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Hattenburg, Woodard win seats on Spokane Valley Council; Peetz, Rasmussen only 4 votes apart

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 6, 2019

Early results for the Spokane Valley City Council showed one moderate and one conservative candidate pulling ahead Tuesday night and one race that was too close to call.

With nearly 12,000 ballots counted, candidates Brandi Peetz and Michelle Rasmussen were only four votes apart. Rasmussen had 5,884 votes to Peetz’s 5,880.

In another race, incumbent conservative Arne Woodard was leading challenger Lance Gurel on Tuesday night, with 55.4% of votes.

In the race for the one open seat on the City Council, Tim Hattenburg, a moderate, defeated Bo Tucker with 54.4% of the vote.

Woodard, a Realtor, is the longest serving member on the City Council. He was appointed to the body in 2011 and served on the planning commission a year before that. In an interview in September, Woodard said the city only has two jobs: public safety and infrastructure. Everything else, he said, is outside the city’s purview.

Gurel, his opponent, is a first-time candidate and accountant who said he wanted to be a part of a council open to new ideas and new approaches to problems.

Woodard said he was not ready to call his own race, saying there were many ballots left to count; he anticipated this would be a high turnout election for Spokane Valley.

“I’ve been told the demographic and voting in the Valley have changed,” he hed said. “I don’t think so, but we’ll see in two weeks.”

He said his opponent Gurel had done a good job and it had been a competitive race. Gurel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hattenburg, an author and former library trustee, will replace outgoing councilman Sam Wood. Tucker, a chiropractor, was supported by several current council members. He ran, he said, because he he didn’t see any candidates who were truly conservative.

Hattenburg said he feels like Spokane Valley did choose to go in a more moderate direction and recognized his history as a moderate on the library board. He said his campaign also worked very hard to reach voters.

“I just feel great, we had a great team that hit thousands of doors, and I think that made all the difference,” he said.

Tucker said he anticipates the gap between Hattenburg and himself will shrink.

“I’d like to see a win, that’s why I ran,” Tucker said, “but we’ll have to wait and see, it’s too early to say.”

He said campaigning had been a good experience, and he was grateful for what he’s learned and who he has met during the election.

Peetz, a former 911 dispatcher who was elected in 2017, came in first in the primary with almost 47% of the vote. Peetz received considerable union support this election and received campaign contributions from fellow council member Ben Wick.

Rasmussen, a senior director for campus services at Eastern Washington University and a former executive assistant to the city manager, came in a close second during the primary at about 41%. Rasmussen was supported by several of the current city council members, receiving campaign contributions from Mayor Rod Higgins, Arne Woodard and Pam Haley.

Rasmussen said she was pleased with the early results and grateful to everyone who supported her.

“I’m incredibly encouraged,” she said, “but I’m also wise enough to say there’s a lot of votes left to be counted, but I’m hopeful.”

Peetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both Peetz and Rasmussen supported a regional approach to homelessness, but disagreed over how to pay for road preservation and whether the city should consider updating its equity and inclusion policies. Rasmussen said the City Council should approach voters to see if they are willing to pay for better roads; Peetz said the city should continue to use its surplus revenues. Rasmussen also said the city has an equity policy and rewording it likely wouldn’t benefit the community. Peetz said looking at a policy again couldn’t hurt.

One Spokane Valley Fire Commissioner incumbent, Patrick Burch, was leading by almost 9 points on election night with 7,737 votes. His opponent, firefighter Bradley Mertens had 6,484 votes.

Challenger Mike Kester beat incumbent Ron Schmidt by almost 21 points on election night.

Burch is the current chair of the fire commission and has been an industrial engineer and financial controller for Boeing. He has said fire commissioners hire a chief, write a budget and made policy decisions. Mertens is a Spokane County Fire District 8 firefighter.

Kester, a retired train conductor, said he saw issues with communication between commissioners and firefighters and said they hoped to work more directly with the department.

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