Finally, the drama is over for the Clark County legislative delegation. Or is it?Well, at least the electoral drama is over for the next couple of years, barring any sudden resignations. Congratulations to Republican Don Benton and Democrat Monica Stonier for emerging from last week's recounts to win their races for state senator and state representative, respectively. And here's a special shout-out to officials and volunteers at the local elections office for conducting the tense, tedious and crucial manual recounts. Their performance has been praised by observers from both political parties. Unlike the 2004 statewide gubernatorial recount that lasted six months, these two microscopic reviews are over. Results are final and accepted by winners and losers alike.
In Benton's race, the recount changed the outcome by only two votes, from a 78-vote lead to a 76-vote triumph. Stonier's lead changed by only one vote, from 139 to 140. The amazing closeness of these statistics further justifies the confidence that Clark County voters have in their local elections office.
It was a fitting swan song for Elections Director Tim Likness, who will retire in April. Likness will oversee a special election on Feb. 14, but this was the last major election in his glowing 31-year career in the elections office.
Now that the local legislative delegation is finalized, it's on to the governing drama in Olympia. And it's no secret that Clark County's delegation is relatively inexperienced. But all newcomers bring their own gifts of insight and background. And if you believe in the citizen/legislator concept and a heavy churn of politicians, then this legislative inexperience is a good thing. Here's a quick review of the three districts that serve Clark County exclusively:
The 49th District (Vancouver west of Interstate 205 and south of Felida) boasts the most legislative experience of the three districts. Although Annette Cleveland will be a rookie state senator, she has been deeply involved in politics for many years. State Rep. Jim Moeller is the senior member of the 49th team, having served in Olympia since 2003. He also carries clout as speaker pro tempore of the House. Sharon Wylie is beginning her first full term in the House, but she served more than a year as a replacement for Jim Jacks, who resigned. Wylie knows her way around politics. She worked nine years as a lobbyist, and she served two years in the Oregon Legislature.
The 17th District (Vancouver east of I-205 plus Orchards, Brush Prairie and Pleasant Valley) has only one lawmaker — Benton — with more than one term under his belt. Bolstered by his recount triumph, Benton also has been named the Republicans' deputy leader in the Senate. Paul Harris will be a second-term state representative and Stonier will serve as a rookie.
The 18th District (most of north Clark County plus Felida, Camas and Washougal) has been a virtual carousel of legislators in the past several months. Former state Rep. Ann Rivers was appointed to serve out Joe Zarelli's term in the Senate, then she handily won the Nov. 6 election for that post. And then she was picked as Republican caucus whip. So her dossier of political experience is filling rapidly. Liz Pike is a rookie state rep, sort of. She was appointed to replace Rivers as state rep, Position 1, then won her own race for Position 2. Brandon Vick will be a newcomer as state rep, but he has broad experience at the party executive level.
Of course, in politics, it's not where you've been, it's where you're going. It will be interesting to see how the nine local legislators construct their own records of public service.