Two political rookies have filed to run for a Spokane County Commission seat representing much of the western part of the city of Spokane.
Republican Kim Plese, 59, owns Plese Printing and Marketing. Democrat Chris Jordan, 32, is a lawyer with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office in Spokane.
The two newcomers are running during an unprecedented year for County Commission races.
Voters will select five county commissioners this fall and each of the commissioners will represent one district, not the county as a whole.
It’s a major change from the county’s current political setup. Before 2022, county commissioner candidates have run in district-specific primary elections and countywide general elections.
That arrangement has enabled Republicans to go undefeated in county commissioner elections for longer than a decade. Even when a district favors a Democrat during the primary, the county’s overall Republican lean has given the GOP candidate the advantage in November.
A 2018 state law required the county to move from three districts to five and do away with the countywide general election. A bipartisan redistricting committee split the county into five districts in the fall.
The district Jordan and Plese are vying for, District 1, covers most of Spokane west of Division Street, although it doesn’t include the Indian Trail area and its southern end stops at 29th Avenue. The area has historically preferred Democratic candidates.
Plese was born and raised in Spokane. She graduated from Gonzaga Prep High School and majored in social work at Washington State University. She’s single, has two adult children and has owned Plese Printing and Marketing since 1990.
Plese said she doesn’t have a well-defined platform yet. She said she’ll determine her priorities by talking with people in her district.
“I’m going to be doorbelling and going out all summer, starting probably May 1, until Election Day,” she said.
While Plese doesn’t yet offer many specific ideas for how she’d like to change Spokane County government, she said she’s worried about the direction the community has been headed.
“I worry about my neighborhood,” she said. “I worry about the quality of life. I worry about the homeless issue. I worry about crime.”
Homelessness is hurting small businesses, Plese said.
“You just wonder if the City Council president or some of these people have actually had a business and have actually had to pick up human feces and garbage and things like that on a daily basis,” she said. “I’m one of those people that’s had to do it for really the last 10 years.”
Like Plese, Jordan was born and raised in Spokane. He graduated from Mt. Spokane High School, went to the University of Washington for both his bachelor’s and law degrees and has worked for the attorney general’s office in Spokane for six years. He’s married to Mara Hazeltine, a family medicine doctor he met in high school.
Jordan said he’s running because he wants to see the county invest more in resources and infrastructure that would help children whose families are experiencing poverty, mental health issues, addiction and domestic violence.
“I think there’s a great opportunity for county government to really focus on preventing those kinds of harms and helping kids and families thrive,” he said, stressing that the county needs more facilities and services to help people facing mental health and addiction issues.
The county could spend some of the $101 million it received through the American Rescue Plan on projects that increase access to mental health and addiction resources, Jordan said.
During his time at the attorney general’s office, Jordan has specialized in child safety, working on cases in which children have been abused, abandoned and neglected.
“I’ve seen too much trauma on the back end and on the ground level and just decided I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” he said.
Some Spokane Democrats have endorsed Jordan, including City Councilwomen Lori Kinnear, Betsy Wilkerson and Karen Stratton as well as former City Councilwoman Candace Mumm and Spokane Democratic Rep. Timm Ormsby.