Spokane City Council candidate Tyler LeMasters was beaming when he began recording an Instagram video on Nov. 3, 2020.
“Well, we’re officially back in Spokane. I am never leaving. We officially live here now,” LeMasters said.
The issue, according to those considering filing a complaint in Spokane County Superior Court, is that the Spokane City Charter requires a City Council candidate to have been a resident of the district “for the one year immediately preceding the time of filing as a candidate.”
For LeMasters, that means he had to have been a resident of Spokane since May 18, 2020, nearly six months before he posted his arrival in Spokane to Instagram.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Greater Washington and Northern Idaho, the political affiliate of the Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Northern Idaho, is in the “research and background phase” of filing a potential complaint through its political action committee, according to spokesperson Paul Dillon.
LeMasters is looking to unseat incumbent Betsy Wilkerson in District 2, which includes the South Hill, East Central and downtown Spokane. The two are not on the primary ballot because there is no third candidate, but the race will appear on the November general election ballot.
LeMasters, 30, appears to have been based in Washington D.C. He was working in U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office for a year and a half, he said in his Instagram video.
LeMasters has long been registered to vote in the city, in District 2, but his November 2020 general election ballot was mailed to, and returned from, an address in Alexandria, Virginia, according to Spokane County Elections Office records. Previously, his mailing address was listed in Spokane Valley.
“He was living on the other side of the country,” Dillon said.
The South Hill address listed on LeMasters’ candidate filing with the Spokane County Elections Office is that of the home LeMasters and his wife bought in January, according to Spokane County property records. He switched his voter registration there in May.
When reached on Thursday, LeMasters said he was unaware of concerns about his residency in Spokane. He said he will be “making all the requirements to run” for office. In response to a list of emailed questions seeking clarification about his residency, LeMasters described himself Friday as a “military kid” who chose Spokane as his home 16 years ago. He did not respond to questions about when he last permanently resided in Spokane.
“There are no doubts about my eligibility to run for City Council in my district,” LeMasters said.
Wilkerson, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Council President Breean Beggs in 2020, did not return a phone call last week seeking comment. When asked via text message if she planned to file a complaint against LeMasters on the basis of his residency, or knew anyone who planned to, Wilkerson said she did not. She said that “if there is I trust the process.”
LeMasters is a Realtor, but the Spokane Association of Realtors has endorsed Wilkerson.
A spokesperson for McMorris Rodgers’ campaign said that LeMasters worked in her office for 10 months, and she does not plan to endorse him in the City Council race.
LeMasters alleged that Wilkerson and her supporters are “worried that we will hold them accountable in November’s vote.”
“Any attempt to discredit my campaign comes from a place of fear. The council and Betsy Wilkerson miss-managed (sic) and aggravated problems with housing, homelessness, and small business,” he said in an email.
Why would Planned Parenthood’s advocate wade into the race? Dillon said Wilkerson has been an “incredible ally.”
“She’s stood with Planned Parenthood patients and stood for health care, for safety at the Planned Parenthood health center in Spokane,” Dillon said. “Tyler LeMasters worked for Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who certainly is no friend to reproductive health care.”
This is not the first time a Spokane City Council candidate’s residency has been called into question.
In 2013 a Spokane County Superior Court judge struck Mark Hamilton, a pastor and real estate agent, from the ballot. The evidence against Hamilton was, in part, that he had been registered to vote in an out-of-district address in the prior November election.
To date, LeMasters’ campaign has raised $9,628, according to Public Disclosure Commission filings.
S-R Reporter Orion Donovan-Smith contributed to this story.