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Haven’t yet voted in the primary election? Here’s what’s at stake in Spokane County

Dave Sullivan places his ballot in a ballot box outside of the downtown Spokane Library on Nov. 7, 2016. This year's primary election is Tuesday. Voters must place their ballots in one of the county's drop boxes by 8 p.m. Tuesday or ensure they're in the mail and postmarked no later than Aug. 2.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
Dave Sullivan places his ballot in a ballot box outside of the downtown Spokane Library on Nov. 7, 2016. This year's primary election is Tuesday. Voters must place their ballots in one of the county's drop boxes by 8 p.m. Tuesday or ensure they're in the mail and postmarked no later than Aug. 2. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

Many Spokane County residents have already filled out their ballots, licked their envelopes and participated in democracy by voting in the Aug. 2 primary election.

As of Friday, ballots from 19% of registered voters had arrived at the Spokane County auditor’s office.

In other words, turnout is looking low so far, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said.

Based on how many people have put their ballots in drop boxes or the mail, Dalton said she doesn’t expect turnout to top 30% during the primary.

Still, thousands of voters will cast ballots in the next few days.

For those who like to wait until the last minute, here are the candidates running for office. The top two vote-getters for each race will advance to the November general election.

County government

Spokane County elections this year will feature their fair share of intrigue and historic firsts.

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

Voters this year will elect five commissioners, not three, and each commissioner will only represent one district. The old system of district-specific primary elections and countywide general elections is a thing of the past.

Three races have more than two candidates.

District 2, which represents much of east Spokane, features a quartet of candidates with political experience.

Democrat Amber Waldref served on the Spokane City Council from 2010 until 2017. She’s spent much of her life working for nonprofits and advocacy groups. Waldref currently leads the Zone, a northeast Spokane organization that seeks to end poverty and improve educational opportunities for youth.

Republican Michael Cathcart is a sitting Spokane City Council member who won election in 2019. He’s a longtime advocate for housing developers and businesses, having worked for the Spokane Homebuilders Association and Better Spokane.

Republican Bob Apple served two terms on the Spokane City Council. He describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. The former bar owner has run for office as both a Republican and a Democrat.

Republican Glen Stockwell has never been elected, although he frequently campaigns for local, state and federal positions. Stockwell was convicted of fourth-degree assault this year after he tried to punch state Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. He stumps for almost exclusively one issue: finishing the Columbia Basin Project and expanding farmland by irrigating an additional 400,000 acres in Eastern Washington.

The GOP will prevail in District 4 regardless of which candidate wins. Three Republicans are running for the district that includes southern Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and the southeastern third of Spokane County.

Incumbent Mary Kuney was appointed to the county commission in 2017. She spent decades as an accountant before taking office and has been endorsed by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane Valley Mayor Pam Haley, Mainstream Republicans of Washington and multiple contractor and homebuilder advocacy groups. Kuney also has received $1,000 from U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ campaign fund.

Paul Brian Noble is a first-time candidate. The Valley Assembly of God pastor has said he’d be a source of civility on the county commission and would push for limited government. Caleb Collier, who often helps organize protests with former state Rep. Matt Shea, has donated to Noble’s campaign.

Chris McIntosh is an Air Force veteran and real estate investor who has made homelessness one of his top campaign priorities. He’s also voiced concerns about election integrity and signed a petition calling for a complete audit of the 2020 Spokane County election.

The race for District 5, which includes the West Plains cities as well as the upper South Hill and northwest Spokane, could end up being the most fiercely contested.

Republican incumbent Al French is the front-runner. French has decades of experience as an architect, specializing in retail store design. He’s been a political constant in local politics for 20 years, first as a Spokane City Council member, then as a county commissioner.

Democrat Maggie Yates is a political rookie, but she has experience in Spokane County government. She led the county’s criminal justice reform efforts for more than three years before resigning in January. Yates has said she’d work to improve county planning policies and make data-driven decisions if elected.

Independent Tara Carter is a Spokane County District Court clerk making her first run for office. Carter has said she’d work to address homelessness and get rid of partisanship if voters put her on the county commission.

Republican Don Harmon served as an Airway Heights City council member and mayor in the 1990s. He’s been out of politics for more than 20 years and says building a new county jail and improving road maintenance are his biggest priorities.

