Someone told the press to get to the county elections office half an hour early last Friday, to avoid the rush and find parking. But only 10 minutes before County Auditor Vicky Dalton is scheduled to officially certify the signatures on the petition to recall Spokane Mayor Jim West, Shannon Sullivan and Rita Amunrud are standing by themselves on the concrete landing outside Dalton's offices, shooting the breeze. They look relaxed, if a little guarded.
"I had a dream last night that West was trying to arrest me," Amunrud says. She can't wait to get this over with, she says of the legal Ping-Pong game that has been the recall effort. "I'm so tired of getting one-upped."
"Well, it's a man's world," Sullivan says, almost glumly.
"I guess that's why I never got married," Amunrud replies, bursting into laughter.
"Give me a high five for that, Thelma."
The two have been nearly inseparable over the last several months, as they've fought off the mayor's legal challenges and appeals and collected the signatures of 17,434 Spokane citizens eager to see West's fate decided by the people.
But standing out here in the quiet parking lot, it's easy to imagine Sullivan, alone, getting out of her car and striding up to these same doors in early May, eager to add her name to a growing list of citizens who wanted to see the mayor recalled, completely unaware that in three months, she'd stand before nine state Supreme Court justices and argue that West must go.
"They said I couldn't make it through the first [appeal]. They said I couldn't make it through the Supreme Court," she says later, sounding more tired than victorious. "Everything in my life [has] been consumed with the recall -- educating myself with the law. I made a lot of friends and [got a lot of] great people in my life. It's kind of bittersweet."
Inside the elections office, Sullivan's got a weird kind of smile plastered to her face, as cameramen from the TV news stations huddle around the low counter at the front of the room. Dalton and Elections Supervisor Paul Brandt sign off on the petition. Sullivan adds her signature, and the notary she brought with her stamps it.
Just like that, the fight is over for Sullivan. She's letting others take over the campaign and election portions of the recall effort. "I don't feel the need to be involved in any campaign whatsoever," she says.
Besides, there are more important things to attend to. The day before the petition certification, her 9-year-old son -- for whom she says she started the recall process in the first place -- was discharged from a week-long hospital stay with a case of MRSA, a nasty kind of staph infection. "That's going to be the focus [now]," she says. Dylan will need to be monitored and fed intravenously for the next six to eight weeks. "I was hoping to get a job and get to work and get on with life," says Sullivan. "That's not going to be the case."
The former florist and small-business owner says she'll use her time at home, however, to try to jump-start her next career -- she wants to become a lawyer. She says she's searching for paralegal work now but is eager to apprentice under a local attorney (possibly Jerry Davis, her lawyer throughout the recall process) and eventually take the bar exam.
Outside the elections office, Sullivan tells assembled reporters, with their bulging cameras and prodding microphones, "I hope this is the last time you guys are all in my face."
Inside the elections office, Dalton looks like she needs a vacation, as she reiterates the specifics of the special election, to be held completely by mail on Dec. 6. There will be two registration cutoffs for that election, she says. The last day for new voters to register by mail will be Friday, Nov. 4. After that, they have through Nov. 18 to register in person at the office. Mail-in ballots will go out to all registered city voters beginning Nov. 16. Voters must then have their ballots postmarked and mailed off by Dec. 6. (She cautions against dropping ballots in a mailbox that evening, as they probably will not be postmarked in time.)
On Dec. 16, her office will officially certify the votes. If a simple majority of voters want West recalled, he'll have to be out of the office by this date -- at which time Council President Dennis Hession would become mayor pro tem. The council would then appoint a candidate to become the permanent mayor and complete the remaining two years of West's term.
West can appeal the voters' decision, but most consider its probability -- not to mention its efficacy -- unlikely. West has said he would abide by the will of the voters. Dalton says that nothing short of a Superior or Supreme Court order, however, can get in the way of the December special election. The show, it appears, will go on.
The last day to register by mail for the Nov. 8 General Election has already passed. The last day to do so in person is Monday, Oct. 24.