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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: One-term curse has ended, but Spokane politics won’t let me down

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 4, 2015

Doug Clark and Ian Robertson visit with Spokane Mayor David Condon before election results were announced, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at the Barrister Winery.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Clark and Ian Robertson visit with Spokane Mayor David Condon before election results were announced, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at the Barrister Winery. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane’s famed Curse of the One-Term Mayor officially expired about 8:26 p.m. Tuesday, according to my semitrusty Omega Seamaster.

It came with the release of ballot results and a rather boisterous declaration from the curse-breaking benefactor.

“This is an amazing night for Spokane,” hollered Mayor David Condon from his podium inside the tony Barrister Winery, where a gaggle of well-dressed Republican-oriented supporters had come to sip away their election night.

“The one-term mayor is over.”

And so it ends, one of the great quirky discrepancies about my hometown.

Up until this moment we hadn’t re-elected a mayor since 1973, the year I married my lovely wife, Sherry.

The curse made us a bit more interesting than other burgs. I never saw it as a particularly partisan thing. To me, the curse mirrored Spokane’s cantankerous independence, our dissatisfaction for the status quo and itch for the next better thing.

“Throw the bums out!” as my Old Man loved to say.

Jonathan Ferraiuolo, the guy standing next to me, leaned into my airspace.

“What are you gonna write about now, Doug?” he asked with a smirk.

Jonathan. Jonathan. Surely you jest.

Have you been reading the news lately?

The ex-police chief is suing the city for $4 million. There’s that sexual assault case involving off-duty cops. Half the streets are more pockmarked than a Basque goat trail …

And by my post-election count, Condon now must deal with a 6-to-1 leftist City Council.

Seems like a topic-rich environment to me.

Not to rain on the mayor’s leaky umbrella, but this victory is not quite up there with scaling Everest sans oxygen.

Gotta be real.

Condon vs. Shar Lichty? This was a worse mismatch than Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield’s right ear.

The mayor poleaxed a candidate with no funds, no machine and even less political savvy: 62 percent to 37 percent.

Quite frankly, I’m rather shocked she did that well.

Election nights are such fun.

The Clark Pundit Posse rolled, as promised, spending time at the most prominent political lairs. With me were my faithful bodyguards, Joe Brasch and Scott Cooper, plus Ian Robertson – the lucky winner in my Join the Posse contest.

Picking Robertson was a no-brainer. He had me at the voice mail he left Tuesday morning.

“This is Ian Rrrrrroberrrrtson,” he said, rolling his “Rs” in a melodious brogue. “You need a Scotsman on your posse and I’d love to join you.”

Be still my heart. Robertson sounded like Sean Connery. “You’re in,” I told him later. “I could listen to you read the phone book all night.”

He was a pleasant addition to our gang. Robertson, 78, is a retired pastor who has friends on both sides of the political spectrum.

The Spokane Valley man said he serves on two of Condon’s committees and also works with Council President Ben Stuckart on other causes.

Robertson said he grew up near Stirling, one of my all-time favorite Scottish cities. He migrated to the United States at age 21, played trumpet and once worked on the Trident Missile program.

“America’s been good to me,” he said.

This Scot has obviously been good for America.

“I actually don’t play the bagpipes,” he said with a laugh. “I just threaten to.”

First stop: The Lincoln Center, where Democrats were waiting for returns in the Landau Room, a modest enclave on the second floor.

“The whole race has been a blur,” said Lichty, who at this time was still upbeat and optimistic.

Lichty has two interesting Japanese characters tattooed on one side of her upper neck. For the sake of transparency I asked what they meant.

“Purpose” and “Dreams,” she explained.

This woman has guts.

I’ve heard horror stories about the translation problems that can occur when getting a foreign-language tattoo.

With my luck, I’d ink something I thought meant “peace and love” only to discover that I had permanently etched myself with “rancid kimchi no good.”

Stuckart arrived a moment later. He was upbeat but with solid reason. Less than an hour later, he, like Condon, would be whooping it up in the winner’s circle.

Just like the mayor, however, Stuckart’s clobbering of John Ahern (63 percent to 36 percent) was mountain lion vs. chipmunk.

There’s no word yet whether Ahern will demand a recount.

Come on. Spokane deserves better matches.

I asked Stuckart if, considering the recent police department scandals, he harbored any regrets about not running against Condon like everyone once thought he would do.

“In politics you can never be looking in the rear-view mirror,” the council president said in a tone that suggested he’d been doing just that.

All in all, this mayoral election was one for the ages, and not just because of the curse, either.

Slap me silly, and call me Alice. But Condon actually thanked me by name in his victory speech.

Saying even he didn’t believe he was about to say what he was about to say, Condon declared “Thank you to Doug Clark” for helping him “overcome the image of Boy Mayor.”

Boy Mayor is the nickname I bestowed on Condon shortly after he took office. It came about when I read somewhere that he was the second-youngest mayor in Spokane history.

Four years later I probably can’t call him that anymore.

But what?

Mayor Curse Breaker? Mayor Gridlock? Mayor Lame Duck?

No worries, David. You’ve bought another four years. I’ll come up with something.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or

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