Primary matters: Election Day is Tuesday

Expectations are for a low turnout, but the ballot is packed with intriguing races

By Lauren Dake, Columbian political writer

Published:

 

Election Day details

Clark County Auditor’s Office — Elections Department

  • Address: 1408 Franklin St., Vancouver, WA 98660.
  • Phone: 360-397-2345.

Vote by mail:

  • Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, Aug. 5.

Drop off your completed ballot:

  • Ballots must be dropped off by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Election Day only: To find the 33 locations around the county where elections workers will be accepting ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Election Day, visit www.clark.wa.gov/... or find the list in your voters’ pamphlet.
  • Permanent ballot drop box: A red drop box, available 24 hours a day, is at 14th and Esther streets in downtown Vancouver, just east of the elections department office. You can drop off your ballot there today, Monday or before 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Online:

Campaign Finances

Total campaign contributions for contested races as of July 30. Includes in-kind and personal loans.

CLARK COUNTY SHERIFF

  • Shane Gardner, no party preference: $36,745.
  • Chuck Atkins, Republican: $55,280.
  • John Graser, Republican: $26,280.
  • Ed Owens, independent: $12,624.

STATE LEGISLATURE

House 14th Dist., Pos. 2:

  • Paul George, Democrat: $64,043.
  • Gina McCabe, Republican: $56,800.
  • Adam Yoest, Republican: $3,265.

House 17th Dist., Pos. 2:

  • Paul Harris, Republican: $64,043.
  • Richard McCluskey, Democrat: $3,909.
  • Chris Rockhold, Libertarian: $6,285.

House 18th Dist., Pos. 1:

  • Mike Briggs, Democrat: $22,134.
  • John Ley, Republican: $38,657.
  • Brandon Vick, Republican: $52,381.

House 49th Dist., Pos. 1:

  • Scott Dalesandro, no party preference: $0.
  • Anson Service, Republican: $8,213.
  • Sharon Wylie, Democrat: $47,732.

House 49th Dist., Pos. 2:

  • Carolyn Crain, Republican: $8,925.
  • Jim Moeller, Democrat: $51,097.
  • Lisa Ross, Republican: $8,779.

U.S. CONGRESS

3rd Congressional District

Cash-on-hand amount:

  • Michael Delavar, Republican: $5,603.
  • Bob Dingethal, Democrat: $19,911.
  • Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican: $880,201.

If you're part of the 65 percent of Clark County registered voters expected to skip Tuesday's primary election, consider this: Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, won his 2012 re-election bid by a mere 76 votes.

That narrow general election victory shifted the power in the Washington Legislature and played an integral part in the demise of the Columbia River Crossing.

Whether or not you are pleased with the outcome, what it illustrates is clear: Voting matters.

And yet, as the primary quickly approaches, Clark County voters are expected to follow a nationwide trend that has seen a diminishing number of people casting ballots, particularly in midterm elections. Out of the 251,730 registered voters in Clark County, the clerk's office is expecting a 35 percent turnout in Tuesday's election.

A recent report by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate said the nation is on course to see the lowest midterm primary turnout in history. Several states are expected to set record lows for voter turnout. Since the 1950s, the number of people inclined to vote has been dropping, according to Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.

While nobody has pinpointed why, lower participation means "people are elected by the interest groups that have a higher interest in a given election. So our elected officials will pay attention to the interest group concerns, not necessarily what is best for the district as a whole," Moore wrote in an email.

In Washington, it's often the case that general election results are the same as the primary. There are exceptions, such as in 1994 when Linda Smith came in second in the primary and ousted the Democratic incumbent in November — but the primary results often foreshadow the general election outcomes, Moore said.

This year, for the first time in more than two decades, Clark County voters will choose a new sheriff. U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, is defending her seat against two challengers. And the entire 98-member state House is up for re-election, so voters will have an opportunity to re-elect or oust their state representative. Precinct committee officers, the worker bees of the party, will be decided in the primary. But under the state's top-two system, the field of other candidates will be narrowed to the two in each race who garner the most votes in August, with the winners chosen in the Nov. 4 general election. For races where there are only two candidates, such as county commissioner and the race for top prosecutor, voters will get an early look at who appears to be in the lead heading into November.

Here's a recap of some of the contested races:

Sheriff

If no other race motivates you to fill out your ballot, this one should. For more than 20 years, Clark County's top cop has been Garry Lucas. This election, the longtime sheriff's name will not be on the ballot.

There are four candidates competing to succeed him: Shane Gardner, currently a community outreach sergeant for the sheriff's office; Chuck Atkins, a retired sheriff officer's commander; John Graser, a retired commander; and Ed Owens, a former detective.

With the county's population expected to grow in the coming years, the next sheriff will likely be faced with difficult decisions on how to stem crime with fewer deputies and overpopulated jails. Graser has suggested the county could make better use of existing resources, in part by increasing the number of deputies on the road during the busiest hours and otherwise scaling back.

Owens, who is suing the county for wrongful termination, said he would ensure the office does a better job creating partnerships with other county departments.

Gardner said he would lead in a way that promotes change within, rather than mandates. He would funnel more resources to help the county's drug addicts, which he believes would curb the jail's population from growing.

If Atkins were elected, he said, he plans to dedicate resources to break up drug cartels and crack down on drug offenders.

