Two skills essential for a successful county commissioner are a willingness to listen to innovative solutions (even when they come from members of the other political party) and a meticulous understanding of how counties and the Legislature can succeed as partners. Marc Boldt and Joe Tanner have mastered both skills. Each served in the Legislature years ago and each is adept at striking productive agreements, even across party lines. Boldt and Tanner have drawn The Columbian's endorsement for the two county commissioner races in the Nov. 6 election. (Ballots will be mailed on Oct. 15.)
Boldt is the incumbent in District 2, running against successful businessman David Madore. In District 1, Tanner is challenging lackluster incumbent Tom Mielke, perhaps best known for the great glee with which he repeatedly announces "No!" on critical issues and creative solutions facing the county.
For the record, Boldt is a Republican and Tanner is a Democrat, but that really doesn't seem to matter, especially in Boldt's case. He remains ensconced in the local GOP doghouse, banished there by party kingpins (to their own detriment) who believe he's not conservative enough. Meanwhile, Boldt has increased his appeal to voters who understand that smart decisions about growth, the environment and the budget are not the province of either political party.
As for Tanner, party affiliation might have mattered when he was a legislator back in the 1980s, but it certainly didn't matter when he was luring new businesses to the community as the first executive director of the Columbia River Economic Development Council.
In clear contrast, Mielke and Madore are entrenched in party doctrine, inflexible and unreceptive to suggestions from outside their partisan camps. When the prospect of a local professional baseball team surfaced (the proposal later failed), Mielke opposed even discussing the issue. Madore promises to "open the floodgates" of job creation, but he falls short on specifics, other than nebulous cries for deregulation.
Madore has achieved great success in the business world, yet his campaign website lists only individual supporters, no endorsements from business groups, no favorable nod even from Mielke, his fellow Republican. Boldt, on the other hand, has the backing of the Building Industry Association of Clark County and the Clark County Association of Realtors. So does Tanner. Boldt also is endorsed by every mayor in the county.
Tanner's business success has been global. He has captained several large companies with business ties in more than five dozen countries.
These races are very much "up for grabs" and, for two reasons, no conclusions should be drawn from the Aug. 7 primary. First, primary voting for county commissioners is confined to districts; now the voting in both races is countywide. Second, voter turnout was 30.7 percent in the primary, but it's expected to top 80 percent in this election. In 2008, the number of District 2 voters soared from 20,860 in the primary to 166,666 in the election. In District 1, the voter count rocketed from 28,798 in the primary to 168,617 in the election.
The choice for Clark County voters is clear: Two men with distinguished backgrounds, dedicated to independent public service vs. two men mired in partisan crusades. Marc Boldt has convincingly earned re-election, and Joe Tanner has effectively delineated his qualifications to join the Board of Clark County Commissioners.