The third-place finisher in Tuesday’s primary for Spokane mayor, Tim Archer, said he has no plans to endorse either candidate in the November election – creating an obstacle for incumbent Nadine Woodward to coalesce Spokane’s conservative vote in a race shaping up to be hard fought and close.
In updated results as ballots were counted Wednesday, Lisa Brown still led the field with 46.9% of the vote, and Woodward trailed with 38%, a little more than half-a-point decrease for the incumbent mayor from Tuesday night’s tabulation. Archer received 12% as of Wednesday, which was a 0.6% increase from the night before.
More than 13,000 returned ballots in the mayoral contest had yet to be counted as of Wednesday evening.
Comparing just the two frontrunners’ results, Brown is up by about 3,600 ballots as of Wednesday’s count. The former Washington State Department of Commerce director also captured more precincts by larger vote margins than Woodward.
Though his nearly 5,000 votes pales in comparison to the frontrunners, Archer’s supporters may prove pivotal in the November runoff. In a Wednesday interview, Archer confirmed he had no plans to endorse either candidate.
“My voter’s support must be earned, not assumed. (Woodward) failed to obtain their support through the GOP. She will have to make a better case this time,” he said.
Archer’s conservative ideology more closely aligns with Woodward compared to Brown, who was endorsed by the Spokane County Democratic Party. Despite this, Archer was highly critical of her time in City Hall throughout the campaign.
Archer lost his job in 2021 after 20 years with the Spokane Fire Department because approval for his religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine was rescinded by the city under Woodward’s leadership. The event was largely the catalyst that inspired him to run for Spokane’s top job. Archer said Wednesday it would “be a stretch” for him to endorse Woodward.
Asked if he was concerned withholding his support might hurt Woodward’s chances against Brown, Archer said Wednesday he wasn’t worried about that possibility.
“I’m not going to endorse out of fear. I’m going to endorse out of someone’s merit,” he said. In a Facebook post after his loss, Archer thanked his supporters for not allowing “fear of Lisa Brown” to dictate their choice in the mayoral race.
Following her second place finish, Woodward’s campaign claimed her results combined with Archer’s showed she was well-positioned to defeat Brown in November.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for me because there are more people who didn’t vote for Lisa than did,” Woodward said in a Wednesday interview – saying she would be working in the coming votes to convince those who did not support her in the primary.
“There’s a clear contrast between Lisa Brown voters and Tim Archer voters, and I can’t see them going to her,” she said.
The incumbent mayor faced a similar dilemma in her first mayoral campaign four years ago. Shawn Poole, another member of the Fire Department, received a similar 11.7% in the 2019 contest. However, Poole quickly endorsed Woodward the next day, and she went on to win the general election by a slim 848 votes.
Woodward also confirmed she would not seek the Spokane County GOP’s endorsement in the general election. The group backed Archer in the primary.
“I didn’t in 2019 and I didn’t in the primary and I don’t intend to,” she said when asked Wednesday if she would seek the GOP endorsement. “I made it very clear in this race, and when I ran in 2019, that I was running nonpartisan.”
If the same voters showed up in November as in the primary and all of Archer’s supporters move to Woodward, Spokane would be looking at a similarly close result to Spokane’s 2019 nail-biter – with Woodward and Archer’s supporters slightly edging out Brown. However, it is likely turnout is much greater in the general election, and those new voters are difficult to predict.
Brown argued in a Wednesday interview that Woodward’s inability to get at least 40% of the primary vote means Spokane residents are “dissatisfied and want new leadership.”
Brown also rejected the idea that Woodward could count on the support of Archer’s voters in the general election, noting they are an “independent crowd” who are upset with the mayor’s past four years in office.
“I don’t think counting on their support will be a winning strategy,” she said of Archer’s supporters. She also noted the primary and general elections have very different electorates, and those voting in November will be a “much larger group.”
The primary’s two other losing mayoral candidates, Patrick McKann and Kelly Stevens, received 2% and less than 1%, respectively, as of Wednesday evening.
A McKann campaign spokesperson said Wednesday the former mayoral candidate would make an endorsement in the race but was not yet ready to make that announcement. Stevens did not respond to a request for comment.
Reporter Kip Hill contributed to this report.