Liberty Lake’s general election ballot will feature a deceptively fascinating City Council race.
At first glance, the battle for Liberty Lake City Council Position No. 7 looks as boring as they come. It’s not really a battle at all. When voters get their ballots they’ll see incumbent Holly Woodruff running unopposed for an unexpired, two-year term.
The interesting part is that Woodruff wants to win 0% of the vote. She resigned from City Council in June, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, in July to be close to her grandchildren and won’t be able to serve if she’s elected.
Woodruff said by the time she learned she was moving it was too late to remove her name from the ballot.
So instead of campaigning and asking Liberty Lake residents for their votes, Woodruff is asking voters to write in Dannetta “D.G.” Garcia instead.
“Hopefully nobody will vote for me,” Woodruff said. “It’s going to be a wasted vote.”
The City Council appointed Garcia to Woodruff’s empty seat July 13. It wasn’t the first Liberty Lake City Council appointment this year.
Woodruff was appointed in February to fill Cris Kaminskas’ vacated seat. Kaminskas had left City Council in January when she was appointed to replace former Mayor Shane Brickner, who resigned due to health reasons.
Woodruff said Garcia is the right choice for Liberty Lake.
“She’s already got the experience; she’s got the heart for it; she’s got the toughness for it,” Woodruff said. “She follows through on things, she thinks about things, she studies, she listens.”
It might seem like smooth sailing for Garcia at this point, since Woodruff has endorsed her.
And yet, even though Garcia has some unusual advantages, her victory isn’t a foregone conclusion. Winning a write-in campaign is usually difficult.
Some voters might cast their ballots without ever learning Garcia is the only real candidate. A significant number of Liberty Lake voters might fill in the bubble for Woodruff simply because they’re unaware Garcia’s an option.
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said the Garcia-Woodruff situation is highly unusual, but she noted 2021 has been a strange year for county elections.
In August, a Superior Court judge removed Spokane City Council candidate Tyler LeMasters from the ballot because he didn’t meet the city’s residency requirements. LeMasters’ removal means his opponent, incumbent City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, is running unopposed.
In Deer Park, City Council candidate Billy Costello doesn’t meet residency requirements, but will be on the ballot.
Dalton said she has seen a few successful write-in campaigns during her time as auditor, but they’re not good analogs for Garcia’s situation.
For instance, write-in campaigns in small towns aren’t unheard of. Small towns aren’t great comparison though, because the Liberty Lake general election will have thousands of voters.
Spokane County political junkies may remember Rob Chase’s successful write-in campaign for county treasurer in 2010.
Chase’s situation isn’t all that comparable to Garcia’s either. At the time, Chase only needed to receive 1% of the vote in the primary election in order to get on the general election ballot.
Once he managed that, he was a standard candidate on the ballot in November. Chase, a Republican, went on to win the treasurer’s race during the general election and now serves the 4th Legislative District in the Washington House of Representatives.
Dalton noted that because her office is aware Garcia is running as a write-in candidate, write-in votes do not have to spell her name perfectly. As long as a vote is clearly intended for DG Garcia, it will count.
Even if Garcia doesn’t beat Woodruff, it’s likely City Council will appoint her to Woodruff’s seat once again.
Garcia said she can’t assume council will do that and wants to win the election as a write-in.
She said that even if she doesn’t remain on City Council, she’ll continue to work hard to make Liberty Lake a better place.
“Win, lose or draw, I don’t stop doing what I’m doing,” she said. “I just keep fighting for the people.”
Garcia grew up in a military family and lived “all across the nation.” She went to high school in San Antonio and has a degree in multicultural psychology.
Before she retired, Garcia served in the Air Force and worked in the California Secretary of State’s Office. She also worked for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Garcia said that she will have two main areas of focus if voters elect her to City Council: infrastructure and public safety.
Liberty Lake has to continue working on major infrastructure projects, such as the Kramer Parkway undercrossing, she said.
In terms of public safety, Garcia said the city worries changes at the state level could impede the Liberty Lake Police Department.
“My focus is on the safety and security of everyone, the well-being of everyone, all the time,” Garcia said.
A new state law requiring police officers to have probable cause before using force is a concern, Garcia said.
That law makes it “almost impossible for the person who is committing a crime to be apprehended,” Garcia said.
In addition to infrastructure and public safety, Garcia said the city needs to take great care in how it responds to House Bill 1220, which prohibits cities from banning homeless shelters. HB 1220 allows cities to place stipulations on where shelters can be.
Garcia did not say whether she thinks Liberty Lake should have a homeless shelter. She said the city needs to protect the well-being of all Liberty Lake residents and prepare for the future.
“I want Liberty Lake to have what it needs when it needs it, and I want to be forward thinking so that we’re prepared,” she said.
Garcia said she believes Liberty Lake residents know her and know she’ll work to defend their interests if they elect her.
“They know I’m going to fight for them; they know I’m going to work hard for them,” Garcia said.
“At the end of the day they have to vote their conscience.”
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