Ben Stuckart isn't so interested in being Mayor of Spokane anymore.
Back in April, City Council President Ben Stuckart had a plan: He was going to run to be mayor of Spokane. Sure, it was three years off. But on April 19, he'd already submitted his paperwork to run in 2019.
And just to be sure, The Inlander asked him how certain he was he was going to stick to the plan. Unless something drastic happens, he said, he wouldn't be changing his mind.
"It’s a sure thing as you can get," Stuckart said in June.
Well. He's changed his mind.
"I will definitively not be running for Mayor in 2019," Stuckart says. He sent out an announcement this morning proclaiming that he would be running to replace Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Donald Trump's appointment for Secretary of the Interior. But even if he loses, he says he won't run for mayor.
Even before Donald Trump's election, Stuckart says, his mind began to shift on running for mayor. Yes, he says, it was "partially" the chaotic scandal that enveloped the David Condon administration.
But there was more to it than that. His skill-set is best as a legislator, he says, not an administrator.
"I’m a strong legislator," Stuckart says. "I can work with diverse interests. I’m still close with
[conservative former City Councilman] Mike Allen. I can talk about diverse issues... That’s my strength. I want to play to my strength."
And while working for TicketsWest, he's run a business with $36 million dollar revenue and 50 employees, that's not on the same level of running the city of Spokane.
"In my time at Council, I’ve been there five years now. If I were in city government for 12 years, that might pose some challenges," Stuckart says. "I’m best going in at making changes."
The election of Trump just clarified his decision.
"It became crystal clear after the election with all the super partisan corporate cabinet
appointments," Stuckart says.
Stuckart's work at the city has included pushing a sick-leave policy and an ordinance mandating 15 percent of city labor be done by apprenticeship programs. But he says these sorts of gains will be threatened by the changes at the national level.
"Local issues are going to be sidestepped if we don’t have basic protections like Medicare, Social Security," Stuckart says.
In his time at the city of Spokane, Stuckart managed to help elect a veto-proof majority of liberal councilmembers. But while the city of Spokane is slightly blue, Cathy McMorris Rodgers 5th district is solidly — almost implacably — red.
Democrats running against McMorris Rodgers in the 5th District haven't been able to crack even 40 percent of the vote since 2006. And while Stuckart has been willing to compromise with conservatives, he's not exactly a moderate. (For example, he wrote letters to the editor in 2004 praising Dennis Kucinich.)
But Stuckart shrugs off the challenge.
"My entire life I’ve been told things are impossible, whether it was running a nonprofit or running for council president," Stuckart says. While he's been studying up on agricultural policy, so far, he says he doesn't have a big agenda item he's going to center his campaign around so far.
"I’m not going to come out of the gates with any specific policy proposals or message," Stuckart says. "My best messaging is really going to come from listening to people. I need to get out in the district. Start meeting with people in the city and rural areas."
Stuckart says he recognizes there are financial challenges for a lot of people in the 5th district, but the solutions aren't necessarily easy ones.
"There is a lot of poverty in the entire 5th district," Stuckart says. "A lot of people feel left behind by the system. We really need to focus on how do we recalibrate the economy. It’s not as simplistic as raising tariffs on Chinese goods."