Many of the big winners in Tuesday’s local and state elections should postpone celebrations until more results are announced. In Clark County, an estimated 23,000 ballots are still to be counted. But all of the big leaders, at least, have reason to smile. They know that 78,336 ballots are in the books. That’s a turnout of 34.5 percent en route to what is projected to be about 45 percent.
The most significant leader so far is not a politician but a concept — transportation — at both local and statewide levels. Proposition 1, which would preserve C-Tran and C-Van transit services, is being supported by about 54.1 percent of voters so far. We hope that lead of about 8 percentage points holds up; it would be a refreshing affirmation that Clark County residents value a strong public transportation system.
Transportation also appears to be leading at the statewide level, although not by such a wide margin. Initiative 1125 would severely erode planning and funding of transportation projects (such as the Columbia River Crossing), but fortunately that ballot measure is opposed by 50.9 percent of statewide voters so far, and approved by 49.1 percent. There’s no way to predict if that trend will last, but it’s a good start in the right direction. Clark County voters strayed dramatically from the statewide showing, with 59 percent favoring I-1125.
Most significant among individual leaders appears to be Democratic appointee Sharon Wylie, who is locked in the only partisan race (party affiliation declared) in the county. Wylie, an appointee state representative in the 49th District, has moved ahead of Republican challenger Craig Riley by about 13 percentage points. If that lead holds up as expected, Wylie’s victory will be no surprise. She has served well as an interim legislator, and the 49th traditionally leans heavily toward Democrats. Although Wylie is not an incumbent per se, she has the advantage of having served in this office for more than six months.
A similar power of incumbency is seen in the Vancouver City Council races, where longtime councilor Larry Smith leads challenger Cory Barnes by 16.l percentage points and incumbent Bart Hansen leads challenger Josephine Wentzel by 9 percentage points. A third battle on that council features a much closer race for an open seat: Bill Turlay is ahead of Anne McEnerny-Ogle by a margin of less than 3 percentage points.
For all the national and local uproar about replacing incumbents, such an advocacy for change is simply not showing up in major Clark County races. Both incumbents in Vancouver school board races — Dale Rice and Edri Geiger — are leading, the former by a 2-to-1 margin and the latter by about 3 percentage points. And in a Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner showdown, incumbent Bill Ward has a healthy lead of 25 percentage points.
One question we like to pose in elections is this: How closely does Southwest Washington resemble the rest of the state? This year, the answer is quite interesting. In the aforementioned Initiative 1125, the difference was stark: The transportation-related measure is failing statewide by 1.8 percentage points, but in Clark County, it’s sailing through by 18 percentage points. But in the two other initiatives, Clark County results are almost identical to statewide totals. Initiative 1183 — privatizing liquor sales — is passing statewide (59.7 percent) and here (59.6), and Initiative 1163 — training long-term care workers — is passing statewide (66.8 percent) and here (67.7).
As more results roll in, the likelihood is that C-Tran will be able to retain its status-quo service, and reigning politicians will continue in the 49th Legislative District and on Vancouver City Council. In both cases, that’s a good thing.