Ridgefield mayor faces write-in candidate

Vote on light-rail plan spurs late campaigning

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 
photoTim Wilson

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Tim Wilson

Age: 38.

Occupation: Sergeant with the Battle Ground Police Department.

Notable support: Reps. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver; state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver; County Commissioner Tom Mielke, a Republican; the Ridgefield Police Officers’ Association and the La Center Police Officers’ Association.

Website

The mayor of Ridgefield's "yes" vote on a controversial light-rail plan has spawned a write-in campaign to unseat him.

Tim Wilson, a Battle Ground police sergeant, has announced his intention to contest Mayor Ron Onslow for council Position 1.

According to Wilson's website, http://www.writeintim.org, he decided to run after Onslow, an alternate member of the C-Tran Board of Directors, voted last month to approve a contract between TriMet and C-Tran that would cover the annual maintenance and operations costs for light rail, if the Columbia River Crossing is eventually built and light rail is part of it.

On his website, Wilson writes that Onslow has "sold us out for special interests." Wilson is urging people to vote no on "light-rail betrayals" and "toll tyrants." The website was created on Oct. 12, according to whois.net, a database of domain names.

"The vote with the C-Tran board pushed me over the edge a little bit," Wilson said by phone Tuesday in explaining his decision to run for office.

Wilson is particularly concerned by wording in the contract that would allow C-Tran's eminent domain authority to be used by TriMet to acquire land for the light-rail extension. He said the Ridgefield City Council and residents should have been given more time to vet the plan before the C-Tran board moved ahead with it.

Onslow surprised

Onslow, a six-year council veteran, had been running unopposed. He said he was surprised a candidate decided to run against him at such a late hour. Mail-in ballots have already been sent to registered voters and are due back to the county by 6 p.m. Nov. 5.

"It's an interesting situation," Onslow said. "I wish he'd come down and talked to me about it first."

As an alternate on the C-Tran board, Onslow doesn't usually vote. La Center Mayor Jim Irish represents his city and Ridgefield on the board. Irish was out of town and could not attend the Sept. 26 C-Tran meeting. He and Onslow discussed the contract before the meeting and agreed to vote in favor of it, Onslow said.

Along with Onslow, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Vancouver city council members Bart Hansen and Larry Smith, as well as County Commissioner Steve Stuart, voted in favor of the plan. Votes in opposition came from county commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke, in addition to Washougal City Councilor Connie Jo Freeman and Battle Ground City Councilor Bill Ganley.

Timing is important to mounting a viable write-in campaign, Wilson said. And despite the high odds against any write-in candidate, he said he was in the race to win it and not simply to make a political statement against the CRC and light rail.

A political newcomer, Wilson has served on the Battle Ground Police Department since 2007. He was Battle Ground's police officer of the year for 2010 and was named the county's drug recognition expert of the year for 2009.

A grass-roots campaign has emerged to work on the campaign.

Prominent Clark County Republicans have lent endorsements and support for the candidacy, including Reps. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver; state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Mielke. He is not related to Lynda Wilson, chairwoman of the Clark County Republican Party. In the realm of nonpartisan endorsements, he's also received nods from the Ridgefield Police Officers' Association and the La Center Police Officers' Association.

Despite having a full-time job, Wilson said he's willing to put in the time to represent the city.

"Being a city councilman is a huge amount of time," Wilson said. "But it's something you want to do to serve your community."