18th District: Rivers, Cortes & Pike

Solid conservative credentials are compelling in red-leaning district

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How Republican is Clark County's 18th Legislative District? Here are some clues:The 18th's candidate for state senator, Ann Rivers, is making her first bid for that chamber, yet she received a higher percentage of votes in the Aug. 7 primary than any other legislative candidate in the three districts contained solely within Clark County. Her Democratic opponent, Ralph Schmidt, doesn't expect to win and says the only reason he's running is to try to suck a few GOP dollars into the race.

In the 18th's state representative Position 1 race, two Republicans — Brandon Vick and Adrian Cortes — advanced beyond the primary. No Democrats were entered. Prior to this year, no same-party showdown had occurred in Clark County since the top two primary began several years ago.

In the 18th's state rep Position 2 race, the Republican candidate, Liz Pike, already is serving in the House, even though she hasn't been elected. Commissioners in Clark and Cowlitz counties appointed her to fill the Position 1 vacancy on Aug. 23.

Clearly, the elephants are trumpeting the donkeys into submission in the 18th, which includes most of north county, plus Camas and Washougal. But more than party affiliation, these GOP candidates boast plenty of impressive qualifications. That's why The Columbian endorses Rivers for state senator and Cortes and Pike for state representative in the 18th Legislative District.

State senator: For anyone wondering if Rivers' one term in the House qualifies her to serve in the Senate, the first strong answer arrived June 25, when she was appointed to serve the final four months of Joe Zarelli's term. A second powerful message came on Aug. 7 when she received 63.7 percent of the primary votes for state senator.

Meanwhile, her Democratic foe sounds like a Mariners manager assessing the team's chance of making the World Series. "Slim & None" Schmidt is hardly making a peep in this race. By comparison, the effervescent and solutions-oriented Rivers is a rock star on the campaign trail.

Her message of smaller government resonates in the 18th. She advocates a defined-contribution retirement plan for state workers, casts a leery eye on the Columbia River Crossing plans and carries a satchel full of credentials after serving on four House committees, including transportation.

Rivers is adept at fostering coalitions, earning respect from both parties. Many say she'll make a fine state senator. Others point out she already is doing so as Zarelli's appointed replacement.

State rep, Position 1: Two good candidates here in local businessmen Cortes and Vick. Earlier, Cortes carried the baggage of entering, dropping out and then re-entering this race. But he still snared almost a third of the votes in the primary and presents a stronger candidacy than Vick based on broad business experience and understanding of the private sector.

Whereas Cortes focuses on policy, Vick's background has focused on party. He's former chair of the local GOP and has strong roots among conservatives. But he was passed over by the county commissioners for the appointment that Pike received.

State rep, Position 2: Liz Pike's experience as a Camas city councilor, her 29 percentage-point lead in the primary and her appointment to serve as Rivers' successor make her the prohibitive favorite over Felida Democrat David Shehorn.

Pike is consistently conservative, just right for the 18th Legislative District.