Harris 'just considering' a 2014 county run

Madore post about legislator's challenge of Stuart raises buzz

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, says he is weighing whether to run against Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart in 2014.

"A couple of people talked to me … I'm just considering it," Harris said Sunday evening.

Earlier on Sunday, Clark County Commissioner David Madore wrote on his public Facebook page: "State Representative Paul Harris has announced his intention to run for Clark County Commissioner in 2014, challenging Commissioner Steve Stuart."

Madore goes on to criticize Stuart for some actions supporting the Columbia River Crossing.

Hearing of Madore's post, Harris said it is correct to say he is weighing a run.

Stuart, a Democrat, could not be reached Sunday night for reaction.

Harris said he thinks Stuart might get appointed to a state position by incoming Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.

"If he (Stuart) ends up leaving early, I would seriously take a look," Harris said. The representative noted that he has never run countywide and would need to study how he would do, probably using polls.

He also said he would be reluctant to risk his House seat, which he said he loves, to run against Stuart.

He said more study is necessary "if I need to go head-to-head with him."

Harris is starting his second two-year term in Olympia, serving the 17th District. He defeated Democrat Jim Gizzi in November, garnering more than 55 percent of the vote. He will serve as minority whip for Republicans in the House and serves on the Health Care and Appropriations committees. He also will serve on the Appropriations subcommittee for health care.

He earlier served for 11 years on the Evergreen School Board.

Asked if the county is ready for an all-Republican board of county commissioners -- Madore and Commissioner Tom Mielke are both Republicans -- Harris said, "I believe David Madore's position on the CRC and tolling has resonated with the voters.

"We need to take a serious look at the bridge and the direction we're going."

"That would be kind of unbalanced," D. Michael Heywood said of an all-Republican board. He is the chair of the central committee for the Clark County Democratic Party. "I think it would be a sad thing for the working folks of Clark County, to have the whole thing run by the Republicans."

Heywood called Stuart a "terrific advocate" for environmental causes and said Stuart is a "very effective and competent county elected official."

In his post, Madore pointed to Stuart's election in 2010, writing: "During that election, Steve Stuart promised citizens that they would be given a chance to vote on Light Rail. After the election, as a C-Tran Board member, Stuart went on to approve the CRC Light Rail Tolling project before the citizens had a chance to vote on it. That resulted in the federal government approving the CRC Record of Decision to fund and build the project."

Harris also works as sales manager for Washington for Quick Collect Inc., a health care collection agency. He raised about $90,000 for his race last fall and spent about $60,000, he said. He was endorsed by the Association of Washington Business, Washington State Medical Association, the Washington Education Association, and Clark County Realtors.

County commissioners are paid $102,224 a year. State representatives receive $42,106 a year, plus $90 a day when on state business.