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Published: Friday, November 18, 2011, 2:35 p.m.

GOP poured at least $63K into Spokane mayor race

SPOKANE -- The Washington State Republican Party poured at least $63,000 into the campaign of victorious Spokane mayoral candidate David Condon in the closing days of his race against incumbent Mary Verner.
The office is nonpartisan, but Condon has extensive ties to GOP politicians, while Verner has ties to Democrats.
Verner is crying foul about the GOP contributions, saying the money marked a turning point for politics in the state's second largest city.
"Mine was a grass-roots campaign," Verner wrote on her Facebook page. "David Condon's race for a non-partisan local office was woven into a larger partisan domination strategy with out-of-town consultants, push polls, and shrewd positioning of issues in collaboration with media mouthpieces."
Verner did not return messages left by The Associated Press.
Peter Graves, executive director of the state Republican Party, said Friday the donations to Condon were part of a new strategy of getting involved in local races. The Spokane mayoral race drew the largest donation among seven local contests the state GOP donated to this year.
"We made a very strategic decision that Spokane is the second-biggest city in Washington, and we saw a real opportunity to provide conservative leadership," Graves said.
The state GOP also saw a chance to defeat a person who might have challenged U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in a future contest, Graves said.
Verner is a high-profile Democrat who had been rumored to be interested in running for Congress, Graves said.
"It is always in our interest to look out for future races," Graves said.
The state GOP made a $25,000 donation to Condon on Oct. 27, and a $38,000 donation on Nov. 5.
Condon raised far more money than Verner -- $289,000 to $128,000. Verner received $2,000 from the state Democratic Central Committee
Condon used the money in part to pound Verner in television ads about an increase in the city's water rates, and on her handling of a case in which police officers killed a mentally ill janitor they mistakenly thought was involved in a crime.
Condon was a deputy chief of staff for McMorris Rodgers and worked as district director in her Spokane office before deciding to run for mayor. McMorris Rodgers hosted a fundraiser for him.
"She was glad to see he won," said Todd Winer, a spokesman for McMorris Rodgers. "She supported David because she thought he would be the best candidate. Looking at 2012 and 2014 was not a consideration for her in terms of who to support."
The staff of the congresswoman, who was first elected in 2005 and has since risen to the No. 4 leadership position in the U.S. House, has become something of a farm system for GOP politicians across the state.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who represents the Vancouver area in Congress, was a legislative aide for McMorris Rodgers before winning a congressional seat in 2010. State Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, also worked on the congresswoman's staff.
Meanwhile, Verner continued a trend by becoming the 10th consecutive Spokane mayor to serve only one term. The last mayor to win a second term was David Rodgers, who left office in 1978. Coincidentally, he is the father-in-law of Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Story tags » ElectionsSpokane

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