Spokane mayoral hopeful Lisa Brown
Spokane mayoral hopeful Lisa Brown addresses a gathering of supporters at the Spokane Convention Center in late September 2023 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The last few years have been rough for Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton State.

Since Don­ald Trump became the face of their “par­ty,” in cycle after cycle, whether local, midterm, or pres­i­den­tial, they’ve lost ground at every lev­el to the Democ­rats as Ever­green State vot­ers turn away from their increas­ing­ly tox­ic pol­i­tics and back­wards poli­cies. It’s a now-sev­en year trend that shows few signs of ceasing.

Con­sid­er the history.

With­in a year of Trump’s Elec­toral Col­lege vic­to­ry, in 2017, Democ­rats end­ed Repub­li­cans’ hold on the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate by win­ning a spe­cial elec­tion in the 45th Dis­trict that sent Man­ka Dhin­gra to the state­house. Dhin­gra has been over­whelm­ing­ly reelect­ed twice since then, and is now a can­di­date for AG.

In 2018, Democ­rats sig­nif­i­cant­ly expand­ed their leg­isla­tive majori­ties in both cham­bers, adding sev­en seats in the House and three in the Sen­ate. They also cap­tured the 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict from Repub­li­cans for the first time, elect­ing pedi­a­tri­cian Kim Schri­er to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2020, Democ­rats reclaimed the office of State Trea­sur­er from Repub­li­cans by elect­ing Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti, the only Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger to pre­vail over a Repub­li­can hold­ing statewide exec­u­tive office. The par­ty also main­tained its leg­isla­tive majori­ties by send­ing right wing leg­is­la­tors Steve O’Ban and Luanne van Wer­ven pack­ing in the 28th and 42nd Leg­isla­tive Dis­tricts at the same time Repub­li­cans were tak­ing over the 19th Leg­isla­tive District.

In 2021, Democ­rats expand­ed their major­i­ty on the King Coun­ty Coun­cil, elect­ing Sarah Per­ry to replace long­time Coun­cilmem­ber Kathy Lam­bert. Mean­while, long­time Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman resigned and was replaced via guber­na­to­r­i­al appoint­ment with a Demo­c­rat: Steve Hobbs.

In 2022, Democ­rats recap­tured the 3rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict in South­west Wash­ing­ton with Marie Glue­senkamp Perez and grew their majori­ties in the state­house by one seat in each cham­ber while retain­ing Steve Hobbs as Sec­re­tary of State — in what was sup­posed to be a “red wave” year.

And, of course, dur­ing this times­pan, Democ­rats have also suc­cess­ful­ly held on to what they already had — the oth­er statewide exec­u­tive depart­ment posi­tions, for instance, and Wash­ing­ton’s two U.S. Sen­ate seats and oth­er U.S. House seats.

Democ­rats aren’t done. This year, they’re look­ing for more gains, and one of their top tar­gets is the may­or­ship of Spokane, Wash­ing­ton’s sec­ond largest city.

The posi­tion is offi­cial­ly “non­par­ti­san,” but the absence of par­ty labels on the bal­lot does­n’t mean the can­di­dates don’t have par­ty affil­i­a­tions or strong­ly held con­vic­tions. Incum­bent May­or Nadine Wood­ward is a well known Repub­li­can, while her chal­lenger Lisa Brown is a well known Democrat.

Wood­ward, who is com­plet­ing her first term, suc­ceed­ed fel­low Repub­li­can David Con­don, who served two terms as May­or of Spokane. Alto­geth­er, that’s twelve years of Repub­li­can con­trol of the Lilac City, an era that began before the Trump years. And it looks like it might be com­ing to an end next month, with Wood­ward’s reelec­tion bid in extreme­ly rough shape and Lisa Brown ascendant.

Brown won the Top Two round, gar­ner­ing 47.53% of the vote, while Wood­ward only man­aged 36.59% — a tru­ly abysmal per­for­mance for an incum­bent. NPI under­stands that Wood­ward’s back­ers have data that affirms her weak stand­ing, which is why the Real­tors and oth­ers are spend­ing a for­tune to try to save her.

Right wing media is also sound­ing the alarm, show­ing how wor­ried Repub­li­cans are about tak­ing anoth­er big loss in a key Wash­ing­ton State race.

Con­sid­er this recent mini-edi­to­r­i­al from The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH:

[E]veryone needs to do what they can in order to get as much sup­port as human­ly pos­si­ble for final­ly, an actu­al Repub­li­can who’s in office and a may­or of a major city. So go with Nadine Wood­ward. Vote for her. Tell your friends to vote for her. Make sure you don’t have folks in Spokane that you haven’t con­nect­ed with and got this in front of them. Make sure they know not to vote for Lisa Brown.

These are non­par­ti­san races, right? These are… They’re tech­ni­cal­ly not run­ning as Repub­li­can or Demo­c­rat. Wood­ward is a Repub­li­can and Lisa Brown is crazy, crazy, crazy to the left. Like crazy to the left, and she would be an absolute dis­as­ter for Spokane. 

If you think the crime cri­sis that has exist­ed as a result of the Democ­rats in the Leg­is­la­ture is some­thing to behold, wait until Lisa Brown gets in charge. It’s going to get much, much, much worse.

It’s real­ly telling that Rantz — a host in the Seat­tle mar­ket — is spend­ing air­time on his KTTH show to denounce Lisa Brown. It speaks to Repub­li­cans’ state of mind. They know Wood­ward is an incred­i­bly weak posi­tion, with lots of self-inflict­ed wounds, includ­ing her deci­sion to appear at a gath­er­ing orga­nized by white suprema­cist Matt Shea short­ly after the August Top Two elec­tion. And they know that vot­ers in Spokane aren’t hap­py with Wood­ward’s record, either.

So, they’re throw­ing every­thing they can at Lisa Brown. It’s des­per­a­tion time.

It’s amus­ing to hear Rantz gripe about how “nasty” the con­test is get­ting. (Rantz is espe­cial­ly upset that an anti-Wood­ward inde­pen­dent expen­di­ture is crit­i­ciz­ing one of Wood­ward’s wealthy back­ers, devel­op­er Lar­ry Stone, with this ad.) The attacks Wood­ward’s sup­port­ers are mak­ing against Brown don’t both­er him, of course, only what Brown sup­port­ers are say­ing about Wood­ward both­ers him.

Repub­li­cans have had more than a decade of con­trol in Spokane and plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to demon­strate an apti­tude for gov­ern­ing Wash­ing­ton’s sec­ond largest city — oppor­tu­ni­ties that have been repeat­ed­ly squan­dered. Wood­ward is the incum­bent may­or, but if you haven’t been fol­low­ing this con­test, you could be for­giv­en for not know­ing that, giv­en how poor­ly she’s per­formed so far.

Bal­lots are due on Novem­ber 7th at 8 PM and the first results in the Spokane may­oral and city coun­cil con­tests will be released short­ly after that.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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