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

Long odds in 3rd District challenge to incumbent Marcus Riccelli

Republican Tom Taylor, left, vied to unseat Democratic state Rep. Marcus Riccelli. (Jonathan Brunt / SR)
By Emma Epperly For The Spokesman-Review

The battle for a state House seat representing central Spokane was sparked by an earlier run-in and social media conduct.

Incumbent Democrat Marcus Riccelli blocked his Republican challenger, Tom Taylor, on Facebook earlier this year after Taylor attacked commenters on Riccelli’s Facebook page.

Riccelli is seeking re-election for a fourth term as Spokane’s state legislative representative.

Riccelli was first elected to represent the 3rd Legislative District in 2012. Riccelli, the majority whip, served as Eastern Washington director for Sen. Maria Cantwell and as senior policy adviser for Lisa Brown when she was the state’s Senate majority leader.

Taylor is a recent graduate of Washington State University who is putting down roots in Spokane. He is currently unemployed, but said he is pursuing a rental property business with his wife. The two recently bought a home together in Spokane.

The race appears to be a lopsided contest: In the August primary, Riccelli took 65 percent of the vote, beating Taylor by 31 percentage points.

“I am building on a proven track record of success,” Riccelli said. “We are going to move forward creating jobs in Washington state, making sure we have accessible quality health care for everyone and continuing to fund quality education.”

Riccelli was the primary sponsor of legislation that funded the Washington State University medical school in Spokane. He worked on a bipartisan plan that won approval to expand the number of Spokane County commissioners from three to five.

“It’s fairly controversial, but it’s the right thing to do for our community, in my opinion. This will hopefully bring a better more responsible government,” said Riccelli.

Prior to Taylor announcing his candidacy, Riccelli said he blocked Taylor after Taylor made “inappropriate” remarks about an individual’s transgender child after the individual posted on Riccelli’s Facebook page. According to Riccelli, this was not the first time he received complaints about Taylor’s comments and personal messages to Riccelli supporters.

“I thought his comments were a breach of civil discourse,” said Riccelli, who said he does not remove negative comments on his page directed at himself.

After Taylor declared his candidacy, Riccelli unblocked Taylor on Facebook.

“While this may be a Facebook page, this does not mean that there aren’t rules of decency,” Riccelli said. “I think Spokane deserves a positive discourse and debate that is civil. I think that there are still rules of engagement.”

Taylor and his wife sent a cease-and-desist letter to Riccelli on July 6, stating that Riccelli had violated their 1st Amendment rights on Facebook by blocking and censoring comments.

Riccelli would like Taylor to “call me up” to discuss his concerns with Taylor’s social media conduct. Riccelli also said Taylor has not shown up to debates and forums about the race.

Taylor’s decision to run for office can be traced back to an interaction with Riccelli. Taylor complained that there was racial profiling occurring in the Washington state Attorney General’s Office. These claims were made informally.

“I felt that based on certain cases and instances before that I have noticed, at certain places that I can’t mention – I really wish I could – that they were exhibiting racial profiling,” said Taylor.

Taylor, who is white, said he and others he knows have been victims of racial profiling, but declined to provide specifics. He said he eventually complained to the governor’s office and to Riccelli and state Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, about his concerns and problems he experienced when filing public records requests..

“They dismissed it outright,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he was so frustrated by the lack of action that he decided to challenge Riccelli’s re-election bid.

“Like, I don’t have anything personal against the guy, I mean, it’s not that. It’s just, you know, you expect a certain kind of representation when you go to them, and it’s not a sense of disappointment more so than you know that this person is a career politician,” he said. “That they genuinely don’t care about the law. That if they are able to bend it or break it if they can, if they can get away with it, they will do so.”

Taylor’s campaign has remained low-budget due to his commitment to stay away from party politics.

Taylor said he’s taken no money for his campaign and has spent a minimal amount on the bid himself.

“I am Republican, but I don’t feel the need to have to take money from people to run a campaign,” Taylor said. “I feel like I can do this through social media. I feel like I can go about it by myself with my wife, my friends, with others I’ve met.”

If elected, Taylor plans to work to inform his constituents, mainly via social media. Then through phone calls, social media and Facebook polling, he would gauge what the majority of constituents want. Then he would vote according to the majority.

“I think it’s incumbent upon a representative to vote in accordance with what the majority wants,” Taylor said.