Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart says he has no plans to leave the county for an appointment to a state office.
In a Monday Columbian story, State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said he is considering a 2014 run for the commissioner seat held by Stuart, a Democrat. Harris added that he may “seriously take a look” at a run in the event Stuart leaves his seat early for a state appointment by incoming Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.
Stuart said Monday that isn’t happening.
“It’s not something I am seeking,” Stuart said. “I am focused on my work here, and the work I am elected to do. I would expect others to do the same.”
Stuart has served on a transition committee of 30 people, selected by Inslee, since the governor-elect won the November election.
Stuart said he’s honored by that selection, noting he is the only member from Southwest Washington on the governor-elect’s team.
The goals of the transition team, Stuart said, are to help Inslee identify what issues need to be addressed within the first six months of Inslee taking office, and to identify candidates for “cabinet level positions.”
Stuart said he wouldn’t answer questions based on rumors, nor on speculation of “what might happen” if he were to be offered a different job. He also said he has no specific comment on what he intends to do come the 2014 election.
“I’m not focused on that,” Stuart said. “I’m focused on the work I was elected to do.”
Talk of Harris’ possible candidacy came not from him, but from a Facebook post by Clark County Commissioner David Madore, a Republican.
Madore wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday: “State Representative Paul Harris has announced his intention to run for Clark County Commissioner in 2014, challenging Commissioner Steve Stuart.”
Harris stressed on Sunday night he was still simply mulling a run, not fully declaring his candidacy.
“A couple of people talked to me … I’m just considering it,” Harris said, adding that such a race would require additional study of countywide polls.
In the Facebook post, Madore is critical of Stuart for actions made in support of the Columbia River Crossing, noting that Harris is a strong critic of the project.
Madore said Monday that while he is critical of Stuart’s policies, he is grateful for how the two have worked together in the first few months since Madore was elected.
“We can have healthy dialogue, and we can have differences of opinion,” Madore said. “Steve is a great guy, and I respect him, but Steve understands that we need to be able to discuss differences. We all get smarter that way.”
Last week in a meeting, Madore told Stuart it would be a loss to the county if he were to take a job in Olympia. Madore stuck by that statement Monday, but also said he felt Stuart would be a valuable ally for Southwest Washington if he were to leave for the state capital.
Madore also told Stuart last week he wanted to “light a little fire” in Stuart by providing information analyzing the Columbia River Crossing project. Stuart said he would take a look, but asked Madore to also look at the other side as well, to which Madore agreed.
This isn’t the first time that Stuart has had to respond to rumors that he might seek a different job. In 2011, some speculated he would challenge U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 2012 general election. Stuart put a halt to that discussion in November 2011, saying he had a “continued commitment to serve the people and place I love.”
Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov ; firstname.lastname@example.org.