18th District candidates weigh in on CRC, same-sex marriage

Primary to feature Republican, two Democrats

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor



18th District house candidates

Ryan Gompertz

Age: 19

Party: Democratic

Residence: Camas

Campaign website

Money raised: $1,100

Major endorsers: No formal endorsements from the Democratic Party, but citizen endorsers include Char and John McHugh, Laurie Lebowsky, Susan Rice and Roxanne Hill.

Liz Pike

Age: 52

Party: Republican

Residence: Camas

Campaign website

Money raised: $22,607

Major endorsers: Washington state attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Rob Mc­Kenna, 18th District Position 2 Rep. Ed Orcutt state Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur, Washington State Nurses Association, Washington State Farm Bureau, Building Industry Association of Clark County.

David Shehorn

Age: 67

Party: Democratic

Residence: Vancouver

Campaign website

Money raised: $3,175

Major endorsers: Southwest Washington Electricians, Democratic state representatives Tim Probst and Sharon Wylie, former state lawmakers Val Ogden and Al Bauer, and state Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz.

In the Aug. 7 primary election to replace Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, in the 18th Legislative District, voters will have the chance to choose between a leader in the Clark County Democratic Party, a former city councilwoman and a 19-year-old college student.

All three candidates — Democrats Ryan Gompertz and David Shehorn and Republican Liz Pike — recently sat down with The Columbian to discuss their stances on issues important to Clark County, including the Columbia River Crossing and same-sex marriage. The top two selected in the vote-by-mail primary, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the general election in November.

On the proposed project to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, Pike said she could eventually support a new Columbia River Crossing, but in the meantime she'd like a less expensive third bridge built to help ease traffic problems. She said she thinks building a third bridge near the Port of Vancouver would be smart.

"There isn't a solid funding package in place right now to build that bridge," Pike said of the CRC during an editorial board meeting with The Columbian last week. The current bridge "has 50 years of life on it. … If somebody told me (my car) had 50,000 miles left on it, but you don't want to use any it more, and we're going to take it apart piece-by-piece and render it useless, I have a problem with that."

Pike served on the Camas City Council from 2003-2007, and she ran unsuccessfully for Camas mayor in 2007. She said she is against tolls on the CRC and she is opposed to including light rail on the new bridge.

Gompertz, who is studying history and economics at the University of Washington, said he can appreciate Pike's car analogy, but at some point the car becomes a danger to its owner and ends up costing more to maintain.

"Essentially, people could get hurt and having a bridge that is a liability like that is a problem," Gompertz said, "so I'm in favor of a new bridge."

He said he supports tolls but wants options to lessen the expense on low-income people. He supports rethinking the light rail component of the bridge if it doesn't seem like enough people would use it.

Shehorn supports building the Columbia River Crossing, noting that the plan needs to be tweaked to address the Coast Guard's recent concerns about the height of the future bridge. He also said Oregon should contribute more to the project.

Shehorn supports tolls to help pay for the bridge and he also supports extending light rail from Portland across the bridge -- if that's what voters want.

"I'll go with the way the voters go," he said.

Shehorn is a retired computer systems engineer who served in the Air Force for four years. He is Democratic chairman of the 18th Legislative District and sits on the board of the Clark County Democrats.

Spurring job growth

Shehorn said one thing lawmakers could do to increase jobs is to create incentives for businesses to hire people, such as giving a company that hires new workers a three-year reprieve from paying a business and occupation tax. B&O taxes are based on businesses' gross income rather than their profit.

He also has said that some compromises might need to be made when it comes to regulations on businesses, and that people should be encouraged to buy more local products.

Pike has said lawmakers could help businesses out by reducing Department of Ecology regulations, such as stormwater runoff rules, and by privatizing the state's industrial insurance program run by the Department of Labor and Industries. Industrial insurance covers the financial impact of any injuries or diseases caused while on the job. She supports repealing the B&O tax.

Gompertz said lawmakers should talk to companies that are laying people off to find out what our state could do to retain jobs. As far as creating jobs, Gompertz suggested the state change its tax code to favor businesses that bring new jobs to the state.

Gompertz calls himself a "new Democrat," meaning he agrees with fiscally conservative ideals such as not raising taxes and keeping government spending to a minimum. In high school, he said he was a "proud member" of both the Young Democrats and the Young Republicans.

Same-sex marriage

Gompertz and Shehorn agreed that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, and that they would vote to approve Referendum 74, which would uphold recently passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Pike wouldn't answer how she would vote on the referendum. She said that lawmakers were wrong to pass the legislation without first allowing the public to vote on same-sex marriage. She also said she will support whatever the voters decide in November.

"I would rather not disclose how I would vote" to the public, she said, because it is too personal of an issue and she said she doesn't want her stance to have any influence on public opinion.

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