Coin toss decides victor in precinct officer race

Incumbent wins; he, rival each got 75 votes in primary

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoClark County Auditor Greg Kimsey flips a quarter Monday to determine that Matthew Larvick will remain Republican committee officer in Precinct 965. The coin toss, which came up tails, followed a recount by Clark County Elections Department officials that confirmed Larvick was tied with Republican candidate Randy Killen.

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The simple flip of a quarter on Monday afternoon decided the outcome of a Republican precinct committee officer race for a voter precinct in Camas.

Republicans Randy Killen and Matthew Larvick each received 75 votes in the Aug. 7 precinct committee officer election, prompting a recount Monday at the Clark County elections office.

Larvick and Killen were not present for the recount or the coin toss, which combined took about a half-hour. Following the recount, elections supervisor Tim Likness put four slips of paper in a box, and county Auditor Greg Kimsey drew a slip that indicated Larvick would win if the coin landed tails side up.

Kimsey then flipped the quarter, caught it, slapped it on his wrist and announced it had indeed landed tails.

Larvick was unaware he had won the coin toss when contacted by a reporter shortly after the event. He seemed pleased, and he complimented the integrity of the elections department.

"I think it was a very fair process," said Larvick, the incumbent in the race. He has served as Republican committee officer of that precinct for the past two election cycles, and this was the first time he ran opposed.

Larvick, of Camas, said he wasn't sure he would win — and he certainly wasn't expecting that the outcome of the race would be determined by the flip of a quarter. "I was as surprised as anyone else about the whole thing," he said.

PCO elections are decided in the primary, not the general election. Each of Clark County's 222 voting precincts can have one Democratic PCO and one Republican PCO.

Precinct committee officers are members of the party's central committee and choose who should serve in party leadership roles. They also determine which candidates to support using the party's resources, and they play a role in selecting interim state legislators if a lawmaker leaves office prematurely.

In addition to the tied race in Precinct 965, multiple PCO races in the Aug. 7 election were won by just one vote, Kimsey said. Close races are more common in bids for smaller offices, such as races for PCO or city council positions, he added. The high number of contested PCO races also played a factor in the increased amount of close races.

"We've never had this many contested races for PCOs," Kimsey said.

Contributing to that higher number of contested races was a grass roots Republican group called the PCO Liberty Alliance, which sought to challenge what it saw as an "establishment mentality" within the Clark County GOP. The group endorsed about 150 like-minded Republicans who were running for PCO seats, and it encouraged many of them to challenge existing committee officers. The alliance didn't endorse Larvick or Killen.

Precinct 965 is located in Camas just north of Highway 14 near milepost 12.

The last time a coin flip determined the outcome of a Clark County election was in December, when Scott Perry won a similar tie-breaker to become Woodland's next councilman.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics.