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Bedford, Geffken, Dean, Smith advance in Spokane School Board races

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 3, 2021

A foursome of political newcomers survived Tuesday’s primary election for two positions on the Spokane Public Schools board of directors.

Daryl Geffken, a financial planner with two children attending Spokane schools, will face Eastern Washington University professor Melissa Bedford in the Nov. 2 general election for Position 3.

In Position 4, Kata Dean, a mother of four children in district schools, advanced to the general election to face 23-year-old Spokane native Riley Smith.

Bedford was easily the top vote-getter at Position 3 with 42.15%; Geffken received 31.43%. The rest of the field was far behind, with Jake Leadingham finishing third at 7.26%.

The race was far closer in Position 4, where Dean garnered 31.09%. Smith outpolled two other candidates in a relatively tight race for second with 24.36%.

Culzean Fairley was third with 19.66%, while Rion Ametu was fourth with 18.57%.

More votes will be counted on Wednesday and throughout the week.

Smith wasn’t quite ready to claim a spot in the general election but said he felt “pretty good” about the result and the confirmation that his age wasn’t a factor.

“I think it’s pretty clear that voters want someone who’s had boots on the ground and is familiar with Spokane schools,” said Smith, who attended Balboa Elementary School, Salk Middle School and North Central High School before earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington.

“It’s also pretty clear that our district might be a little out of touch with what our voters want,” said Smith, referencing the board’s approval of a downtown athletic stadium and recent adoption of new school boundaries.

Dean felt the same way.

“The message that resonated most during this campaign was that I am a parent, just like them, that I have the same concerns they do,” said Dean, who hopes to see more transparency from the district on curriculum and other issues.

Geffken said he was gratified to reach the general election following several weeks of door-to-door campaigning.

“I’m really pleased that we’re where we expected to be tonight,” he said. “Moving forward, we want to make sure that curriculum is at the forefront of this election.”

Geffken also said that he’s “hearing the need for greater fiscal responsibility” from voters.

Bedford said that, if elected, it would be important to continue to “promote equity and making sure that we are listening to our families and communities.”

“Tonight showed that Spokane is ready to see an educator on the school board,” said Bedford, a former elementary school teacher who specializes in childhood literacy at EWU.

Tuesday’s results reflected the candidates’ fundraising efforts. As of Tuesday, Dean had raised $16,836, Bedford $11,558, Geffken $10,523 and Smith $9,857.

The two races initially drew a combined 13 candidates, but several people either dropped out or didn’t actively campaign.

Both positions run for six years and are decided at-large. Incumbents Jerrall Haynes and Aryn Ziehnert opted not to run.

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