In Washington State) ballot for the August 3 local primary elections should be in the mail (or already in your mailbox). If you don’t have one by Monday, investigate by going to votewa.gov. Spokane County residents will also receive the Spokane County Official Voters’ Pamphlet.
The Official Voters’ Pamphlet can be disorienting. The pamphlet presents the reader with every primary candidate who is on the ballot for any position in Spokane County. Since this is an election for local offices representing citizens living in a variety of voting districts (none of which span the entire county), many of the candidates in the Pamphlet will not appear on your personal ballot. The candidates on your ballot are determined by the “residential address” registered with the county auditor. (Your “mailing address” may differ.) You can see how you are registered (and much more) by signing in and exploring at votewa.gov.
Some candidates you may have followed will not appear on your ballot despite your living in that voting district. For example, if you live City of Spokane District 2 (the “South Hill” and the area around the airport) you may be seeing signs for Betsy Wilkerson or Tyler LeMaster for Spokane City Council, but neither name will appear on the primary ballot. Primary elections in Washington State are “top two” primaries meant to advance the “top two” to the general election in November. If only two or one candidate files for an office those one or two candidates automatically advance to the general and bypass the primary election entirely.
Naturally, every candidate found in the Official Voters’ Pamphlet endeavors to present themselves in the best light, so the Pamphlet offers general orientation (and a photo of variable quality) but little more.
The Progressive Voters Guide offers useful analysis and endorsements of candidates. The Progressive Voters Guide is up to date for this election.
The Washington Public Disclosure Commission (see detailed guide to its use below) is a little awkward to use, but offers information on the relative campaign coffers of all the candidates. The relative amounts of money are only a guide, but they offer some idea who is in the running and (by drilling down to see who has contributed to whom) one can gain an idea of who knows and has confidence in the ability of a particular candidate. For example, in the two races (Positions 3 and 4) under SCHOOL DIRECTOR, SPOKANE SD 081 there is really only one candidate for Position 3 (Melissa Bedford) and four for Position 4 who have raised competitive sums. Scanning the contributors to these candidates I see names I favorably recognize in the contributor lists for Riley Smith, Rion Ametu, and Melissa Bedford. In contrast, Kata Dean and Daryl Geffken—not so much. I found this analysis much more useful than the bland reporting on the Position 4 race as covered in the Spokesman.
WeBelieveWeVote.org is also useful, but perhaps not for the reason one might think. Visit the website, but be sure drill down. Candidates are rated by “percent of alignment” based on answers to a questionnaire. Take Kata Dean, for example. She’s listed under the Spokane City button near the bottom of the page under “Spokane School District 81 Director Position 4”. Click “More”. Her “Background” information is similar to the bland listing in the “Voters Pamphlet”. “Endorsements” and “Major Contributor” tabs lead nowhere. Finally, at the bottom, there is a button, “Survey Responses” to a “Questionnaire”. Be sure to click “Questionnaire” and read. It quickly becomes apparent that the higher the “alignment” rating, the more extreme right the candidate. “Alignment” with WeBelieveWeVote.org, when fully scrutinized, is more a test of faith in far right Republicanism than of Christian faith. (Since when, for example, is fealty to “States’ Rights” a Christian value?) No wonder that the majority of candidates “Did Not Respond” to this political litmus testing. WeBelieveWeVote.org seems intended to hi-jack the votes of well-meaning Christians.
Articles in the Spokesman or in The Inlander on these primary races have not been particularly useful to helping to determine who these candidates are or whom they are trying to represent. Endorsements are not offered by either paper.
I hope the resources and some idea of how to use them that I present here will offer my readers both in Spokane County and in Washington State some better ways to assess which candidate merits your vote. The primaries are important. If you don’t do your homework now and vote you have no grounds to complain about the candidates you see on the ballot in November.
Keep to the high ground,
City of Spokane, City Council District Map: https://my.spokanecity.org/opendata/gis/council-districts/
Spokane County School District Maps: https://www.spokanecounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/120/SchoolDistricts-Map-PDF?bidId=
(It takes some study. Not a great overview.)
Spokane County Fire Districts: http://www.interceptradio.com/wiki/index.php/Spokane_County,_WA
WASHINGTON PUBLIC DISCLOSURE COMMISSION—How to use it.
Here’s a nuts and bolts guide to navigating the PDC website for the current election. (Some of the numbers presented below may now be out of date—I wrote this June 25th):
Washington State requires that campaign contributions be reported to the Public Disclosure Commission. The data presented there is valuable, but it is only of use if one takes a few minutes to learn how to navigate on the PDC website, pdc.wa.gov. To check out contributions to candidates for Spokane City Council or “SCHOOL DIRECTOR, SPOKANE SD 081” (aka Spokane Public Schools School Board) be sure to first set the election year at 2021. You can either click (or add) your voting address or click “Show all Campaigns”. Successive clicks will take you to a list of candidates for those each of those two sets of electoral contests, the Council or the Board. Here are the click sequences: (MUNICIPAL/CITY OF SPOKANE/CITY COUNCIL MEMBER, CITY OF SPOKANE) or (SPECIAL/SPOKANE CO/SCHOOL DIRECTOR, SPOKANE SD 081)
Unfortunately, these PDC listings are not sorted by the individual contests for particular seats, that is, the candidates for the three contested seats on the City of Spokane City Council are all lumped together. To sort that out for yourself visit https://my.spokanecity.org/citycouncil/members/ and find yourself on the map—or find your City Council District under “My Elected Officials” at voter.votewa.gov . Here they are in grouped by District:
District 1 (NE): Luc Jasmin $33,752.78, Naghmana Sherazi $19,739.12, Jonathan D. Bingle $24,249.60.
District 2 (S Hill): Betsy L Wilkerson $43,031.00, Tyler LeMasters $9,378.19
District 3 (NW): Lacrecia "Lu"Hill $22,984.77, Zack Zappone $23,850.70, Mike Lish $18,934.00, Christopher Savage $8,681.00, Karen M Kearney $6,314.28
Click on the name to see the details of contributions and expenditures. Explore. See who is backing whom. Google the candidate websites and check out their Facebook pages. Form an opinion. Donate.
Do the same with the School Director races (SPECIAL/SPOKANE CO/SCHOOL DIRECTOR, SPOKANE SD 081). Note that seven of the twelve filers so far report no campaign funds at all. In the Position 3 race, so far only Melissa Bedford reports receiving contributions. In contrast, Position 4 has attracted six contestants, three of whom have raised money. Riley Smith is in the fundraising lead by a small margin with $5,612.54. Click on names to find out who is offering financial support. Look up the candidates on Facebook or search for a website. Formulate an opinion as to why there are so many vying for Position 4 and so few for Position 3. How is each candidate aligned? Donate. Talk with your friends and neighbors about these races.