years.

McLaughlin said she will vote against the levy increase, even though she supports sending the issue to voters. She is also against the utility tax increase. “Citizens have reached a saturation point,” she said.

Corker said he is supporting the tax proposals to give the city time to solve its budget problems without having to make another round of cuts in essential services. “We can’t close two (fire) stations,” he said.

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