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Spokane voters hope new mayor Lisa Brown will be a liberal breath of fresh air

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Photo courtesy of Nonstop / KHQ
Photo courtesy of Nonstop / KHQ

The City of Spokane, Washington, will swear in a new mayor come January, following a fierce battle between current mayor Nadine Woodward and Lisa Brown. The race between the two was tight, but Brown's support of the LGBTQ+ community after an October scandal involving Woodward and Christian extremist Matt Shae may have pushed her into the lead.

Brown will bring a new liberal leadership to the relatively conservative municipality. Despite Spokane being the second-largest in Washington, voting records show that the city regularly votes red in national elections, as does the county. In 2020, voters favored Trump over Biden 49% to 47%.

While Brown's victory may be the result of dissatisfaction with Woodward's leadership, many hope her election will lead Spokane toward more progressive policies.

Brown has a long history in Spokane. Though she didn't grow up in the city, she worked as an educator at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. She also briefly served as the chancellor of Washington State University in 2013.

Coinciding with her career in education, Brown also served the Spokane community as an elected official. In 1992, she was elected to the Washington state House. After just one term there, she was named minority leader. In 1996, she was elected to the state Senate, where she served for over a decade, and in 2013 became the first female majority leader.

In 2018, she challenged long-time incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers for Washington's 5th Congressional District. Rodgers is a staunch conservative who voted against both former President Donald Trump's impeachment charges. Though she lost, Brown's campaign yielded the best results for any Democratic candidate in the district in over two decades.

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As she heads into office, Brown plans to prioritize Spokane's housing crisis while also expanding resources for the city's parks and schools. Her short-term goal for the growing homelessness crisis is to provide immediate shelter for the estimated 1,000+ people living without a warm place for the winter. She plans to work with private organizations and churches to find space for them until a permanent solution can be reached.

"Longer term, we want to create what's known as a navigation center or ...more accurately, a coordinated entry system... to address [the issue of] unhoused people and coordinate the providers that ... both [assess and address] their needs," Brown said in an interview with the Washington State Standard.

In the long term, Brown hopes to provide more affordable housing options for Spokane's low-income citizens, so as to bring people off the streets and prevent others from ever reaching that point. "Of course, ultimately, like other cities, we would like to get more upstream with the kinds of things that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place," she added in the interview. "That is both concerning assistance to renters [and] ultimately building more housing."

Brown aims to use her skills and rich background to increase access to childcare and early learning. When communities can provide children with affordable learning programs, it not only sets them up for success when they reach school age but also paves the way for their parents to return to work.

Some citizens of Spokane are excited for the changes Brown will bring. "I am very excited to have Lisa Brown as the new mayor of Spokane. She will bring the job lots of political experience," said voter Virgina Knowles.