The Journal’s View: Civility must become part of mayoral campaigns
~August 15th, 2019
Spokane’s mayoral race is shaping up to be an ugly campaign. Already. And it’s just mid-August.
The general election is just under 12 weeks away. At this stage, both candidates, current City Council President Ben Stuckart and former TV anchorwoman Nadine Woodward, and their champions should re-examine their approaches and place more focus on issues important to the people of Spokane and the skills they’d bring to the position, rather than attacking one another. Civility must be part of the equation.
The race stands to be a close one. At final tally of primary-election results, political newcomer Woodward finished with about 19,300 votes, or 40.1% of all votes. Stuckart was only 1,000 votes behind, at 38% of the total. History tells us that primary results often don’t foretell general-election winners in Spokane, and this year, they’re inconclusive regardless. At this point, it appears to be anybody’s ballgame.
Perhaps that’s the reason for the early, heightened rhetoric.
Stuckart has authored three Facebook posts in the past week attacking Woodward’s positions, lack of experience, and approach. In one, he stated that she “flatly rejects facts and data” and states, “Nadine Woodward’s campaign is a scary trip back to 2016,” referring to the presidential election in which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. Later, he says, “How do you run a campaign against someone who will say anything irrespective of reality, facts, or common sense?”
None of that is fair, wholly accurate, or necessary.
The approach of Woodward’s supporters is somewhat more subtle in terms of not naming Stuckart directly, but it’s no less corrosive. Mailed flyers talk about “radical politicians” who want to turn Spokane into Seattle, going on to say that means that homelessness will get worse, drug use and crime will increase, and we’ll have a weaker economy with fewer jobs. The advertisements are funded by a political action committee and appear with Woodward’s image on them.
It’s a common tactic and not altogether surprising, but it is a form of button-pushing emotional manipulation that doesn’t need to be used in a municipal, supposedly nonpartisan election.
In general, the approaches are different, but neither candidate could refute a fearmongering accusation successfully at this stage.
Of course, criticism of an opponent is a natural part of candidates distinguishing themselves from one another, and one can’t talk exclusively about himself or herself. But heightened rhetoric this early is concerning, because typically, it gets worse, not better.
When the candidates do talk about Spokane, it appears both have a sincere affection for the city and a deep desire to see it prosper. And let’s not forget, it has flourished in recent years.
Spokane, both as a municipality and as a community, is strong right now. It’s growing in population and jobs, and its real estate market has outperformed the nation during the current, prolonged period of economic growth. But it’s highly unlikely that the current expansion will continue through the next mayor’s four-year term. We’ll need a strong, unified community when tough times come, and ugly campaigns burn bridges that are difficult to repair.
Woodward and Stuckart should focus less on each other and more on what they, as mayor, would do to move Spokane forward. The voters deserve that.