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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New 7th District senator selected

Colville-area farmer named to succeed Morton

A Colville-area farmer and businessman was named on Thursday to succeed retiring GOP state Sen. Bob Morton, who served 22 years from Washington’s 7th Legislative District.

John Smith, a Republican, won 13 out of 15 votes from county commissioners, who gathered in Colville on Thursday to make the appointment for the two years remaining on Morton’s term in the Senate.

Morton’s retirement on Tuesday set into motion a series of steps required to select a replacement.

Smith, 39, was among three finalists chosen earlier by precinct committee officers.

The sprawling 7th District covers Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties; the bulk of Okanogan County; and the northern part of Spokane County.

All 15 commissioners from the five counties convened Thursday afternoon for interviews and the selection. Two commissioners abstained from voting.

Smith and his wife, Dezarae, run a produce farm and cattle ranch on property north of Colville near the Canadian border.

They operate the Colville Farmers Market and sell produce there in season along with 40 other farms from the region, Smith said.

Smith is vice chairman of the Stevens County Republican Party through Saturday, when new party officers are scheduled to be elected.

He is a former president of the Colville Chamber of Commerce and currently is serving as chairman of the chamber’s business development committee.

His background is strong on issues related to agriculture and rural resources. “I have expertise in natural resource-based industry,” he said.

Smith said he will await assignment to Senate committees, but could bring his district’s perspective to natural resource legislation, including the issues involving water supply and availability.

He and his wife have two children, Abigail, 14, and Ethan, 9.

The other finalists were Josh Kerns, a legislative aide from the Spokane area, and Doug Simpson, a veteran political consultant from Colville.

Simpson told the assembled commissioners that he was willing to withdraw from consideration prior to a vote, according to Spokane County Commissioner Al French.

He told commissioners that he knew he did not have enough support to win the appointment, French said.