Races for city councils and school boards and other local offices across Spokane County are beginning to take shape as the deadline nears for candidates to file for office.
About 150 offices are up for election this year in Spokane County from the highly competitive (think Spokane City Council) to the ones unlikely to draw much interest (perhaps the Waverly Cemetery District board).
It’s filing week for candidates seeking office in Washington. Those wanting to appear on the Aug. 3 ballot must submit paperwork by May 21.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spokane County Elections Office is recommending candidates file online or by mail, although either must be received by 4 p.m. on Friday. Candidates are still allowed to file in person at the elections office.
Many candidates already have publicly announced they intend to run and filed their campaign finance paperwork separately through the Public Disclosure Commission.
Except for its three Municipal Court positions, none of the open seats this year are citywide elections in the city of Spokane, as the mayor and City Council President won’t be voted on again until 2023.
However, each of the three City Council districts will have one of two seats up for grabs.
Two of the three races will be a field entirely of newcomers. In the northeast council district, incumbent Kate Burke has said she won’t seek a second term. And Councilwoman Candace Mumm, who represents northwest Spokane has reached her term limit.
In the district that represents the South Hill and downtown Spokane, Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson has announced she will seek her first full term in office. Wilkerson was appointed to the council last January to fill the seat vacated by Breean Beggs, who won the race for City Council President before his term as District 2’s council member expired.
Thus far, political newcomer Tyler LeMasters has filed PDC paperwork to run against Wilkerson.
Candidates for northeast Spokane include former mayoral candidate Jonathan Bingle, Parkview Early Learning Center co-owner Luc Jasmin III, and Naghmana Sherazi, who ran unsuccessfully for the district’s other seat in 2019.
Candidates in the Northwest district thus far include Zack Zappone, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent State Rep. Mike Volz last year; Michael Lish, owner of D.Lish’s Hamburgers; yoga teacher and consultant Lacrecia “Lu” Hill; Christopher Savage, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2019; and Karen Kearney, who chairs the Balboa-South Indian Trail Neighborhood Council.
Four of the seven Spokane Valley City Council members are up for reelection: Ben Wick, Rod Higgins, Linda Thompson and Pam Haley. Based on Washington Public Disclosure Commission Filings, they’ll all attempt to retain their seats.
The races that will appear on the ballot this year are for nonpartisan offices, but parties often get involved in some campaigns.
Spokane County Republican Party Chair Brian Steele said he has not yet heard who’s running for Spokane Valley City Council.
“We’re excited to see who pops out,” Steele said.
Nicole Bishop, chair of the Spokane County Democrats, said Democrats expect a “robust group of candidates.” Local party organizers have worked with state Democratic leaders to encourage Democrats to run for office at every level.
The efforts have included sending out text messages and hosting information sessions, with some success at attracting candidates, Bishop said. The Democrats are focusing on contesting races up and down the ballot.
Republicans of Spokane Chair Beva Miles said that, besides the individuals who have filed with the Public Disclosure Commission, she doesn’t expect the formal filing process to reveal many additional candidates.
Councilman Rod Higgins, a former Spokane Valley mayor, will have at least one challenger.
James “JJ” Johnson, one of multiple Spokane County Human Rights Task Force directors, is trying to nab Higgins’ seat. Johnson has previously served on the Spokane Valley Planning Commission.
Other than Johnson, only one individual is trying to displace an incumbent. Albert Merkel will try to make his way onto the council although it isn’t yet clear per the Public Disclosure Commission whose seat he’s aiming for.
Two seats each will appear on the ballot in the Spokane, Central Valley and Mead school districts. In the Spokane district, the seats held by Board Chair Jerrall Haynes and Aryn Ziehnart are up for grabs.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the name of a task force, due to an error from a source. It is the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force. James “JJ” Johnson sits on the force’s board of directors.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.