Election 2016: A look at local ballot

Here's a look at the races, issues voters in Clark County will be deciding




How to make your vote count

Registered voters should have received their ballots in the mail days ago. If yours appears to be missing, phone the elections office at 360-397-2345 or visit the office at 1408 Franklin St. on Monday or Tuesday.

Be sure to vote and return your ballot by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Mailed ballots require one first-class postage stamp. Although mailed ballots bearing a Tuesday or earlier postmark will be counted, the surest way to make sure your ballot beats the deadline is to take it to one of the ballot deposit locations. There are five permanent ballot drops: Battle Ground City Hall, Fisher’s Landing Transit Center, 99th Street Transit Center, Downtown Camas Post Office, and downtown Vancouver on West 14th Street between Esther and Franklin streets. Temporary ballot locations are listed in the voters’ pamphlet and on the web at clarkvotes.org.

After months of politicians’ (and aspiring politicians) knocking on doors, appearing at candidate forums and waving signs at traffic, the end of the long campaign season is in sight. With two days left, candidates are now turning their energy to getting voters to actually fill out and turn in their completed ballots.

Already nearly 40 percent of 270,787 ballots have been returned to the Clark County elections office. In the 2012 general election, 193,502 votes were cast in Clark County.

Although the presidential race is in the spotlight, Washington voters will also choose a governor, a senator and their U.S. representative. In Clark County, voters may well determine the majority party in the state Senate. Certainly we will choose two new county council members. Finally, voters in Vancouver, Battle Ground and Woodland will decide on tax measures to fund affordable housing, new schools and transportation projects.

Here is a look at the local ballot:

County council

Regardless of what voters decide Tuesday, it’ll be the end of an era in Clark County politics when Republican Councilors Tom Mielke and David Madore, who have spent much of the last four years battling and bickering, leave office.

Madore, who was elected as a county commissioner in 2012 before the home rule charter was enacted, lost his re-election bid in the top-two primary. Still in the running are Republican John Blom, a 32-year-old real estate agent and member of the county planning commission, and Democrat Tanisha Harris, a 40-year-old who works as a YWCA Clark County program specialist for the Court Appointed Special Advocate program.

“I think the most interesting campaign experience was when I met a gentleman voting for Donald Trump and for me,” said Harris, who was endorsed by Madore after the primary despite being members of opposing parties. Harris chalks up the endorsement to a division within the Clark County GOP.

During the primary, the party’s central committee voted to oppose Blom and spent $2,617 to oppose his candidacy. However, spending on behalf of Blom by political action committees associated with homebuilders and Realtors overshadowed the party’s efforts. According to campaign filings, $319,426 in independent expenditures has been spent in support of Blom. During the primary, Blom also had support from Connecting Clark County, a PAC formed with the support of investor David Nierenberg that raised $157,521.

Currently, Harris has raised $60,583, much of it from labor and Democratic-leaning funds. Blom has $65,119 and the Washington Realtors Political Action Committee has continued its independent expenditures for his benefit.

Blom, taking a break from showing a house to speak to The Columbian, likened the final days to playing football.

“In the final 10 minutes you do a lot of the same things you’ve been doing but you pick up the tempo just a little bit,” he said.

In the District 4 race, Mielke chose to retire. Democrat Roman Battan, the 35-year-old owner of a software and media development company, faces Republican Eileen Quiring, a 68-year-old real estate agent and former Oregon legislator.

Battan said he’s been focused on knocking on doors and getting out last-minute campaign signs after about a thousand were stolen or vandalized.

“We were going to do a police report, but it’s par for the course with some of this stuff,” he said.

District 4 is the county’s geographically largest and most rural. Quiring, who sits on the county planning commission, said she’s heard concerns from citizens about the overreach of government. She’s raised $44,612, with notable donors including investment adviser Kenneth Fisher, property rights activist Carol Levanen, developer Clyde Holland and a small contribution from Madore.

Battan, who wants to improve infrastructure and economic development, has raised $24,017, with larger donations coming from labor unions.

— Jake Thomas

State Legislature

• More than $2.6 million has been poured into the open Senate race in the 17th Legislative District, which covers east Vancouver. Republican Lynda Wilson has raised $512,812 and Democrat Tim Probst has brought in $459,553, as of Wednesday. The race to succeed Republican Sen. Don Benton has generated statewide interest. Outside groups have spent more than $1.7 million to both support and oppose the candidates. The stakes are high — the outcome could determine which party controls the state Senate.

Wilson beat Probst by a mere 50 votes in a two-candidate primary.

In local House races, another other open seat pits two Democrats against each other. The Washington Education Association has thrown its weight behind this race, spending more than $430,000 to help former state Rep. Monica Stonier in her contest against Vancouver City Councilor Alishia Topper for the 49th District House seat, Position 2. Both candidates could be considered pro-education and are philosophically aligned with the left-leaning district. The seat is currently held by Democrat Jim Moeller.

