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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart is running for county commissioner

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 7, 2022

The front of the Spokane County Courthouse is seen in August 2020. Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart has filed to run as a Republican for the east Spokane county commissioner district. He's the second non-incumbent to officially join the 2022 commissioner race.   (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The front of the Spokane County Courthouse is seen in August 2020. Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart has filed to run as a Republican for the east Spokane county commissioner district. He's the second non-incumbent to officially join the 2022 commissioner race.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart is running for Spokane County Commissioner.

Cathcart, a 36-year-old Republican who won election to City Council in 2019, represents northeast Spokane.

Before joining City Council, Cathcart spent two years as a legislative aide for former Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgarter and five years with the Spokane Homebuilders Association. In December, he ended a five-year run as executive director of the pro-business group Better Spokane.

If Cathcart becomes a county commissioner, he’ll serve a district that covers all of eastern Spokane and some of the unincorporated county. He’s the second candidate to announce a run for the east Spokane district.

In November, Democrat and former Spokane City Councilwoman Amber Waldref became the first nonincumbent to file for commissioner. As of Friday, five candidates have officially filed with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission: Waldref, Cathcart and incumbent Republican commissioners Josh Kerns, Mary Kuney and Al French.

The 2022 Spokane County Commission races will be unlike any the county has seen .

Spokane County currently has three commissioners who run in district-specific primary elections and countywide general elections. That setup has allowed Republicans to hold all three commissioner seats for over a decade because even if a GOP candidate doesn’t win in the primary, the county’s overall conservative lean ensures a victory in the general.

The setup is changing this year. Voters now will elect five commissioners, each of whom will represent one district. Past election results suggest Republicans will likely win the three most rural districts while Democrats will be favored in the two districts that cover the bulk of Spokane.

Cathcart said the new arrangement requires each district to have a tough representative.

“It’s really important that each district elect folks that are just unrelenting advocates,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been on the City Council for the last two years.”

If elected, Cathcart said he’d like to focus on bringing a regional approach to housing, homelessness and public safety. He also noted he’d like to see more transparency in county government.

The commissioners’ meeting videos could be made more accessible, Cathcart said.

Unlike Spokane or Spokane Valley’s city councils, the Spokane County commissioners don’t post videos of their meetings online. Anyone wanting to watch the meeting has to either attend it live on Zoom or request the video file through a public records request. For comparison, anyone wanting to watch a Spokane Valley City Council meeting held in the last 11 years can find it easily on the city website.

It should also be easier for residents to follow what the commissioners are doing through their agendas, Cathcart said.

The commissioners post agendas for their Tuesday meeting, and an agenda that broadly outlines their weekly schedule. But they don’t publish a detailed agenda for their Monday meetings, which often include action items and extensive discussion of important county issues.

Cathcart added that it would be good if the public could easily see the commissioners’ past votes. On top of that, he said the county should have more documents available in languages other than English.

“People just need to have better access to their elected officials at all levels,” Cathcart said.

Cathcart acknowledged that being part of a conservative majority at the county level, as opposed to being in the minority at the city, was a consideration in his decision to run for commissioner.

“There’s lots of resources and a lot of things that I’ll be able to do to support the people that I’m representing,” he said, adding that he loves serving on city council and would continue serving many of the same constituents if he became commissioner.

Winning the county commissioner race would force Cathcart to leave City Council a year before his term ends in December 2023.

A victory would also mean a salary increase: City councilmembers make $48,000 a year, while county commissioners make roughly $115,000.

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