For the first time in history, voters this year are electing five Spokane County commissioners instead of three.
It’s a change that will almost certainly allow the Democratic Party to win a commission seat for the first time in over a decade.
But based on Tuesday night’s primary election results, Democrats might be able to do more than snag a seat or two on the commission.
They may have a decent shot at winning a majority.
Spokane County’s three incumbent Republican commissioners all advanced past the primary, but one of them could be in for a close battle come November.
County Commissioner Al French trails Democrat Maggie Yates in the race for District 5, which includes the West Plains, the upper South Hill and northwest Spokane.
French, who has been on the county commission since 2011, has 40% of the vote so far. Yates, who formerly led Spokane County’s criminal justice reform efforts, has 45%.
Republican Don Harmon, who has been out of office since serving as Airway Heights mayor in the 1990s, had his hopes of returning to politics dashed after managing to take 12% of the vote. Tara Carter, a district court clerk running as an independent, mustered 3%.
Yates said she is feeling good about the results.
“I think that this is really a statement that residents are ready for new leadership, prudent leadership that’s going to ensure that everyone across the county is going to thrive,” she said.
French also said he is feeling good.
“I mean if you take the two Republicans we’re 52% and Maggie is around 45% and the independent at 3%,” French said. “If Harmon hadn’t been in the race we would’ve been right where we thought we would’ve been. They took just some of mine tonight so we’re comfortable they’ll come to my side for the general.”
Yates said she sees a path to victory in November.
“I know that the voters ultimately really care about what’s happening in their community and how their tax dollars are being spent over political affiliation,” she said.
French’s fellow incumbents will head into the general election with more breathing room.
County Commissioner Mary Kuney took 57% of the vote in District 4, which covers southern Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and the county’s southeastern third.
She’ll face off in the November general election against fellow Republican Paul Brian Noble, a Valley Assembly of God pastor who took home 27% of the vote. Republican real estate investor Chris McIntosh’s run has come to an end after earning 13% of the vote.
The numbers over in District 2, which covers east Spokane, look good for Democrats.
Democrat Amber Waldref, a former Spokane City Councilwoman, was the top vote getter with 56% of the vote.
“I think that we are seeing the country look for real solutions to our challenges around affordable housing, homelessness, childcare — issues facing families every day,” she said. “I think the Democrats are offering real solutions to that and I think people are responding.”
Waldref will hope to fend off Republican Michael Cathcart, a sitting Spokane City Councilman who got 33%.
“We have three months of hard work ahead,” Cathcart said.
The campaigning ends here for Republicans Bob Apple – another former Spokane City Council member – and Glen Stockwell. Apple won 9% of the vote while Stockwell, a one-issue candidate who wants to see more irrigated farmland in Eastern Washington, took 2%.
The remaining county commission races only have two candidates each and weren’t narrowed down in the primary.
Voters in District 3, which includes the northern half of Spokane Valley and all of the rural communities in the northern part of the county, appear to prefer incumbent Republican Josh Kerns.
Kerns, who first joined the commission in 2016, gathered a whopping 76% of the vote. His challenger, the party-less Wild Bill Schreiner, won 23%.
District 1 voters tend to be reliably left-leaning. That trend held true on Tuesday.
Democrat Chris Jordan got 56% of the vote to Republican Kim Plese’s 44%.
Jordan is an attorney with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. Plese is a former print shop owner.
S-R reporter Nick Gibson and S-R high school interns Nwannediya Kalu and Carly Dykes contributed to this story.
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