Clark County freeholder races draw some veterans of local politics

34 candidates file for 15 positions

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Monday was the first day to file as a Clark County freeholder candidate, and at least 34 residents, many of them familiar political figures, have already thrown their hats in the ring.

In all, 15 freeholders will be elected, and they will get the chance to write a charter for Clark County. The so-called home-rule charter would allow the county to be governed by its own set of rules, as long as those rules don't conflict with the U.S. or Washington state constitutions, or state laws.

The county has been through this process before, but a charter wasn't adopted by voters. This time around, interest in running for freeholder seems stronger, Clark County Elections Supervisor Cathie Garber said Monday. During a similar freeholder process in 2000, several freeholder races had just one candidate on the ballot, but Garber said she would be surprised if any of the races go unopposed this year.

"We do expect a larger number than we have had in the past," Garber said. "I think there's a lot of issues out there that people are really feeling passionate about and feel like they want to be part of the process. … It's exciting times around here."

Clark County residents have until the end of the week to file to run in a freeholder race. The positions are unpaid. By Monday evening, here's who filed to run in the Nov. 5 election:

• District 1, Position 1: Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas.

• District 1, Position 2: State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.

• District 1, Position 3: Battle Ground resident Scott Edwards and Ridgefield School Board President Julie Olson.

• District 1, Position 4: former La Center City Council member Troy Van Dinter.

• District 1, Position 5: Ridgefield residents Randy Mueller and David Standal.

• District 2, Position 1: Camas resident Thomas Hann, and Vancouver residents Rob Perkins and Joel Littauer.

• District 2, Position 2: Brush Prairie resident Debbie Abraham and Camas resident Lloyd Halverson.

• District 2, Position 3: Former Clark County Commissioner Judie Stanton.

• District 2, Position 4: Vancouver resident Adam Baldwin and former Camas Mayor Paul Dennis.

• District 2, Position 5: Camas resident Chuck Miller.

• District 3, Position 1: Former Vancouver City Council member Pat Jollota, and Vancouver residents Carolyn Crain, Michael Heywood and Sunrise O'Mahoney.

• District 3, Position 2: Vancouver resident Rob Figley, state Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and former state legislator Val Ogden.

• District 3, Position 3: Vancouver residents Jerry Keen and Bruce Samuelson Sr., and state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver.

• District 3, Position 4: Vancouver residents Dan Barnes, Kris Fey, Peter Henrickson and Temple Lentz.

• District 3, Position 5: Vancouver residents John Caton, Thomas Higdon and Jim Mains, and Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver.

No primary process will exist to winnow each race down to two candidates before the general election, Garber said. Voters will get to cast votes in five freeholder races, depending on which county district they live in. Candidates have to run in the commissioner district they live in, but they can choose which of the five positions they want to run in.

Freeholders can propose a number of changes to county governance, including increasing the number of commissioners who serve Clark County or creating a binding code of ethics for elected officials. Whatever charter they create must be approved by the voters.

Six of Washington state's 39 counties have their own charters: King, Clallam, Whatcom, Pierce, Snohomish, and San Juan. In 2000, Clark County commissioners passed a resolution that prompted the election of 21 freeholders. Those freeholders proposed a charter for the 2002 general election but the charter failed.

In 1997 and 1982, Clark County voters rejected referendum efforts to start a freeholder process. The 1982 freeholders would have led a city consolidation effort, while the 1997 freeholders would have penned a county charter.

Candidates filing this year for a freeholder position must be registered to vote, have a valid email address, and they have to have been residents of Clark County for at least five years. The filing period for Clark County freeholder candidates ends at 5 p.m. on Friday if filing in person at the election office. If filing online, however, candidates have until 4 p.m. Friday.

"We suggest that people take the opportunity to file online" on the county's election website, Garber said. "It's very easy."

There is no filing fee to run for freeholder. Freeholder positions are nonpartisan and unpaid.

For more information, visit the Clark County Election Department's website at http://www.clarkvotes.org, call 360-397-2345, email elections@clark.wa.gov, or visit the department at 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver.

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