The possibilities for this year’s race for Spokane mayor continue to shift, with recent announcements from prominent Republican politicians and the retirement of a longtime local TV anchor.
In a statement on Facebook, former state Rep. Kevin Parker wrote that when he left the Legislature, he did not plan to return to public office. He said he received encouragement from Republicans and Democrats to run for mayor, but planned to focus on his family and his business.
Parker owns and operates several Dutch Bros. coffee outlets across Spokane and served four terms in the state House for Spokane’s 6th Legislative District until he opted not to run for a new term in 2016.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “I am an entrepreneur, not a politician.”
Former state senator and newly elected Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner also announced last week he would not run for mayor. In a since-deleted tweet, he wrote that he was seeking to “nip that inaccurate gossip in the bud.”
Baumgartner was so often rumored to be a potential candidate for mayor that his opponent in the November election for treasurer, Democrat David Green, pledged if elected he would serve his full term without running for any other office, a pledge Baumgartner declined to make.
In an interview Tuesday, Baumgartner said community members who appreciated his work in the state Legislature had approached him about running for mayor, but he is focused on his role as the treasurer and hoped other strong candidates would emerge in the next few months.
“Every elected official has someone suggest every position from dog catcher to president,” he said.
Baumgartner said he would be open to endorsing KXLY anchor Nadine Woodward, who announced her retirement last week, if she chose to run. Woodward, who has had a 35-year-career in television news, said she had “no immediate plans” to run and intended to focus on her family’s video production business, Memories by Design, when she retires. Her last day on the air is Feb. 28.
Woodward said she is flattered that her name has been floated as a potential political candidate several times over the past decade, but her focus is on finishing her contract at KXLY.
There is precedent for a TV anchor running for Spokane’s top elected position. KXLY anchor Ron Bair was elected the city’s mayor in 1977 and served one term.
Four men already have filed notice of their intent to run for mayor with the state Public Disclosure Commission. They are City Council President Ben Stuckart; Spokane firefighter Shawn Poole; Christopher Schroll, marketing coordinator for a local auto body shop; and Kelly Cruz, West Central Neighborhood Council chairman.
Stuckart is in the last year of his second term as City Council president, where he pushed some policies that Mayor David Condon has opposed, such as committing the city to exclusively using renewable energy and limiting U.S. Border Patrol operations at the Spokane Intermodal Center.
Poole, a Spokane Fire Department lieutenant and retired U.S. Army colonel, has campaigned on eliminating “fraud, waste and abuse” in government by only allowing city employees to have cellphones, laptops and cars for work when it is absolutely necessary. He also has obtained the endorsement of several prominent local conservatives, including Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and newly elected state Sen. Jeff Holy.
Schroll, who graduated from Eastern Washington University with a degree in international relations in 2015 and has worked as a buyer in the cannabis industry, is working as a marketing coordinator for an auto repair shop.
Cruz, who unsuccessfully ran for Spokane City Council before, chairs the West Neighborhood Council and won the $750,000 “Lucky for Life” in 2014.
Michael Cathcart, the executive director of Better Spokane, said his organization, which has tended to back Republican-leaning candidates, had not yet seen many hopefuls for any of the city races.
“At this point, there’s a lot of unknowns,” he said.
Cathcart said many potential candidates might still be burned out after a tough midterm election year and could file to run for office closer to the deadline in May. He said he anticipates a much shorter campaign season but expects a full slate of candidates by the end of spring.