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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Wilkerson wins race for Spokane City Council president as liberals maintain control

Liberals maintained veto-proof control of the seven-person Spokane City Council, according to early results on election night.

Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson defeated local businesswoman Kim Plese in the race for City Council president, taking 53.1% of the vote in Tuesday’s count. Wilkerson is the first woman elected to lead the City Council and will succeed Council President Lori Kinnear, who was appointed to the position in July.

Wilkerson danced behind the podium before she thanked the boisterous crowd at the Spokane County Democrats’ election night watch party at Riverside Place in downtown Spokane.

“We focused on housing, homelessness, strengthening community, small business and families,” Wilkerson said. “Because I know when seeds are planted in fertile ground, they can grow Spokane. We are ready to grow because this is fertile ground tonight.”

After her speech, Wilkerson told The Spokesman-Review her success in the election was thanks to her campaign’s promise to “never go negative.”

Plese, however, argued that Wilkerson had broken her promise in recent days by highlighting Plus’s stance on abortion and other issues that “had nothing to do with the office.”

Wilkerson said her first order of business would be to reset the City Council after a politically fraught year.

“My first order of business will be to reset the council,” Wilkerson said. “There’s been so much uncertainty in the office. We need to come together as a team and have a retreat.”

While Wilkerson’s campaign declared victory,

Plese remained hopeful, saying it’s not over until the election is certified.

“I’m feeling, actually, positive,” Plese said. “I mean, I’m gonna stay positive the rest of the night. And just, there’s a lot of ballots out there still in the town. And I’m less than 3,000 votes away.”

Plese had characterized the race as one over public safety and support for law enforcement, insinuating in ads and on the campaign trail that crime and the homelessness crisis would worsen under Wilkerson’s leadership. In contrast, Wilkerson has framed herself as the status quo candidate who would continue the work of her liberal predecessors, and argued that Plese lacks experience or a basic understanding of city government.

Wilkerson, a progressive and the chosen successor of Council President Lori Kinnear and former Council President Breean Beggs, has represented south Spokane since 2020 and has owned and operated Moore’s Assisted Living, a residential care facility for the mentally ill, since 1993.

Plese was the owner and operator for 32 years of Plese Printing and Marketing, which was regularly commissioned to produce campaign materials for local candidates, before selling the business last year to focus on her run for the County Commission.

District 1

Councilman Michael Cathcart won re-election of the northeast district by taking 56.9% of the vote , fending off a challenge from former Logan Neighborhood Council chair Lindsey Shaw. The conservative incumbent campaigned as a steward of the taxpayer’s wallet, a strong supporter of law enforcement and an ally of Nadine Woodward who was willing to criticize the mayor when it came to city finances.

Cathcart said he felt confident about his race but said it was fair to allow more ballots to trickle in to confirm his victory.

“I honestly think that I have a really strong track record the last four years, both in working in a bipartisan way with folks across the entire spectrum,” Cathcart said.

“And I feel like I just align really well with my district, very pro-public safety, pro-public housing, pro-government transparency and that seems to resonate really well with the constituents.”

Shaw seemingly failed to persuade voters of her progressive vision for the city, including stronger renter protections and investments in homeless services. In many cases, she failed to present clear plans for how she would implement her plans.

Like Plese, Shaw claimed the results were too close to declare a winner.

“Of course we’d love to know the final results tonight, but we’ll have to wait for more ballots to be counted,” Shaw said in a statement. “My campaign was talking to voters all day yesterday and today, and a lot of the folks we spoke with had a plan to vote but had yet to turn in their ballots, so we knew there could be a lot left to count after election night.”

District 2

The race to represent south Spokane pitted Paul Dillon, one of the most outspoken progressive candidates on the ballot this year, against Katey Treloar, a former educator who attempted to avoid partisan labels.

In the city’s most reliably liberal district, that close affiliation to the Democratic Party served Dillon well as he garnered 53.4% of the votes to Treloar’s 46.3%.

Dillon said public safety, housing and homelessness are his priorities.

“The voters want a better response, and they trust us to deliver,” he said.

The Treloar campaign also chose not to concede as it waits for more ballots to be counted.

Dillon worked until recently as the vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho and leveraged his progressive bone fides in the election while trying to paint his opponent as a Republican in disguise. Treloar, who worked for nine years as a classroom teacher in various schools for the Spokane Public Schools, characterized the race as a problem solver versus a protester.

District 3

Kitty Klitzke won 60.1% of the vote in the race to represent northwest Spokane on the City Council. She defeated Earl Moore.

Klitzke has served on various boards and committees, including the Spokane Regional Transportation Council and the city’s Plan Commission Transportation Subcommittee.

“Spokane had a can-do attitude,” Klitzke said after results were posted.

“It’s important to bring that back with cooperativeness.”

Moore has served as a member of the Spokane Human Rights Commission and, as a respiratory therapist for 40 years before she retired, successfully lobbied for the end of smoking in enclosed spaces such as restaurants.

Moore said her campaign ran a good race and did the best it could.

“I would not take back one minute of this,” she said. “We worked hard and I always tried to stay above the line and not be disrespectful.”

Of all the candidates running for City Council this year, few could boast the kind of in-the-weeds knowledge that Klitzke brought to her campaign on city policies, such as planning and transportation issues. Moore, on the other hand, campaigned on her support for law enforcement and a desire to see more accountability for the homeless, but offered few if any details on what she would do if elected.

S-R reporters Ellen Dennis, Zak Curley and Isabelle Parekh contributed to this story.