In the 18th Legislative District, incumbents are all trying to fend off newcomers. Democrat Eric Holt is hoping to unseat incumbent Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center. And Reps. Brandon Vick, R-Felida, and Liz Pike, R-Camas, are defending their seats against Justin Oberg and Kathy Gillespie, respectively.

In the 49th Legislative District, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, is seeking re-election. Republican Lewis Gerhardt is hoping to unseat her. Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, is also seeking re-election to the Statehouse. Her challenger, Kaitlyn Beck, dropped out of the race after ballots were printed.

Finally, Republican Vicki Kraft and Independent Democrat Sam Kim are hoping to be elected to the 17th District House seat Wilson is vacating. In the other race, Republican Rep. Paul Harris faces Democrat Martin Hash.

— Lauren Dake

U.S. Congress

• When Olympia’s liberal suburbs were chopped from the 3rd Congressional District following the 2010 census, political observers declared the district a safe seat for conservative Republicans. State Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, will test that theory this year as he challenges three-term incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas.

For more than 20 years Moeller has been a popular and outspoken politician from Vancouver’s liberal west side, first serving on the city council and then in the Legislature, where in recent years he presided over most House sessions as speaker pro tempore. The question is whether Moeller’s liberal credentials will play well enough in rural corners of the district, including Lewis and Cowlitz counties. Voters in those areas regularly choose conservative Republicans to represent them in Olympia.

Issues in the race have included the Affordable Care Act, the federal minimum wage and Moeller’s criticism over Herrera Beutler’s reluctance to hold town hall-style meetings.

— Craig Brown

City of Vancouver, Proposition 1

• Vancouver voters will consider raising taxes to ease an affordable housing crisis. Proposition 1 would increase property taxes for a home valued at $250,000 by about $90 a year. The taxes would create an affordable housing fund overseen by the city of Vancouver. The money would go toward three goals: increasing housing supply, preserving existing housing, and preventing homelessness. Proponents point to cost-burdened residents, whose rent is rising rapidly while wages aren’t keeping pace. Opponents voiced concerns landlords would raise rents throughout the city due to the measure. They are worried the tax could hurt people who are barely making ends meet, and say the tax should be countywide, and not just hit city residents.

— Lauren Dake

Battle Ground schools bond

• Battle Ground Public Schools is asking voters to approve an $80 million school bond to remodel, replace and construct school buildings.

The north Clark County district plans $136.5 million worth of work in the first phase of its long-term facilities plan. The bond, which could run for an estimated 20 years, will cover most of those expenses, with a matching $56.5 million from the state.

The bond is expected to cost property owners 45 cents per $1,000 in assessed value per year. That means for a home valued at $300,000, the projected tax increase is $11.25 a month, or $135 per year.

The bond will support rebuilding Glenwood Heights Primary, Laurin Middle and Pleasant Valley Primary and Middle schools. It will also cover the construction of a new kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school and a new fifth-through-eighth-grade school in the southeast corner of the district. The district plans improvements for campus security and technology, including upgraded school entrances with card readers, better classrooms for science and technology programs at middle schools, improved career and technical education classrooms, and additional perimeter fencing at Prairie High School.

The bond requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

The political action committee backing the bond, Citizens for Better Schools – Battle Ground, has spent $3,549.44 on the campaign, most of it on signs and printed material.

— Kaitlin Gillespie

Clark Public Utilities commissioner

• Incumbent Nancy Barnes is looking to win her fifth consecutive term on a three-member board overseeing the public electric and water utility. To retain the seat she’s held since 1992, she’ll have to defeat a familiar challenger, Mike Lyons. In 2010, Barnes defeated Lyons by 641 votes out of 117,715 cast. Lyons is a Clark County Fire District 5 commissioner who is retired as a captain of the Vancouver Fire Department.

The term runs for six years and pays $2,285 per month plus full benefits. Barnes is the District 2 commissioner, encompassing southeastern Clark County.

— Adam Littman

Woodland Transportation Benefit District

• Residents in Woodland will have a chance on Tuesday to approve a 0.2 percentage point sales tax increase to raise money for transportation projects. The tax would come to Woodland from a transportation benefit district, which was formed in June. The district is allowed to charge an extra vehicle fee or sales tax within the city to raise money that can only be used for transportation.

Battle Ground’s transportation district was formed in 2014 and raised $203,000 in its first year. Vancouver’s district started July 1, and the city anticipates raising $2.4 million in its first year. The sales tax increase requires a simple majority to pass.

City officials are hopeful that having a transportation benefit fund will allow more general fund money to be spent at the Woodland Police Department.

— Adam Littman