Arne Woodard, the longest-serving city councilman in Spokane Valley history, has lost his re-election bid.
Woodard got walloped on election night by Al Merkel, taking 34% of the vote to Merkel’s 65%. Merkel, who co-owns a dog grooming business with his wife, had come up short in three separate City Council races before finally breaking through Tuesday.
Merkel said he knocked on 4,000 to 6,000 doors while campaigning.
“I replaced dollars with doors,” he said, noting that he raised an unusually small amount of money for a Spokane Valley City Council campaign. “What works best is shaking peoples’ hands and talking to them about what really matters.”
Merkel said he believes his campaign succeeded because he focused on issues Valley voters truly care about, such as development, property taxes and Valleyfest.
He said that, while he disagrees philosophically with Woodard in a handful of ways, he greatly appreciates the longtime incumbent’s years of work as a civil servant. Merkel said many of the residents he met while doorbelling “regaled” him with stories of Woodard taking the time to talk with them personally.
Woodard said he’s at peace with the election results but feels the numbers “don’t make any sense.”
“I’ve had a fabulous 12 years, so if this is the end that’s OK,” he said. “Nothing defines me in my life except my relationship with Jesus Christ, and God the father and my family.”
Woodard, who credited Merkel for campaigning hard, said he’s “feeling just fine” and “looking forward to a good night’s sleep.”
Tim Hattenburg, the only other Spokane Valley City Council incumbent on the ballot, fared far better than Woodard despite facing an opponent with more name recognition. He won 54% of the vote, compared to 46% for challenger Rob Chase.
Hattenburg, who first joined the council in 2019, is a retired high school history teacher and the only City Council member with ties to the Democratic Party. Chase is a former Republican legislator and county treasurer with libertarian leanings.
In a race between two political novices, Jessica Yaeger easily prevailed over Rachel Briscoe. Yaeger will take the seat soon to be vacated by City Councilwoman Brandi Peetz, who didn’t seek re-election.
“I feel really good. It’s a real honor,” Yaeger said at her party at The Black Diamond restaurant. “I’m excited to be part of a great team and I’m ready to help us move to the next level.”
Yaeger, the Spokane County chapter chair of Moms for Liberty, won 63% of the vote. She had backing from the county Republican Party and Mayor Pam Haley.
Briscoe, who co-owns a construction company with her husband, took 36%. Her supporters included Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels and City Councilman Ben Wick.
Correspondent Paige Van Buren contributed to this article.