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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shawn Vestal: Woodward works overtime to avoid GOP label in run for mayor

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 25, 2019

Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / DAN PELLE)
Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / DAN PELLE)

I just don’t get it.

She reflexively opposes new taxes. She’s passionately pro-police. She calls undocumented immigrants “illegals.” She thinks sustainable energy is nutso.

She casts a gimlet eye on the undeserving poor – campaigning almost entirely on a platform conflating homelessness and criminality, a fear-heavy and fact-light campaign against the overfed hungry.

Meanwhile, a few wealthy heirs in Spokane are spending obscene amounts of money to put her in office, donating furiously to their Jerry Lewis Telethon for the tragically beleaguered Spokane business owner.

I mean, she was endorsed by this newspaper’s editorial page, for heaven’s sake, and the company that owns the paper spent $10,000 to put wind in her sails.

What in the world else does Nadine Woodward have to do to earn the endorsement of the local Republican Party?

She sure seems to be checking all the boxes.

She believes she can scare up millions of dollars to spend on new cops by finding change in the couch cushions at City Hall. She wants to continue the Condon administration’s refusal to appoint a citizens panel to combat climate change despite a legally passed requirement that he do so. She wants to water down police oversight. Her favorite kind of homeless shelter is a jail.

She hates “road diets” that build neighborhoods, favoring city speedways to and from the fringes of town. She is reluctant to exercise oversight of the police department. She is endorsed by key prominent local Republicans, and she’s a quick draw playing the media victim in the face of criticism.

All those boxes checked – yet the county GOP endorsed no one in the mayor’s race. As if it just couldn’t decide between Woodward, the conservative establishment’s anointed candidate, and Ben Stuckart, the liberal City Council president who makes heads explode on the right.


It would be hard to imagine a more perfect candidate for that party in this alternative-facts moment than Woodward. She says things impulsively – like, maybe we should bar homeless people from the library – then tries to say she didn’t say them. She tells supposedly amusing stories about homeless people gaining 50 pounds off all our decadent, enabling free food. She talks about addicts passed out on the street as though they’re living the life of Reilly at taxpayer expense.

She demonstrates every form of factual abuse – cherry-picking and misstating statistics that support her vision, shrugging off those that do not, and sometimes seeming confused about which is which.

This week, for example, after campaigning clearly against low-barrier homeless shelters and the burden they put on city taxpayers, she spoke up in favor of the new Family Promise low-barrier shelter – which is currently among the most expensive outlays for shelter on the city books.

She then claimed on Facebook that the shelter is not low-barrier, leading one to wonder: Does she know what a low-barrier shelter is?

Doesn’t matter. Onward, sloganeering.

She blames everything she doesn’t like – from straight-up, inarguable mayoral decisions to matters of police staffing that are not legislative in any fashion – on City Council libs.

How in the world is there not a hallelujah chorus, draped in red-white-and-blue elephant T-shirts, singing behind her at every campaign appearance?

It’s no mystery, in truth. Woodward didn’t seek the endorsement because, she said, she wants to remain nonpartisan – nonpartisan like a fox. Because, while city politics are technically unaligned with the political parties, city politics in this light-blue town have evolved into a very clear, very distinct partisan divide: Democrats and “nonpartisans.”

The “nonpartisans” ain’t nonpartisan.

There’s nothing wrong with the fact that political candidates have beliefs and points of view, but when someone’s in the closet politically, it pays to wonder why. Stuckart and other Democrats tout their political alliances. It’s to their advantage. Republicans strenuously pretend to be unaffiliated and independent, to be neutral. Because it’s to their advantage.

What’s become abundantly clear is that it’s not experience, expertise or knowledge of city affairs that Woodward supporters are drawn to – it’s the reliable promise of partisan attitudes and beliefs that lies behind her cloak of nonpartisanship.

Woodward’s rope-a-dope with the public appearance of Republicanism has been a key feature of her campaign from before it even existed, when it was clear that she was among the candidates being drafted by the city’s right-wing establishment.

It’s been clearer with everything she’s said since announcing, and with every passing day in which a handful of wealthy Spokane individuals – literally about five people – are spending insane amounts of money to buy a best friend at City Hall. And while that money piles up, Woodward expresses concern about the negative influence of union campaign spending on Democrats.

Another box checked.

She told the downtown Rotary Club, in a speech and gotcha conversation recorded and released by the progressive group Fuse Washington: “I work extremely hard to keep partisanship and party out of this race. I know full well that someone who is right of center is going to have a hard race in the city election for mayor. Cathy McMorris Rodgers lost the city in her last election by 17 points.”

At a different event, she added: “I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Is that good enough?”

In other words, if you’re a Cathy McMorris Rodgers-style “Hell No, Hillary” candidate in a town that’s stacked plus-17 points against you, you run by pretending you’re not.

By pretending you’re nonpartisan.

Maybe I do get it after all.

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Oct. 25, 2019 to clarify that Woodward’s comment about not voting for Hillary Clinton occurred at a different event from the Rotary Club event referenced earlier.

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