Two Spokane County Commission races only have a couple of candidates and therefore won’t be whittled down during the primary.

District 1, which includes most of west Spokane, will be a battle between Democrat Chris Jordan, an attorney with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, and Republican Kim Plese, a former print shop owner.

District 3 includes the northern portion of Spokane County along with the northern half of Spokane Valley. That race pits incumbent Republican Josh Kerns against “Wild” Bill Schreiner, a former pilot who’s running without a party affiliation.

County prosecutor races don’t always pique the public’s interest, but this year’s contest certainly has.

Republican incumbent Larry Haskell has been on the defensive for months, ever since an Inlander investigation in January revealed that his wife has repeatedly made racist comments on social media.

Three challengers are trying to unseat Haskell, who has led the prosecutor’s office since 2014.

Republican Stefanie Collins is a Haskell employee with nearly 30 years of experience in the prosecutor’s office. Collins has said she’d want to address the office’s backlog of domestic violence cases if elected. She’s raised more than $30,000, compared to Haskell’s $37,000. Curtis Hampton, a member of Spokane Community Against Racism, has donated to Collins’ campaign.

Republican Stephanie Olsen is a former Spokane County deputy prosecutor who now works for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. Olsen has accused Haskell of forcing his prosecutors to take cases to trial even for minor offenses. She’s raised more than $36,000, including more than $23,000 of her own money.

Pastor Deb Conklin, who served as a Clallam County deputy prosecutor in the 1980s, is running without a party affiliation. The progressive has supported a number of criminal justice reform proposals on the campaign trail and has raised more than $12,000. Her donors include Spokane Community Against Racism organizer Jac Archer, the Spokane Firefighters Union’s political action committee and Paul Dillon, Planned Parenthood’s spokesman in the Inland Northwest.

Spokane County will soon have a new sheriff for the first time since 2006.

Three Republicans, each with decades of experience in the Sheriff’s Office, are vying to replace Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Knezovich wants undersheriff John Nowels to take his job. Nowels has gotten donations from former U.S. District Attorney Bill Hyslop, Republicans of Spokane County Vice Chair Beva Miles, Spokane Valley City Councilman Tim Hattenburg and Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney.

Wade Nelson spent 21 years at the Sheriff’s Office before leaving in 2022. He has the most progressive views on drug criminalization of the three candidates. Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs has said he believes Nelson is the candidate most open to innovative law enforcement practices and solutions to homelessness and jail crowding.

Michael Zollars worked in the Sheriff’s Office for 33 years until October, when he became a sergeant for the Kalispel Tribal Police Department. Zollars has said he’d work to mend relationships between the Sheriff’s Office and other public safety agencies.

The remaining candidates for Spokane County offices will make it through to the general election.

The Spokane County auditor candidate field won’t get narrowed down in the primary, but it promises to be an interesting race as November draws nearer.

Incumbent Vicky Dalton is Spokane County’s lone elected Democrat. She’s held office since the late 1990s. Dalton has touted her department’s professionalism and commitment to overseeing an accurate and secure elections system.

Republican state Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, is hoping to trade his office in Olympia for an office in the Spokane County Courthouse. McCaslin has campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility and transparency and is in favor of auditing the county’s 2020 election. He co-hosted a meeting last year in Snohomish County headlined by Seth Keshel, who tours the country arguing that President Joe Biden’s victory appears to have been illegitimate based on past voting trends.

Republican Assessor Tom Konis, Republican Treasurer Michael Baumgartner and Republican Clerk Tim Fitzgerald are all running unopposed.

State Legislature

Only a few state legislative races have more than two candidates.

Longtime incumbent Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, has two challengers for his seat in the 3rd Legislative District, which represents central Spokane.

Republican Natalie Poulson gained some name recognition in November after she was escorted from Finch Elementary School for refusing to wear a mask. The longtime teacher has said she left the Spokane Public Schools district due to Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees. She’s been endorsed by McMorris Rodgers and Knezovich.

Patrick Spurlock, who’s running without a party affiliation, recently finished a 17-year sentence for second-degree murder in Cowlitz County and says he hopes to combat government corruption if voters send him to Olympia.

