For more than a decade, residents of the 18th Legislative District have been served by Republican state Rep. Ed Orcutt. That seat in the Legislature is now open, although Orcutt has not decided to leave the Legislature or move from Kalama. Essentially, the 18th is leaving Orcutt.The decennial redistricting process redirected Orcutt into the 20th District, where he's running for re-election, and reduced the 18th District to the confines of Clark County, including most of north county, plus Felida, Camas and Washougal. With Orcutt's shift northward comes two strong candidates, each making a first run for the Legislature and both listing a wealth of community service as preparation for the job.
The Columbian endorses Democrat David Shehorn of Felida and Republican Liz Pike of Camas as the best of three candidates in the Aug. 7 primary (ballots will be mailed on July 18). In the fall, we'll make a single endorsement for the Nov. 6 election.
Pike is the better-known of the three as a 2007 candidate for Camas mayor, but Shehorn also is making political headway recently, rising to the position of Democratic chairman of the 18th and contributing to numerous volunteer endeavors. The third candidate in this race -- Democrat Ryan Gompertz of Camas -- is well-informed, articulate, level-headed and enthusiastic. He's got a bright political future. But as a sophomore studying history and economics at the University of Washington, the young Democrat cannot match the long records of community service that Pike and Shehorn have accumulated.
Pike has a decided advantage in this race as the only Republican candidate for state representative Position 2 in an 18th District that has shown consistent conservative tendencies. She's a Brush Prairie native who has worked in public relations for 15 years. Pike drew only 25 percent of the votes as a Camas mayoral candidate in 2007, but then-Mayor Paul Dennis was a heavily favored incumbent. Since then, Pike has prepared herself well for a run at the Legislature. She quickly injects statistics and documented trends into debates and has generated widespread support among local and state conservatives.
Shehorn takes a low-key approach to political discourse, but the retired computer systems engineer understands the legislative process and is well-informed on the issues. Speaking of issues, Shehorn and Pike differ on many key topics, although they agree on the need to incentivize small business development. Shehorn wants to give companies that hire new workers a three-year reprieve from paying business and occupation taxes. Pike advocates privatizing the state's industrial insurance program and reducing Department of Ecology regulations such as stormwater rules.
Pike believes the Interstate 5 Bridge has "50 years of life on it" and prefers a new bridge near the ports over the Columbia River Crossing. She is opposed to tolls and light rail. Shehorn supports the CRC and light rail, but will accept the will of the voters on local funding of light rail. He accepts tolls as necessary but wants Oregon to contribute more toward funding the CRC.
On the subject of gay marriage, Shehorn agrees with recent legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry. Pike declined to disclose her personal view on the subject. Shehorn supports legalizing the recreational use of marijuana; Pike does not.
The 18th Legislative District will lose legislative clout with the departure or Orcutt, but Pike and Shehorn have emerged as talented and eager newcomers.