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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Local government

Wrapping up the races: Tuesday’s off-year election to decide city council contests

First-time voter Rachel Howard, 21, a Gonzaga University student, places her election ballot in a ballot box outside the downtown Spokane Public Library on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. The state is considering strategies to increase voter turnout, including a proposal that would allow voters to register the day of an election. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
First-time voter Rachel Howard, 21, a Gonzaga University student, places her election ballot in a ballot box outside the downtown Spokane Public Library on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. The state is considering strategies to increase voter turnout, including a proposal that would allow voters to register the day of an election. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Voters in Spokane County’s two largest cities have council spots to fill and some of the smaller cities’ voters have mayors on the ballot for Tuesday’s off-year election.

Many ballots also include races for school boards, fire districts and other elective positions, and all county voters have a judicial race on their ballot.

Voters in some northern Spokane County precincts, along with voters in much of northeast Washington, have a pair of legislative races to decide.

Across the border in North Idaho, Coeur d’Alene has a municipal election but the mayor and three council members are unopposed on that city’s ballot. Post Falls has a six-person race for one council seat, but the mayor and two other seats are unopposed.

It’s an off-year election. Washington has no statewide offices up for election, and no initiatives or referenda. Voters do have three Advisory Votes on tax increases the Legislature approved this year, but lawmakers aren’t bound by those results.

The race that likely will have the biggest state impact isn’t on ballots in Spokane. It’s in suburban King County, where the winner of the 45th District Senate race will determine whether Republicans retain their one-seat majority in the Senate or control flips to Democrats. A handful of other legislative races are scattered around Washington, but are in districts usually considered safe for one party or the other.

Turnout so far is light, with only about 18 percent of Spokane County’s ballots, and 15 percent statewide, returned as of Friday. An off-year election the year after a presidential race typically has between 45 percent and 55 percent of voters turning in ballots.

The city of Spokane has a ballot measure that seeks to put restrictions on rail shipments of oil or coal through downtown, near schools, hospitals or the Spokane River. Supporters say it’s a way to get safer rail traffic through the city; opponents argue it’s illegal and trying to enforce it would generate lawsuits from the railroads.

The city has three council seats on the ballot, one in each of its districts. Incumbent Candace Mumm, an executive for a real estate investment company, faces a challenge from restaurant owner Matthew Howes in the Northwest District. Incumbent Breann Beggs, an attorney, faces communications consultant Andy Dunau in the South District. Tim Benn, the co-owner of a day care center, faces legislative aide Kate Burke for the open seat in the Northeast District.

City voters also have a municipal judgeship on the ballot that features Tracy Staab, who was appointed to an open seat on the court, against Adam Papini, a member of the city prosecutor’s office.

All county voters have a Superior Court seat to decide. Tony Hazel, a former deputy prosecutor appointed to an open seat earlier this year, faces public defender Jocelyn Cook for the right to fill out the term of the late Sam Cozza, who died early this year.

The city of Spokane Valley, where council members are elected at-large, has five of its seven council seats on the ballot, three of them a result of appointments after resignations last year.

Rod Higgins, who serves as mayor through the selection of his fellow councilmembers, faces Chris Jackson, a community college adjunct instructor. First-term incumbent Ed Pace, a minister, faces information technology manager Ben Wick.

Postal carrier Caleb Collier, appointed to an open seat last year, faces office manager Brandi Peetz. Day care operator Pamela Haley, another appointee, faces Angie Beem, a former hospital laboratory worker. A third appointee, construction company president Mike Munch, faces Linda Thompson, executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council.

Northeast Washington’s 7th Legislative District has a pair of off-year elections, prompted indirectly by President Donald Trump’s election. The district’s state senator, Brian Dansel, was a strong Trump supporter during the 2016 campaign, and accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture early this year. Shelly Short, who was one of the district’s state representatives, was appointed to Dansel’s seat and Short’s legislative aide, Jacquelin Maycumber, was appointed to the House seat.

For the first time in years, both Republican incumbents face Democratic challengers. Karen Hardy, a ranch teamster and former airline operations manager, is challenging Short. Susan Swanson, a retired federal employee and Navy veteran, is running against Maycumber.

All of the county’s cities and towns have some council races on their ballot. Cheney, Deer Park, Fairfield, Latah, Medical Lake, Millwood, Rockford and Waverly also have mayoral races. Many of those positions are uncontested, as are some school board and fire district races, so the main challenge would be from a write-in campaign.

Ballots should have arrived in the mail about two weeks ago for all of the state’s 4.2 million voters and must be postmarked or deposited in a drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Registered voters who didn’t receive a ballot should call their county elections office for a replacement. In Spokane County, that number is (509) 477-2320.

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