Ben Stuckart re-enters campaign for Spokane mayor

Friday, April 13, 2018

(as reported in The Spokesman-Review by Kip Hill; photo by Jesse Tinsley)

Ben Stuckart is running for mayor. Again.

The two-term Spokane City Council president announced Friday afternoon he was resuming a mayoral campaign that he suspended while pursuing Eastern Washington’s seat in Congress. Stuckart dropped out of that race last June, citing family health concerns.

Stuckart never ruled out a return to the contest for mayor. In response to questions from local users of the website Reddit in August, Stuckart said that his mayoral campaign was “not active” but that he planned “to make a decision about my future early in 2018.”

The at-times bombastic leader of what’s seen by political rivals as a progressive supermajority on the City Council, Stuckart has drawn criticism from conservative corners of Spokane for pushing policies on earned sick leave pay, taxing guns and ammo for mental health care services and floating a potential fine for coal and oil trains traveling through downtown.

Though critical of some decisions and actions of Spokane Mayor David Condon and his administration, including most recently the dismissal of former Planning Director Lisa Key, Stuckart has cited an improved working relationship with Condon in recent months centered around $52 million in public investments downtown and beyond.

Stuckart returns as the most politically savvy candidate in a 2019 mayoral field that already includes several other hopefuls. Mike Tedesco, the head of planning and development for the Spokane Tribe, announced his candidacy last March. Last month, Spokane Fire Lt. Shawn Poole also filed with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission to run for the seat.

In an interview last month, the 53-year-old Poole said he would be most concerned in office with tamping down government spending if elected.

“I want to be a fiduciary steward of the taxpayer’s money,” said Poole, who said in his first 90 days he’d audit all city departments to look for wasteful spending. Poole has not run for any other political office but has raised the most money so far of any mayoral candidate, sitting at $1,865 in contributions on Friday, according to state reports.

Before November 2019, those figures are likely to go up. Condon raised more than $400,000 in support of his most recent mayoral bid in 2015, though Stuckart ushered through changes to the city’s campaign finance laws last fall that puts additional restrictions on committees and individuals making contributions in municipal races.

Chris Schroll, an alumnus of Eastern Washington University and Democratic Party official, has also filed to run, but has yet to report any campaign contributions. Schroll’s platform includes a call to repeal Spokane’s “sit-lie” ordinance, a law that is intended to to prevent loitering on dowtown sidewalks but that has been criticized as a way to criminalize homelessness in town.

John Lemus, former chairman of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, had filed to run for office but announced on Facebook on Thursday night he’d be abandoning his campaign in light of Stuckart’s interest.