Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Moscow council makeup changes"

I laughed reading how the left-wing Lewiston Tribune was sputtering over the Moscow election story. City split down the middle? Uh uh. Not when pro-growth forces enjoy a 5-1 margin in the city council chamber. Funny Tom Henderson and Jim Fisher aren't weighing in on the conservative triumph in Moscow. From today's Tribune:
Tom Lamar, Wayne Krauss, Dan Carscallen and Walter Steed won election Tuesday to the city council here.

The results mean the political pendulum in this Latah County town has swung back to the right of center and limited Mayor Nancy Chaney in the power she enjoyed under the current council makeup.

Voter turnout was 37.8 percent, compared to 30 percent in 2005. A total of 5,022 out of 13,280 registered voters cast ballots.

In a five-way race for three four-year seats, Lamar received 2,847 votes, Krauss garnered 2,768 votes, and Carscallen totaled 2,579 votes. Linda Pall, an incumbent with a total of 18 years on the council, narrowly missed re-election with 2,451 votes, and incumbent Aaron Ament came in last with 2,285 votes.

In the two-way race for one two-year term on the council, Steed tallied 2,529 votes, while Holmes received 2,307 votes.

Final results were not available until shortly before midnight after officials struggled with the counting process, said Latah County Clerk-Auditor Susan Petersen. The city contracted with the county to do the counting. Because of the late count, candidates could not be reached for comment.

Prior to the vote, many people said Tuesday's election could decide Moscow's future. The town has long had a reputation of being a stronghold of liberalism in a state known as a bastion of conservatism. And city government has for years swung back and forth between the two viewpoints. But never before had the battle lines been so clear. But because of the closeness of the vote, Tuesday's return to the right seems to have left the town still divided down the middle.

Other issues aside, the election hinged on economic growth and the role government should play. Lamar, Ament and Pall, the three incumbents, along with Holmes, said they encouraged growth but within guidelines geared to ensuring Moscow's unique small college-town character. The three right-leaning challengers, Krauss, Carscallen and Steed, touted free enterprise and said government should keep only a loose reign on the economy.

The partisan flavor was underscored by the formation of two citizen groups. The Moscow Civic Association and the Greater Moscow Alliance assumed politically left and right postures, respectively, and endorsed candidates.

The MCA backed Pall, Lamar and Ament, while the GMA gave the nod to Steed, Carscallen and Krauss. Holmes waged an independent bid for office.

"The GMA wins," Bruce Livingston, president of the MCA, said shortly after the final results were made official.

The election actually being fueled two years ago when Chaney rode an endorsement from the MCA to a 294-vote victory. Chaney's opponent, incumbent Councilor Peg Hamlett, sized up her defeat by saying, "You do the best you can, but it's tough when they have an army going door to door."

One year later, the GMA was formed with President Steve Busch all but saying the citizen group was an antidote to the MCA. "I don't think we'd admit that," Busch said. "We are free-market oriented. We can't stand back and let government fix all our problems."

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