Tyler LeMasters, Legitimate Candidate or the?
The law vs. what it's trying to accomplish.
Last week, candidate Tyler LeMasters was struck from the November general election ballot by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. Mr. LeMasters was trying to step in to challenge Betsy Wilkerson for the District 2, Position 2 (South Hill) seat on the City of Spokane City Council. Judge Plese ruled that Mr. LeMasters had not fulfilled the residency requirement to be a candidate for City Council. The residency requirement is set forth in the City Charter, Article II, Section 6, A:
A person must be a qualified voter of the City of Spokane and have been a resident of the city, and of the appropriate council district, for the one year immediately preceding the time of filing as a candidate for, or the time of appointment to, the office of mayor, council president, or council member.
Mr. LeMasters missed the mark by months. He filed his candidacy with the Washington Secretary of State on May 18, 2021, after moving to Spokane in November of 2020 from Virginia. He had lived in Virginia from July 2019 to November 2020 and worked for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodger (R-CD5, eastern Washington) in Washington, D.C.
The Spokesman article on Judge Plese’ ruling, written by Colin Tiernan dove into the legal definitions of resident, civil servant, public servant, and businessman. Click and read the article for more detail on the legal arguments.
An in-District residency requirement of only a year is low bar for candidacy to represent the citizens of that District to the City Council, but the reason for the requirement is clear. The District’s voters deserve to be presented with candidates who have been directly and recently involved in the issues of the District, not someone swooping in from afar equipped with a philosophy but lacking direct experience with the District’s issues and citizens.
Marshall Casey, the former law partner of Matt Shea and the attorney representing Mr. LeMasters, lamented in the Spokesman article:
“I think this removes a choice for the voters. I think people who are serving their community should not be uneligible. Running for office is extremely hard.”
Casey’s “serving their community” is disingenuous. Mr. LeMaster’s has been serving Rep. McMorris Rodgers as a “policy portfolio specialist.” That is serving the political interests of McMorris Rodgers while living 2500 miles away from the City of Spokane’s District 2 (South Hill) community.
Even if Judge Plese had accepted Marshall Casey’s definitional arguments, Mr. LeMasters violated the intent of the City Council’s residency requirement.
Leaving aside Mr. LeMasters trying to bend the City Charter’s candidacy rules, we have not seen the end of his efforts to gain a foothold in public office. McMorris Rodgers’ office has been an incubator for budding Republican politicians for years. (Think U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA CD3, SW WA). That LeMasters left his post in McMorris’ D.C. office to set up housekeeping in Spokane last November was no accident—it was just a few months late. He and his backers certainly understood the likelihood of his winning a seat on the Spokane City Council from District 2 was slim to none. After all, Spokane’s South Hill is the bluest area in eastern Washington. However, the Republican Party (and McMorris Rodgers’ people) understand that getting one’s name in front of the voters is a necessary step to eventually winning elections. (It is worth noting that Republicans have been far more diligent and successful at fielding new candidates than local Democrats have in the last few decades.)
Although this is technically a non-partisan race, LeMasters’ Republican bonafides are glaringly obvious. Like McMorris Rodgers, LeMasters’ graduated high school from a relatively rural area (Medical Lake) and went on to college at a Christian fundamentalist institution, Azusa Pacific University on the outskirts of Los Angeles, from where he graduated with a degree in Biblical Studies. He dutifully filled out WeBelieveWeVote’s questionnaire. His answers shine some light on his underpinnings in a way that his campaign website does not. Based on his responses to the survey, LeMasters received the lowest rating of any candidate who responded to it. His moderate-looking “alignment rating” of 56% was earned by declaring some of the most revealing litmus test questions as “primarily state issues” and declining to answer them. That tactic is vintage McMorris Rodgers: be sure to offer just enough alignment to garner the vote of the WeBelieveWeVote crowd while avoiding truthful answers that might be seen as toxic by other voters.
Mounting a campaign against a popular incumbent with substantial financial backing seems quixotic, but that characterization misses the point. Mr. LeMasters was set (or sent?) on a diversionary mission. His short term goals were 1) to make sure that he was on the ballot in case something completely unforeseen happened to his opponent’s candidacy, 2) to keep pounding the Republican message (just visit his glitzy, short-on-details, but long-on-provocative-photos campaign website), and 3) to make sure that his opponent’s campaign and extensive campaign contributions weren’t entirely free for deployment in support of other candidates. As yet one more realtor/developer type seeking or holding public office (think Rob Chase, Mary Kuney, and Al French) LeMasters might look forward to considerable financial support from the “independent” PAC of the Washington State realtors in future election efforts.
This candidacy is just one step in this 30 year old’s electoral aspirations. Like his employer and likely mentor, McMorris Rodgers, when LeMasters re-appears as a candidate his formal education and political training may well prevent him from even comprehending issues like global warming, much less voting to mitigate its effects.
Judge Plese’ ruling against LeMasters’ candidacy is just a minor pothole in his road. Watch.
Keep to the high ground,