An elections expert at Washington State University says Clark County's November mega ballot may signal the county is at a crossroads — and the results may map the future of the region.
"The fact of it is that with all these advisory votes, and all these freeholders, the county is at a tipping point," said Carolyn Long, a professor at Washington State University Vancouver who specializes in politics and elections.
The November ballot will include several city council races, junior board elections, 11 advisory votes and 110 candidates vying for 15 freeholder positions that will draft a new county charter.
Two groups have announced dates for meet and greets with freeholders so voters can get to know the candidates.
• Clark County freeholder candidates Temple Lentz and Jim Mains are co-hosting “Get to Know Your Freeholder Candidates” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Latte Da Coffeehouse and Wine Bar, 205 E. 39th St. All freeholder candidates and members of the public are welcome.
• State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, are hosting two freeholder open house/town hall events. Both have filed for freeholder positions.
The first event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at Battle Ground City Hall, 109 S.W. First St., in the upstairs city council chambers.
The second event is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Washougal Community Center, 1681 C St., Washougal.
Rivers said the event is intended to give individuals in different parts of the county a chance to tell candidates what they would like to see in a new county charter.
Long, who is also the expert that Clark County commissioners turned to when determining the layout for the freeholder election, said those options give voters a chance to send a message to their local government on what the future of the county should look like.
And despite the strong turnout of freeholder candidates, Long said she agrees with former Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed's concern that some voters will be overwhelmed by such a large ballot. Reed told The Columbian earlier this week that voter fatigue may result in a sizable amount of undervotes on minor races.
With that concern in mind — along with the abysmal Aug. 5 primary turnout rate in Clark County of 19.5 percent — Long says it would benefit the county for voters to become informed on the issues on the super-sized ballot.
Long said the local chapters of the two major parties may get involved in the freeholder race as interest in local partisan politics has been spurred by some bold moves made by the Board of Clark County Commissioners. Chief among those actions is the appointment of state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to the role of county environmental services director by commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke, both Republicans.
The appointment outraged Democrat Commissioner Steve Stuart, who stormed out of the room while shouting an obscenity. The public fallout from the action came in a marathon commissioner meeting that lasted more than six hours, where opponents of the appointment criticized commissioners, and a minority group of supporters lauded them for the appointment.
That said, the two local chapters of Republicans and Democrats have yet to make any statements on who, or if, they'll endorse for freeholder.
A bipartisan community organization, called Team ClarkForward and headed by Stuart and Republican Auditor Greg Kimsey, does not plan to endorse a slate of candidates. Rather, that group is focusing on advocating for an expanded board of commissioners and the creation of an elected county executive position.
And while the freeholder positions are nonpartisan, that wasn't the original intent of the county commissioners.
Mielke, the architect of the freeholder effort, said he wanted the positions to list political affiliation for "transparency." He had the traction to move forward on that front, but commissioners found they had to use a nonpartisan slate to meet filing deadlines.
The Columbian has sent out a questionnaire to candidates to provide information on where they stand both politically and on the freeholder process.
Final group of freeholder candidates
• District 1, Position 1: Vancouver residents Garry E. Lucas (Clark County sheriff), Morris Foutch, Marlene (Korczakowski) Adams and Scott McElhaney, Ridgefield residents Ron Onslow (mayor of Ridgefield) and Darren S. Wertz, and La Center resident Dale Smith.
• District 1, Position 2: Vancouver residents Donald A. Leonard, Doug Ballou and Dan Sockle, La Center resident Ann Rivers (state senator), and Brush Prairie resident Tom Lawrence.
• District 1, Position 3: Battle Ground residents Scott Edwards, Richard Rylander and Jacqueline (Jackie) Lane, Ridgefield residents Joseph Zarelli (former state legislator) and Bridget Schwarz, Amboy resident David A. Darby, Vancouver resident Robert (Rob) Lutz, and Brush Prairie resident Tim Podhora.
• District 1, Position 4: Vancouver residents Ben Meyer, Sharon Ferguson, Steve Foster, Chris Lockwood and Fiona Humphrey, La Center residents Troy Van Dinter (former La Center city councilor) and Peter Silliman, Brush Prairie resident Mark Gawecki, and Ridgefield resident John Main.
• District 1, Position 5: Vancouver residents Patricia Reyes (Duitman), Troy Maxcy, Wendy Lyn Smith, Sherry Erickson and Patrick Bourcier, Ridgefield residents Randy Mueller and David Standal, Battle Ground residents Ralph Akin and R. (Bob) Freund, Brush Prairie resident Dick Deleissegues and Yacolt resident Patrick O’Rourke.
• District 2, Position 1: Vancouver residents Rob Perkins, Joel Littauer, Cheryl Bledsoe, Diana H. Perez and Jamie Hurly, and Camas residents Thomas Hann and Nan Henriksen (former Camas mayor).
• District 2, Position 2: Vancouver residents Tracy S. Wilson and Esther Schrader, Camas residents Lloyd Halverson and Ken Kakuk, Brush Prairie resident Debbie Abraham and Washougal resident John W. Bryden.
• District 2, Position 3: Vancouver residents Judie Stanton (former Clark County commissioner), Jim Martin and John Burke, and Camas residents Russell Boten and Liz Pike (state representative).
• District 2, Position 4: Vancouver residents Roger Neilson and Dimitry Mishchuk, Camas resident Paul Dennis (former Camas mayor), and Washougal resident Michael Delavar (former Washougal city councilor).
• District 2, Position 5: Vancouver residents Chuck Miller, Jake Smith and Adam Baldwin, Brush Prairie residents Marc Boldt (former Clark County commissioner) and Anthony (Tony) McMigas, and Camas resident Bentley Brookes.
• District 3, Position 1: Vancouver residents Pat Jollota (former Vancouver city councilor), Craig Riley and Ryan Palmer.
• District 3, Position 2: Vancouver residents Val Ogden (former state legislator), Rob Figley, John Lowell Gilbert, Jeanne Schaefer-Ringo and Carolyn Crain.
• District 3, Position 3: Vancouver residents Jim Moeller (state representative), Bruce A. Samuelson, Jerry W. Keen, Debbie Peterson, Lowell D. Miller, Mike Woodward, Keith E. Bellisle, Alice Williams and David Gray Jr.
• District 3, Position 4: Vancouver residents Temple Lentz, Dan Barnes, Kris Fay, Alex Veliko, Winde Bekins Chavez, Frank L’Amie, Don Yingling, Michael James Barry, Gene C. Ringo, Kyle Greenwood, Bill Hughes, Adrian Gomez and Sally Fisher.
• District 3, Position 5: Vancouver residents Jim Mains, Thomas Richard Higdon, John W. Caton, Jerry Oliver, James Taylor (Jimmy Tee), Jackie Marsden, Mike Yancey, Bill Cismar, Jack Harroun, John Jenkins, Bob Carroll, Mark Monroe and Jim Dunn.