Washington House

Whomever voters send to Olympia will be tasked with deciding how to fund public schools to satisfy the state's top court. In 2012, the state Supreme Court, in McCleary v. State of Washington, ruled the state was not meeting its "paramount duty" of adequately funding education and was therefore in violation of the Constitution. There's also a good chance lawmakers will attempt to regulate the state's medical marijuana market. And although the issue of Vancouver's proposed oil-by-rail transport terminal is expected to go straight to the governor's desk, lawmakers could also weigh in when it comes to safety standards and other regulatory measures.

For the 17th Legislative District, Position 2, Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, is defending his seat against challengers Chris Rockhold, a Libertarian, and Democratic candidate Richard McCluskey, both of Vancouver. Rockhold criticized Harris for his votes in favor of giving Boeing tax breaks, a decision Harris said he supported because it would help create jobs. McCluskey said he is in favor of bolstering the middle class and would make it his priority, if elected, to move the state away from using coal, oil and petroleum-based energy and toward harnessing wind, water and solar.

In the 18th Legislative District, Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, is hoping to keep his Position 1 seat and fend off challenges from fellow Republican John Ley and Democratic candidate Mike Briggs of Washougal. Vick, who notes that he did not miss any votes during the 2013 and 2014 sessions, sits on six legislative committees and said he has a reputation for working across the aisle. Ley, an airline pilot from Camas, blasted Vick for not being a more active in the district, especially when it came to opposing the CRC. Ley said he actively opposed the project. Briggs believes the region must first deal with congestion issues on the Interstate 5 Before considering an alternative bridge across the river.

Two political newcomers are taking on Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, for the 49th Legislative District, Position 1 seat. Both challengers have criticized Wylie for being too entrenched in the political scene. Anson Service, a Republican from Vancouver, said he would hold frequent town halls if elected and has the skills to translate what's happening in Olympia to constituents in a way that resonates. Scott Dalesandro, a Vancouver resident and logistics manager with Columbia River Logistics, said he's not beholden to either party and would represent an independent voice in the Legislature.

Finally, familiar foes will face off once again for the 49th Legislative District, Position 2 seat. Republican Carolyn Crain of Vancouver, a common face at local public meetings, from city council to C-Tran, said if she ousts incumbent Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, she has the knowledge and background to immediately get to work. Moeller has been elected six consecutive terms in a district where he has an edge as a Democrat. Republican political newcomer Lisa Ross, a certified public accountant from Vancouver, believes she has the crossover appeal it would take to defeat Moeller.

Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches, has decided not to run for a fifth term in the Legislature, opening up the state's 14th Legislative District to some newcomers.

Paul George, a former Yakima mayor and councilor, is the lone Democrat vying for the Position 2 spot. He's up against Republican Gina McCabe, a Goldendale businesswoman, and Adam Yoest, a 30-year-old from Yakima. Yoest is a staff sergeant in the Washington Army National Guard.

U.S. Congress

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, first elected in 2010, is running for a third term representing the 3rd Congressional District. She's facing both a Republican challenger, Michael Delavar of Washougal, and a Democratic opponent, Bob Dingethal of Ridgefield. Both blasted the incumbent for being aloof and not transparent enough, pointing to her decision to stop holding traditional town halls. Herrera Beutler said she's confident nobody would work harder to represent Southwest Washington than she would. She points to a long list of constituents she has helped solve problems, both legislatively and by connecting them to available resources. Delavar, a commercial airline pilot, preaches strict adherence to the Constitution and said Herrera Beutler's votes illustrate she has veered from following the founding fathers' wishes. Dingethal, who is on leave from his position as executive director of the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, said it's time to build the middle class and put an end to partisan gridlock by working across the aisle.

Clark Public Utilities

Four candidates are vying to sit on the Clark County Public Utilities Board of Commissioners. The board is nonpartisan and often low-profile, but it makes decisions impacting a lot of pocketbooks. Board members help set electric and water rates and manage the utility's annual budget. Byron Hanke, the incumbent for the District 3 position, is facing three challengers: Jane Van Dyke, Michael Piper and Bill Hughes. Van Dyke served on the utility for 18 years prior to Hanke, and points to her part in building the utility's reputation for having good customer service. Hanke, the incumbent, said his experience is more relevant and timely than Van Dyke's. Hughes said he is looking for a job and thinks it would be a good one — the part-time positions are paid not more than $43,380 per year. Piper also has experience in the utility industry, including working as a consultant to the Bonneville Power Administration. He said he would push the utility to take a lead role in using renewable energy and boosting conservation efforts.

'Pass-through' races

Several candidates will get a pass in the primary and head straight to the general election, barring any surprising challenge from a write-in campaign.

Incumbent Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, is unopposed for the 14th Legislative District, Position 1 seat. Incumbent Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, and Republican Lynda Wilson of Vancouver are the only two vying for the 17th Legislative District, Position 1 seat. Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and her Democratic challenger Maureen Winningham, a Vancouver resident, area also expected to head straight for the general election. In the race for prosecutor, incumbent Tony Golik is matched up against private attorney Josephine Townsend. For the open seat of county commissioner, Craig Pridemore, a Democrat, is running against Republican candidate Jeanne Stewart. For the four-year county assessor term, Peter Van Nortwick, a Republican, is up against Darren Wertz, who stated no party preference. For the county clerk spot, Scott Weber, a Republican, faces Democrat Deanna Pauli-Hammond. Greg Kimsey doesn't appear to have any challengers for his county auditor seat.


Aaron Corvin, Tyler Graf and Justin Runquist contributed to this report.