Breaking down the primary elections – RANGE Media (2024)

Breaking down the primary elections – RANGE Media (1)

With most of the ballots counted for the August primary, we wanted to share some data-crunching and analysis on the results. In the city of Spokane, liberal candidates came out on top in each election. However, in all but one case the candidates were below 50%, paving the way for close races this fall.

Everyone was watching the race to be Spokane’s next mayor. With the lion’s share of the votes counted, former State Commerce Director Lisa Brown garnered 47.5% of the vote, incumbent candidate Mayor Nadine Woodward came in second with about 36%, and Tim Archer had 12%. While Archer indicated that he wasn’t likely to endorse Woodward, it’s fair to assume many of his voters will break for the conservative Woodward in the general election, setting up a hotly contested general election for Spokane’s most powerful office.

In the City Council President race, left-leaning candidate and current City Councilmember Betsy Wilkerson had an even better primary than Brown. Wilkerson netted over 49% of the vote in the three-candidate primary, a slightly better margin than Brown.

More importantly, Wilkerson outperformed Brown in all three city council districts, including doing 4% better than Brown in District 1, which roughly covers Spokane east of Division and north of Trent. District 1 is currently represented by two conservative council members — Michael Cathcart and Jonathan Bingle — it also elected Kate Burke, the most progressive councilperson in recent memory, so it’s a wildcard. It was also a spoiler, with several progressive election operatives saying a key part of Mayor Woodward’s razor-thin victory in 2019 was her challenger Ben Stuckart underperformance in the district.

Stuckart’s candidacy was also undermined in this area by the lack of a fellow liberal candidate for city council, which likely reduced turnout of like-minded voters and left Stuckart without a colleague to campaign with in that district. That won’t be the case this year as Lindsey Shaw, who’s endorsed by the progressive organization Fuse Washington, faces off against incumbent Michael Cathcart this fall. (Note: Because only two candidates are vying for this seat there was no primary election in District 1).

The only Spokane city candidate who can probably start plotting their policy ambitions in earnest is Paul Dillon, who won 41.5% of the vote in District 2 and who will face Woodward-aligned Katey Treolar in November. That percentage might not sound great, but District 2 is Spokane’s most liberal council district: Governor Jay Inslee won by a 24% margin in that district in 2020. Plus, Dillon has a good shot to get the lion’s share of Democrat Cyndi Donahue’s voters (she earned 17% in the primary).

The biggest surprise of the night was the solid showing from environmental activist Kitty Klitzke in the District 3 council race. Klitzke has decades of policy experience, but she entered the race late and the field was crowded with six candidates in total and 4 political new-comers, including fellow progressive Esteban Herevia.

What could have been a bunched-up race saw Klitzke garner 34% to lead all candidates, well ahead of second-place finisher, conservative Earl Moore, who has the financial backing of the real estate and developer lobby, and who won just under 22%. Klitzke has a bit of a tailwind, Herevia placed third with 17%, but low turnout primaries can lead to unpredictable general elections, as in 2011 when Mayor Mary Verner won almost 60% of the primary vote, only to lose to David Condon 52% to 48% after turnout nearly doubled for the general.

A final result to touch on is the single Spokane School Board race this cycle.

School boards have increasingly become a battleground for right-wing political operatives, but that doesn’t seem likely in Spokane this cycle. Mike Wiser, an incumbent endorsed by the progressive organization Fuse Washington, cleared 56%, beating second place finisher Ericka Lalka, a fiscal conservative and Republican party committee member, by almost 22%

Wiser was the only candidate in the city to earn over 50% of the vote share, and he, like Dillon, has favorable prospects heading into November.

Focus on homelessness

The only candidate forum before the primary election centered on what will assuredly continue to be the hot button topic this election season: homelessness. So, we wanted to check in on the areas of Spokane that have taken center stage in the homeless debate, including the East Central neighborhood where Camp Hope was located, the Chief Garry Park neighborhood where the Trent Shelter is and the West Hills, where the Catalyst Supportive Housing Project now occupies a former hotel.

Throughout our reporting in these areas, neighbors have told us that they feel as though their voices are ignored in the debate over where to place services. An extremely contentious meeting at the Hampton Inn on the Sunset Highway last summer saw members of the West Hills neighborhood demanding answers of Woodward and had Woodward — and other people in the audience — blaming Brown before Brown had even declared she was running. So would that translate into a groundswell in those areas for candidates promising to put them first?

At least in the primary, it did not.

"Is it a done deal? Why can't you tell Commerce no?"

Man interrupts "they're going to cram it down our throats."

Nadine tells them to talk to Commerce.

Crowd does not like that. "This is your city Nadine."

Nadine says, "Lisa Brown." (Director of Commerce)

— Luke Baumgarten (@lukebaumgarten) August 31, 2022

The precinct that encompasses both the former site of Camp Hope and the Trent Shelter voted narrowly for Woodward for Mayor and backed Wilkerson for Council President by a nearly 10% margin. In the 2019 primary, these general areas significantly favored Woodward over Ben Stuckart by over 10% — though it’s not a perfect comparison because redistricting has changed the precinct boundaries in Spokane. In the 2023 primary, the margin shrunk to single digits between Brown and Woodward, with Brown capturing a significantly higher portion of votes than Stuckart did in 2019.

Breaking down the primary elections – RANGE Media (2)

Similar patterns held true in the West Hills, where Brown outperformed Stuckart’s results from 2019. Brown won the greatest vote share in the area that surrounds the Catalyst and, more importantly, significantly improved on Stuckart’s performance, earning 7% more votes in the two West Hills precincts combined.

Breaking down the primary elections – RANGE Media (3)

These results suggest that outspoken groups like the East Spokane Business Association, which took out multiple advertisem*nts calling for the closure of Camp Hope, and the Save the West Hills group, which protested the Catalyst Project, may not fully represent the community in these areas. Instead, voters in these neighborhoods appear to be defecting from Woodward who backed the disbandment of Camp Hope and opposed the siting of the Catalyst Project in the West Hills and turning out for Brown who led the Commerce Department when it decided to fund the Catalyst and preached patience with the closure of Camp Hope.

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Breaking down the primary elections – RANGE Media (2024)
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