Three candidates are competing to succeed McCaslin and represent the 4th Legislative District, which includes Spokane Valley.

Until recently, Republican Suzanne Schmidt worked for Associated Builders and Contractors as a worker’s compensation manager. She’s also worked for the Army Corps of Engineers at Libby Dam in Montana. On her campaign website, Schmidt says she hopes to push back against government overreach if elected. She has the endorsement of a slew of prominent Republicans, including French, Knezovich, Kerns and Cathcart.

Republican MJ Bolt is a golf teacher who sits on the state Board of Education. She’s been endorsed by McCaslin and his fellow 4th Legislative District Rep. Rob Chase, R-Liberty Lake, as well as Spokane Valley City Councilman Rod Higgins. Bolt has criticized the Legislature’s recent police reform bills and, like Schmidt, says she’d push back against government overreach.

Democrat Ted Cummings is a Kaiser Aluminum employee who has previously run for U.S. Senate and the Spokane County Commission. Cummings has said he’s seeking office because the modern Republican Party is an existential threat to democracy. He supports transitioning to clean energy and believes the move will reap benefits both environmentally and economically.

Several incumbent legislators only have one challenger.

3rd Legislative District Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, faces Republican Scotty Nicol.

Chase, a 4th Legislative District representative, faces fellow Republican Leonard Christian.

6th Legislative District Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, is up against Democratic challenger Michaela Kelso.

7th Legislative District Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, faces Republican Lonny Ray Williams.

The following legislators are running unopposed:

6th Legislative District Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Spokane, 6th Legislative District Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane, 7th Legislative District Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, 7th Legislative District Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, 9th Legislative District representatives Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy and Joe Schmick, R-Colfax.

Secretary of State

Many candidates for Washington Secretary of State say they’re most concerned about cybersecurity, misinformation and elections audits.

Voters elected a Secretary of State just two years ago, but Republican Kim Wyman left the post in November to take a job in the Biden Administration. Gov. Jay Inslee tapped Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs to take her place.

Hobbs, the first Democratic Secretary of State in nearly 60 years, leads the field in attracting campaign donations with more than $420,000 raised. He has said he’d focus on defending state elections from foreign cyberattacks and combat elections misinformation if elected.

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson has managed to raise $179,000, despite running without a party affiliation. Anderson is highlighting her years of elections experience and commitment to nonpartisanship.

Republican Mark Miloscia, who’s served as a Republican state senator and a Democratic representative, leads the GOP candidates with $70,000. Miloscia has said he’d want to do more auditing of state elections in order to restore faith in the system.

Other candidates include Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner, Republican Bob Hagglund, Democrat Marquez Tiggs, Tamborine Borrelli of the America First (R) party and Kurtis Engle of the Union party.

House of Representatives

Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has represented Eastern Washington in D.C. since 2005.

McMorris Rodgers has never won less than 55% of the general election vote during her 18 years in Congress. Unseating her would be a tall task.

But three people are trying.

They include two Spokane County Democrats, Natasha Hill and Ann Marie Danimus.

Hill, a Spokane attorney, sees herself as the more progressive option. Danimus, who owns a marketing company, sees herself as a moderate.

Republican Sean Clynch, another county resident, said he’s especially passionate about stopping illegal immigration.

Senate

Eighteen Senate hopefuls are trying to separate themselves from the pack and advance to the general election.

But in all likelihood, incumbent Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Tiffany Smiley will be the ones to make it past Aug. 2.

Murray has been one of Washington’s senators since 1992. Only six U.S. senators have been in Congress longer and few politicians hold more sway in D.C.

Smiley is a former triage nurse and Whitworth University graduate who spends much of her time advocating for veterans.

The other 16 candidates are: Henry Clay Dennison, Socialist Workers Party; Mohammad Hassan Said, Democrat; John Guenther, Republican; Dan Phan Doan, no party preference; Dr. Pano Churchill, Democrat; Dave Saulibio, JFK Republican; Sam Cusmir, Democrat; Bill Hirt, Republican; Jon Butler, independent; Bryan Solstin, Democrat; Martin D. Hash, no party preference; Thor Amundson, independent; Charlie (Chuck) Jackson, independent; Naz Paul, independent; Ravin Pierre, Democrat; Leon Lawson, Trump Republican.

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