Local Politics

Zombies become political football in state Senate race

SyFy's Z Nation has become a point of contention between Baumgartner, Cowan

SPOKANE, Wash. - Z Nation, a 13-episode SyFy series about the zombie apocalypse, was filmed in Spokane and has, oddly enough, become a political platform for the 6th District Senate seat.

On one side is incumbent state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican who is working to keep his seat. On the other side is Democrat Rich Cowan, owner of North by Northwest, the production company that helped bring the Z Nation production to Spokane.

Cowan has been noted for helping bring hundreds of jobs to Spokane for the production. Baumgartner has fired back at Cowan with a radio ad that said those jobs were only temporary and at the taxpayer's expense.

"The way he makes his movies is there's a $7 million subsidy that the state gives to filmmakers to go out and make movies," Baumgartner said. "So every job Rich Cowan creates is actually paid for by the taxpayers."

The Washington State film incentive gives tax breaks to motion picture companies. According to the bill's roll call, Baumgartner voted for it in 2012.

"He voted for it, he was very supportive of this concept," Cowan said. "Now that I've become his opponent in this race, he's flipped the script so to speak."

Cowan added if that money didn't come into Spokane, it would go else where.

"I wonder if my opponent would want those jobs to go to Seattle or some other place," Cowan said.

Baumgartner thinks the incentive should be reevaluated and the money should go to more permanent jobs.

"For our community, medical jobs and medical school is a much, much bigger deal than subsidized, temporary zombie jobs," Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner has been working on bringing a medical school to Spokane and said that is one project that could use the money.

"The question isn't whether you add $7 million go out and hire people so you create jobs, of course you can," Baumgartner said. "The question is, will it build a real industry and have secondary and third order effects after the fact."

Meanwhile, production continues for Z Nation even despite that filming has wrapped up. Cowan said that about 30-40 people are still doing post production work, and on Monday SyFy greenlit the show for a sophomore season, which Cowan said it likely means production will return to Spokane.

"We're excited," Cowan said. "What is significant is, that we've shown the industry that we can do network quality episodic television here in Spokane."


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