GOP favors Vick to finish Rivers' House term

Clark, Cowlitz officials to make final choice from among 3 finalists

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoPeter Silliman, Republican write-in candidate for Position 1 representative in the 18th District

Republicans picked legislative candidate and former Clark County GOP chairman Brandon Vick on Wednesday evening as their top choice to finish out the vacant House term most recently held by state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.

As their second choice, the group of nearly 40 precinct committee officers from Clark and Cowlitz counties selected Liz Pike, who is running for the 18th District's other House seat (Position 2). They chose Vick's write-in opponent, Peter Silliman, as a third option.

The party has sent those three names on to the six commissioners in Clark and Cowlitz counties, who are tasked with making the interim House appointment. Commissioners will make their decision after interviewing all three candidates during an upcoming meeting.

Vick and Silliman are already running for Rivers' vacated Position 1 House seat in the 2012 election, although Silliman is not included on the ballot. If Vick receives the interim House appointment, he would still need to win the November election to keep the position.

"I was very excited and very humbled by the whole experience," Vick said of receiving the top nomination. There's a steep learning curve when a new lawmaker goes to Olympia, and getting there early would allow him to get his feet wet, he added.

Vick said he is looking "forward to getting up to Olympia and taking care of business."

If Silliman secures the appointment, he would need to win as a write-in candidate in the Aug. 7 primary, then go on to beat Vick in the general election in order to retain the legislative job.

"I was really encouraged by the amount of support that I had at the PCO (Precinct Committee Officers) meeting last night," Silliman said on Thursday. He said it's hard to gauge whether his write-in campaign will be successful, but "we're being optimistic."

Silliman has been endorsed by Clark County commissioner candidate David Madore, and 49th District House candidate Debbie Peterson. Vick has been endorsed by the Clark County Republican Party as well as a number of state lawmakers, including Reps. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

Vick said he has to give "kudos" to Silliman for running against him.

"I'm going to applaud anybody who wants to run for public office," Vick said, adding that he and Silliman see eye-to-eye on many issues.

If Pike gets the commissioners' appointment, she would not be able to run to keep that House job, because she is not registered to run in that election. But the new role could give her legislative experience that she could tout while running for the Position 2 House seat. Her opponents in that race, Democrats David Shehorn and Ryan Gompertz, also have never served as state lawmakers.

Pike said constituents in the 18th District need someone who can "hit the ground running" as soon as they're appointed, and she said she is the most qualified of the three finalists because she has experience as an elected official. She previously served on the Camas City Council.

"Even though it's a different seat, it's still doing the same job I've been working so hard to get elected to," Pike explained.

The appointee picked by commissioners will serve in office until December, when the representative selected by voters in November's general election will take the helm. If commissioners cannot pick from the three candidates within the 60 days following Rivers' resignation, then the governor has 30 days to choose between Vick, Pike and Silliman.

Rivers resigned her House seat on June 25, the same day she was appointed to replace former Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, who resigned from office on May 18. Rivers is running this November to keep that Senate seat and has one opponent in the race, Democrat Ralph Schmidt.

The new voting district lines drawn for the 2012 elections push the 18th District out of Cowlitz County, but Cowlitz County commissioners still are involved in the 18th District appointment process because those new voter boundaries haven't kicked in yet.

Republican Adrian Cortes is listed on the Aug. 7 primary ballot to run against Vick, but he has since dropped out of the race.

State legislators get an annual salary of $42,106.

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