Spokane Council progressives aim to censure Woodward weeks before ballots mailed

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(The Center Square) – Spokane city council members are scheduled Monday evening to consider a resolution that would formally censure Mayor Nadine Woodward for appearing on stage with two conservative activists during an Aug. 20 religious event.

Woodward says she’d already explained the situation and calls the measure an overtly political waste of taxpayer resources.

Introduced by council members Zack Zappone and Betsy Wilkerson, the proposed resolution faults Woodward for being with Matt Shea, a former Republican state representative from the Spokane Valley, and Sean Feucht, who organized last month’s “Let Us Worship” gathering.

The resolution says a past independent investigation commissioned by the Washington State House of Representatives called Shea, as leader of the Patriot Movement, a “domestic terrorist” who previously promoted political violence against the United States government, and describes Feucht, a self-described Christian missionary and musical artist, as a “known anti-LGBTQ extremist ….”

Zappone and Wilkerson contend that Woodward knew those backgrounds and should be denounced for still agreeing to appear on stage with Shea and Feucht. Afterward, Woodward said she was unaware Shea would be in attendance, that she did not seek or accept his support, and she opposed his political views, calling them “a threat to our democracy.”

The two council members feel the mayor’s appearance ran contrary to Spokane’s 2016 adoption of an “International Charter for Compassionate Communities” and an ordinance this July designating the city’s motto as “In Spokane We All Belong.” The full council is being asked to approve the draft resolution, which also contains a pledge to “accept and serve all citizens of our community, regardless of race, religion, color, and sexual identity; and will never accept ideologies that promote fear, hatred, violence, and bigotry.”

If adopted, a censure carries no specific penalty. Rather, it’s a statement intended to formally rebuke the conduct, comments, or decisions of a public official.

Zappone and Wilkerson, along with council member Karen Stratton, issued a statement last month denouncing Woodward and some in the community have called for her resignation. But others have questioned the purpose and timing of the proposed resolution as ballots are being prepared for mailing next month in the Nov. 7 mayoral race between Woodward and challenger Lisa Brown.

In a phone conversation this Monday afternoon, Woodward said she had spent much of her day on Sunday, Aug. 20, involved in responses to the devastating Gray and Oregon Road wildfires, which swept across Spokane County two days earlier. Prior to the service that evening, she asked a friend who invited her that prayers be directed to victims of the wildfires. Woodward said she was on stage for about 90 seconds and had no idea Shea was there until then.

She believes efforts by some council members to continue criticizing her for the appearance is “absolutely political.” While campaigning for re-election, Woodward says she has knocked on “hundreds of doors” in the Spokane community and “nobody is bringing this up” as an issue.

“I’ve already apologized. I’ve denounced Matt Shea’s ideology. I’m not a white nationalist,” said Woodward, noting her office has hired persons of color and from the LGBTQ community.

The mayor said she has no idea what the outcome will be if there is a vote Monday evening on the proposed resolution. But she said council members have more pressing issues to deal with and considers the proposal “a waste of their time and taxpayer resources.”

Although the mayor’s position is non-partisan, there are distinct political overtones to the race. Woodward has drawn endorsements from a number of prominent local Republicans. Brown is a former Democratic state legislator and director of the state Department of Commerce who lost a 2018 congressional bid against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane.

In the Aug. 1 primary, Brown received 47.5% of the vote, trailed by Woodward at 36.6%.

Wilkerson and Zappone are reportedly supporters of Brown, and Wilkerson is a candidate for Spokane city council president.

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