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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Local government

Early endorsements stack up for mayoral candidates

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 26, 2018

By Rebecca White and Kip Hill The Spokesman-Review

Three candidates have already announced intentions to replace outgoing Mayor David Condon, but it will be almost a year before their names show up on the ballot.

City Council President Ben Stuckart has long eyed the mayor’s office, first announcing his plans to run shortly after Condon won a historic second term. Shawn Poole, seen as a favorite of political conservatives in town, announced his intention to run earlier this year in what will be his first campaign for public office.

Chris Schroll, a progressive and recent Eastern Washington University graduate, has also announced his candidacy, but hasn’t obtained endorsements yet.

Stuckart, who has garnered the support of both business interests and progressive leaders in Spokane, is endorsed by two former colleagues who were seen as allies of the more conservative Mayor David Condon.

Steve Salvatori, who served on the Spokane City Council from 2011 to 2014, said his decision to back Stuckart in the 2019 race wasn’t made lightly.

“I have faith in Ben,” Salvatori said. “I think he will always do what he thinks is best for the city of Spokane.”

Both Salvatori and Mike Allen, a council member from 2007 to 2009 and again from 2011 to 2015, said they didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Stuckart politically. But they believed he would hit the ground running in the job, having worked with city staff and other elected officials for eight years.

“The city has been on a pretty good run for the past eight years,” Allen said. “I would say it’s not time to rock the boat, so to speak, but follow through with what we’ve done.”

Poole, a Spokane Fire Department lieutenant and retired U.S. Army colonel, has been endorsed by several local Republicans, including 6th District Senator-elect Jeff Holy. A former police officer himself, Holy said Poole had a front-line understanding of public safety that he hasn’t seen in the mayor’s office in years. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who was rumored to be a potential candidate as well at one point, also threw his support behind Poole, as has Jenny Graham, who is about a percentage point ahead of her opponent Dave Wilson in the race for the 6th District House seat.

Poole said that he is also seeking Condon’s support, citing the mayor’s two terms in office and Army background.

Stuckart said he is not seeking Condon’s endorsement.

“I think we work really well on certain issues,” Stuckart said in an interview earlier this month. “I’m not actively seeking it. I think we have very different philosophies on how City Hall should be run.”

Stuckart didn’t jump into Condon’s re-election contest in 2015, instead choosing to run once more for the head of Spokane’s City Council in an election cycle that saw the panel retain a veto-proof majority lined up behind the council president. That has allowed Stuckart to push some policies Condon has come out against, most recently a push for the city to commit exclusively to renewable sources of energy and legislation intended to curb U.S. Border Patrol operations at the intermodal center.

While Poole is the only candidate with conservative backing to have formerly filed for the mayor’s seat, several local officials have been waiting to see if Kevin Parker, the owner of seven Dutch Bros. coffee shops and former state representative, or county treasurer-elect and state Sen. Michael Baumgartner will announce plans to run for the office.

Robin Ball, chair of the Spokane County GOP party, said she has not heard that Baumgartner or Parker intended to get involved in city politics, though she has hoped Parker would run for mayor for years. She said the only conservative candidate she has seen take serious steps toward running for mayor is Poole.

Stuckart said that if elected, he hoped to address homelessness, affordable housing and property crime. He said at least seven more police officers were needed downtown and more detectives, as well as patrol officers, were needed throughout Spokane.

He said he plans to focus on longer-term solutions to homelessness by improving access to affordable housing, and hopes to discuss density and urban planning issues, which could create long-term solutions to housing shortages.

Poole said he would like to see more results from money spent on shelters, like the House of Charity. He said he would prefer city dollars went to shelters like Union Gospel Mission, which require residents to be clean and sober. He described his homelessness policy as a “hand up, not a handout,” and said people should be working to get off drugs to receive services.

“Homelessness isn’t a business, it’s an epidemic,” he said. “But there should still be returns.”

Poole said he would eliminate “fraud, waste and abuse” in city government, starting with eliminating the use of city cellphones, vehicles, gas cards and laptops government employees use for work, except for critical positions. He said when he was in the military, he often paid for his own tickets to his station in Hawaii and civil servants should be willing to make some sacrifices.

“An average citizen of Spokane doesn’t get a company car or an expense account,” he said.

Schroll said he doesn’t yet have a lot of political experience, but was involved in student athlete government at EWU and staged an unsuccessful run for Spokane County Democrats chair. He has worked in the marijuana industry and works as a marketing coordinator for Flash’s Auto Body & Paint.

If elected, he said, he would realign many of the city’s priorities. He said he has seen the city make expenditures that don’t help the average citizens of Spokane, such as the $450,000 #HackingWashington campaign to encourage people from Seattle or California to move to Spokane, or the $305,000 purchase of a BearCat armored vehicle, which he said could have been spent on improving the lives of people who already live in Spokane by investing in affordable housing or police officers.

Editor’s note: This story was changed on Nov. 26, 2018 to correct an error. Michael Baumgartner remains a senator. His term in the Legislature ends at the end of 2018.

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