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Tom Shillue


Seattle did it first, but Spokane does this more often

Seattle mayoral finalists Cary Moon, left, and Jenny Durkan, right. (KIRO 7 file images)

Seattle voters have been patting themselves on the back since three women topped the mayoral primary election. It is certain that the next mayor of the Emerald City will be the first woman to hold the office in 90 years.

Big deal, Spokesman Review columnist Jim Camden says. He notes in a recent column that Spokane has been electing female mayors and other candidates for decades while Seattle hasn’t.

RELATED: 15 things you didn’t know about Seattle’s first woman mayor Bertha Knight Landes

“It was a fun reminder that having a woman mayor, or lots of women representing you, is no big deal in Spokane,” Camden told KIRO Radio’s Rantz and Burns. “We’ve had three women mayors in the last 30 some years.”

“It was just a fun dig at Seattle; we hate to see Seattle getting too big for its britches,” he said.

Camden points out that while Seattle was first, Spokane has a better track record. And while more of their candidates might be women, they also come from diverse political backgrounds (unlike Seattle).

Camden writes:

Those of us who love to tweak the state’s great urban bastion of progressivism shouldn’t pull a muscle stifling a yawn. Welcome to the 1980s, Spokane-style. We had an all-woman general election for mayor in 1985 when Vicki McNeill ran against Margaret Leonard, two women who were about as different as a political pundit could imagine … Spokane even went through a period where voters in part of the city were represented by two women in the U.S. Senate, a woman in the U.S. House, a woman governor, a woman state senator, a woman mayor, at least one city councilwoman and one woman county commissioner … So as Seattle swells with pride over its certain election of a woman mayor, one can’t help but think back to 1989, when some folks there were patting themselves on the back for electing Norm Rice, their first African American mayor. Been there, done that, Spokane voters noted. In 1981 with Jim Chase.

But does this mean that Seattle is not the Progressive beacon that it prides itself as? Does that title truly belong to Spokane?

“I would never claim that, and Spokane would never claim that,” Camden said. “As I pointed out, some of the candidates are Progressive and some are Conservatives … it’s not about being Progressive or Liberal or Conservative. It’s just that in Spokane we have a lot of women that run for office and many of them win.”

“We love to tweak Seattle every now and then, just as Seattle likes to tweak Spokane, although, Seattle tweaks Spokane for being a small city; sort of the country cousin,” he said. “We like to tweak Seattle when it is all over itself for its progressivism.”

Seattle does get a lot of attention over its politics. It has elected a Socialist council member. The city is currently suing the Trump administration over sanctuary city threats. But don’t think that Spokane is some outback, country town without any attributes. Camden boasts Spokane’s downtown and notes its growing city core.

“(Seattle) does get a lot more of the attention, which is not surprising because it has a lot more of the people and a lot more of the problems,” Camden said. “The traffic (in Western Washington) is horrendous compared to traffic in Spokane … we sometimes look at the problems you all have with Sound Transit and the costs over there and go, ‘Phew, I’m glad my property taxes aren’t going up like that.’”

“I hate to use the term metropolitan, because I think in metropolitan terms (Spokane) is not Pugetopolis, which is what we sometimes refer to that part of the state,” he said.

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