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Tuesday, October 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘One or two votes is kind of a close thing’: Some Spokane County races still not settled

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 15, 2019

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said candidates request a recount but have to put down 25 cents for every ballot cast in that race, ahead of the recount. “Then, at the end of it all, they end up paying for the full cost of the recount, which would be far more than 25 cents per ballot,” Dalton said. (COURTESY PHOTO / COURTESY PHOTO)
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said candidates request a recount but have to put down 25 cents for every ballot cast in that race, ahead of the recount. “Then, at the end of it all, they end up paying for the full cost of the recount, which would be far more than 25 cents per ballot,” Dalton said. (COURTESY PHOTO / COURTESY PHOTO)

More than a week and a half after election night, some Spokane County races are still too close to call.

In Fairfield and Deer Park, candidates will have to wait longer to find out if they win. Friday’s count, however, should put an end to uncertainty for all city of Spokane and Spokane Valley races where those leading now appear to have insurmountable leads.

The election is set to be certified on Nov. 26, and about 3,500 ballots were left to be counted countywide as of Friday evening.

After 21 years on the Deer Park City Council, the 2019 election has been the most stressful that incumbent Helen “Dee” Cragun has experienced.

On election night, Cragun trailed her opponent for position 2, Carla Phillips, by 21 votes. As of Friday, Cragun led Phillips by six votes, with 551 votes to Phillips’ 545. About 20 votes from Deer Park are left to count.

“I don’t think I’ll feel safe until they’re certified. It’s done so many flip-flops,” Cragun said. “I’m losing sleep, having difficulty eating. It’s stressful.”

She keeps checking in with the election office to see where she stands as new votes come in.

“I called everyday about six times a day,” Cragun said.

Helen “Dee” Cragun trailed her opponent for position 2 on Deer Park City Council, Carla Phillips, by 21 votes. As of Friday, Cragun led Phillips by 6 votes.
Helen “Dee” Cragun trailed her opponent for position 2 on Deer Park City Council, Carla Phillips, by 21 votes. As of Friday, Cragun led Phillips by 6 votes.

Phillips, a first-time candidate, said each new vote count has been stressful for her, too.

“Well, I felt happy because I was ahead,” Phillips said of election night. “Then all of a sudden I was behind. … I told all of my friends I won and then I actually didn’t win.”

Neither woman is confident about what will happen next.

“You know, I can’t tell. In a way, I didn’t spend a lot of money. I didn’t have any signs,” Phillips said. “So, I was going to feel like it was not really in vain if I didn’t come out the winner.”

“Hopefully, I’ll hang in there,” Cragun said.

After years on council, Cragun, 78, hopes to finish up long-term projects with a final term.

She has been working on creating a “splash pad” water feature for children to play in during the summer.

“I’ve been working on it now for three years and we finally got our ducks in a row, so we can apply for a grant,” Cragun said.

She also hopes to beautify some local parks to provide “just someplace that people can go and have their lunch or whatever.”

Carla Phillips is challenging incumbent Dee Cragun for a seat on the Deer Park City Council. Phillips moved Stevens County from California in 1992 and to Deer Park several years ago. This is Phillips' first foray into seeking an elected office. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)
Carla Phillips is challenging incumbent Dee Cragun for a seat on the Deer Park City Council. Phillips moved Stevens County from California in 1992 and to Deer Park several years ago. This is Phillips’ first foray into seeking an elected office. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)

Even if Phillips doesn’t come out the winner, she said running helped her make progress on her goal of increasing her civic engagement.

“I’m old, but I wanted new blood,” Phillips said. “I wanted something different.”

If she does come out ahead, Phillips hopes to bring in local clubs and youth groups to create “more participation” in city government.

“The first thing I’d like to do is change certain things, like the meetings,” Phillips said. “They can’t have any coffee and donuts because it’s a business meeting, but I want to see it change so that more people will feel like they can come to the meetings.”

The leads on Friday for candidates in city of Spokane and Spokane Valley races left little in question.

In the race for mayor of Spokane, Nadine Woodward maintained her lead over Ben Stuckart on Friday, with 33,996 votes to Stuckart’s 32,950. Stuckart conceded on election night but has steadily gained votes over the past week.

In the race for Spokane City Council President, Breean Beggs continued gaining votes Friday after his opponent, Cindy Wendle, conceded Thursday.

Beggs had 32,858 votes to Wendle’s 32,121 after Friday’s count. Less than 2,000 votes remain to count in the city of Spokane.

Incumbent Karen Stratton led her opponent Andy Rathbun by 396 votes Friday in the race for the northwest district City Council position with about 700 votes left to count.

In Spokane Valley, Brandi Peetz’s lead over Michelle Rasmussen grew after Friday’s count. Peetz had 11,122 votes to Rasmussen’s 10,685. About 550 votes are left to count.

In the Riverside School District Director No. 3 race, incumbent Sandra Huggins missed the withdrawal deadline and encouraged candidates to vote for her opponent, Joslyn James.

But on election night, Huggins led James by 82 votes. After Friday’s count, Huggins was still in the lead, though it had dwindled to 41 votes. About 330 votes are left to count.

An automatic machine recount is triggered when less than 2,000 votes and half a percentage point separates candidates.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said any recount would push the certification of such an election into December.

Candidates can also request a recount, but have to pay for that recount. The candidate or campaign has to put down 25 cents for every ballot cast in that race, ahead of the recount.

“Then, at the end of it all, they end up paying for the full cost of the recount, which would be far more than 25 cents per ballot,” Dalton said.

While Dalton hopes there aren’t any recounts this election, it’s not common to avoid them all together.

“I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that we’ll end up with no recounts,” Dalton said. “It’s unusual for us to not have a recount in a general election.”

The race that might most likely lead to a recount is in Fairfield.

The candidates for Fairfield Town Council position 3, Steven Walk and Dave Watling, are happy that voters made their voices heard.

“It’s exciting to know that people got out and voted this year,” Walk said.

Watling was surprised the race was so close.

“It’s a close race. I didn’t expect it to be that close,” Watling said. “Won’t know until it’s all counted up. Ol’ 50-50 chance, I guess.”

After Friday’s vote count, Watling had 78 votes to Walk’s 76. About three votes are left to count in Fairfield.

Watling, a retired machinist, has lived in Fairfield for four years. He started attending City Council meetings last year and was asked to run by the man who formerly held position 3.

“The former person of that position number 3 said that he liked the way that I talked to the council, my ideas and stuff,” Watling said.

Watling hopes to encourage businesses to open in Fairfield.

“We had a store here and it went under. I’d like to see somebody else take it over,” Watling said. “The more we get in here the better – make it a nice little town.”

For Walk, the past week has been a roller coaster.

“I was pretty excited because I had a huge lead on election night. Then a couple of days later, that Friday, they posted new numbers and I was behind by one,” Walk said. “I thought it was going to be close, but I didn’t think it was going to be this close.”

Walk mentioned the possibility of a recount if the race continues to be close but wanted to wait until more votes have been counted.

“I have to explore fully. One or two votes is kind of a close thing,” Walk said. “I’d kind of like a double take on it because accidents do happen, mistakes do happen.”

No matter what happens, the race is an example of how every vote matters, Walk said.

“I want people to get out and vote, whether it be taxes or political offices or whatever,” he said. “Your voice needs to be heard.”

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