Clark County Democratic Party reverses course on endorsements

It will not endorse candidates in local, nonpartisan primary races

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The Clark County Democratic Party decided not to make endorsements in nonpartisan races for the primary election after all.

The move had drawn criticism from those who argued it would distort the nonpartisan nature of city council positions, even though the Clark County Republican Party is taking sides in local races.

“There was some consternation among the membership about taking this step. It’s against our settled tradition,” said Mike Heywood, the local Democratic Party chairman.

The Clark County Democratic Party’s bylaws prohibit endorsements in nonpartisan races, but he and others urged the party to suspend those rules to take a more active role in local council races.

The local Democratic Party’s Central Committee had already decided not to endorse in every race, but on Monday night abandoned a plan to endorse in the races for Vancouver council seats occupied by Jeanne Stewart and Jeanne Harris.

Heywood said the committee evaluated challengers but decided the races were “too close to call.”

“We intended to get involved in the nonpartisan races, and we have done that by interviewing candidates,” Heywood said.

He expects the party will make endorsements in the general election.

“We have serious concerns about the future of the county,” Heywood said. “We don’t think we can sit on the sidelines.”

The Clark County Republican Party has become increasingly involved in local races.

In each of the last two off-year elections, 2009 and 2011, three sitting precinct committee officers ran for nonpartisan positions, two Republicans and a Democrat each time. PCOs, as they are known, are elected every two years and serve as grass-roots organizers for the parties. This year, eight PCOs — all Republicans — are running for city councils, school boards and a fire commission seat.

The Clark County Republican Party has made endorsements in local primary races, but is leaving it up to the candidates to make those announcements, said Lynda Wilson, the party’s chairwoman. The party endorsed its PCOs running for office, except in races with more than one running.