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Poll shows majority of Spokane residents would vote to oust mayor

Poll shows majority of Spokane residents would vote to oust mayor

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More than six in 10 people said they would vote to oust Spokane, Wash., mayor James West if a special recall election were held today, a newspaper and television station report.

More than six in 10 people responding to a poll said they would vote to oust Spokane, Wash., mayor James E. West if a special recall election were held today, a newspaper and television station report. The telephone poll of 1,108 city residents, who are registered voters likely to vote in the December 6 special recall election, was the first snapshot of how Spokane voters feel about West over a City Hall sex scandal. The Research 2000 poll, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, was paid for by The Spokesman-Review and KREM TV, which released results Thursday. It has a 3% margin of error. "Fortunately, the election is not going to be held today. The only poll that matters is the one held on election day," West responded. The mayor said he was "not surprised, given the pounding of me TheSpokesman-Review has done for the last six months, that people would be of that opinion." When asked how they would vote, 62% of those responding said they favor West's recall. The poll found 29% against recall, with 9% undecided. The poll also showed dissatisfaction with West's performance in office. West faces a recall allegation that he used his office to offer to help someone he thought was an 18-year-old man in a gay online chat room obtain a City Hall internship. The chat partner was actually a computer expert hired by TheSpokesman-Review to track West's online activities. The mayor, a former Republican state senate leader, has acknowledged having sexual relationships with adult males but denies violating the law or abusing his office. Subsequent Spokesman-Review stories about the contents of West's city-owned computer hard drive showed the mayor sought to meet gay men while he was on city-sponsored trips. Those polled were also asked whether a government official who used a government-owned computer for personal activity of a sexual nature should be fired. Nineteen percent said the person should always lose his job, while 55% said circumstances should dictate whether the person should be fired or keep his job. Another 18% said the person should keep his job but should face other consequences. Only 4% said there should be no consequences, with 4% not sure. On the question of what the respondents thought of West's job performance since he took office in 2004, the poll found that 37% somewhat disapprove and 10% strongly disapprove, compared with 32% who somewhat approve and 7% who strongly approve of West's performance. Another 14% were unsure. West has said he will fight the recall with a campaign pointing out his accomplishments since becoming mayor. He also said he intends to make TheSpokesman-Review's coverage a campaign issue, alleging the paper invaded his privacy. Since May 5, the newspaper has published a series of articles about West's online efforts to communicate with men in gay chat rooms as well as several young men's accounts of consensual sex or what they termed sexual harassment by the mayor. David Bray, chairman of the Committee to Recall Jim West, said he was pleasantly surprised by the high number of people favoring recall. "These are much more in line with what I expected," he said, noting that an earlier poll had shown lower support for the recall. He hoped the poll numbers would result in increased financial contributions to the cash-strapped recall effort. Spokane attorney Tom Keefe, a longtime Democratic activist who is helping direct the recall effort, said the poll results are an accurate reflection of the community's rejection of West's conduct. And poll results showing that Spokane residents are divided over West's performance as mayor may also punch a hole in West's contention that he should be retained because of his good work, Keefe said. "I don't think the performance he was doing as mayor during his day job is an excuse for his utterly unexplainable conduct of wanting to have a double life," Keefe said. "He was the responsible hardworking mayor by day and an Internet-cruising predator by night, seeking casual sex with Spokane teenagers." (AP)

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