The Spokane Valley City Council may make a right turn if Ed Pace continues to strengthen his lead against incumbent Gary Schimmels. Schimmels led by three votes on election night, but two subsequent vote counts have pushed Pace into the lead by 420 votes as of Thursday night.
“I’m definitely pleased with this,” Pace said. “I worked hard. I ran to win.”
Pace holds conservative political views and while he doesn’t claim membership in the tea party, he said he is aligned with state Rep. Matt Shea’s Freedom Agenda. That agenda focuses on lower taxes, less government and gun rights.
Before the election Pace campaigned with appointed incumbent Rod Higgins and was endorsed by Councilmen Arne Woodard and Dean Grafos. The current council has worked hard to trim the budget in recent years and has held firm on not increasing property taxes.
Councilman Chuck Hafner, who supported Schimmels, said he’s concerned that there could be a new, more extreme focus on less government. He believes there should be leeway in the future to raise property taxes if it becomes necessary. “I would hope that it doesn’t get to the point where we don’t do what we’re doing now because of ultra-conservative views,” he said.
“I don’t know if I would go as far as putting it that way,” Pace said of the discussion of a new, conservative voting block. “Politically and ideologically we have a lot in common. That’s as far as I would take it.”
In the past Hafner said he didn’t think Pace had the necessary qualifications to serve on the council, but he’s willing to set that aside. “Sometimes you find out that your individual philosophies don’t mesh, but you work together,” Hafner said. “I have to believe that’s going to happen with Ed. It’s a matter of working together for the best.”
Pace said his first task will be to learn the city’s processes and procedures and “build relationships with some of the council members that didn’t want me to be elected so we can work as a team, because I’m committed to doing that.”
Meanwhile, Schimmels is contemplating the end of his time on the City Council, where he has served since the city incorporated in 2003. He said he was surprised by the number of people who filled about ballots but didn’t bother to vote in his race and other ouncil races.
The undervotes for his race were 2,882 or 17.8 percent of the total. The numbers only get worse in the other Spokane Valley council races, with a high of a 29 percent undervote for the race between Bill Bates and Fred Beaulac. “I’m really still shocked at the lack of voters,” he said.
Schimmels is waiting to see what the next few vote counts show. Spokane County still has 12,500 ballots to count. “I really don’t have anything more to say,” he said. “I did what I could.”