Small cities: Washougal has tight race for city council spot

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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Nearly all of Clark County’s small city council elections featured one runaway candidate who scored at least half of the vote as of Tuesday night’s results.

One of only close races came in Washougal, where three candidates were vying for Washougal City Council Position No. 6, which is up for election after Dave Shoemaker decided to not seek re-election.

After Tuesday night’s results, Julie Russell had 39.52 percent of the vote, Adam Philbin had 33.24 percent and Nettie Morris had 25.64 percent. Both Russell and Philbin, who would move onto November’s general election if the results hold as the rest of the ballots trickle in, were excited with Tuesday’s results.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Russell said. “I thought it’d be close since there’s no incumbent.”

Philbin, who was running his first campaign, said the only way he could think to describe was as “pretty exciting.”

“It’s all brand new right now,” he said.

The three are all political newcomers in Washougal, as Philbin and Morris didn’t have any elected experience prior to the primary and Russell, who moved to Washougal in 2015, was elected to the Tigard Water District from 2007-2015 in Tigard, Ore.

Woodland

There were two city council seats in Tuesday’s primary, one that featured an incumbent with more than half the vote and another with a tight race between the top two candidates.

For Position 6, Benjamin Fredricks is seeking his third term on council, and he finished with 60.53 percent of the vote as of Tuesday night. Next up was Jeremy Heffernan, who had 26.79 percent, and then Michael Wheaton, who, despite announcing he was dropping out of the race, finished with 12.68 percent.

The race for Position 3 is much closer, with Dave Plaza scoring 42.8 percent of the vote and Nate Cook finishing with 39.35 percent. The two are separated by 16 votes. Keith Bellisle, the third candidate in the race, had 17.85 percent as of Tuesday’s results.

Cook, who works for Columbia Pacific Construction, served for more than five years on the city council in Toledo.

Plaza worked for the Woodland Police Department from 2008 to 2015, starting out as a patrol officer and eventually getting promoted to detective. His time with the department didn’t end well, as he said he was being regularly accused of disciplinary violations and spent nearly a year on administrative leave after being accused of stealing a Nikon digital camera. A Washington State Patrol investigation into the allegations against Plaza yielded no evidence of a crime.

He ended up suing the city for $2 million and his lawyers decided there was enough for a federal case, so they dismissed the local lawsuits. A $5 million federal lawsuit was settled out of court, and Plaza said he couldn’t discuss his settlement.

Plaza said that’s in the past, as the employees in department he had issues with are no longer working there, and there is no pending legal action between Plaza and the city.

Camas

Melissa Smith more than doubled her next-closest competitor for Camas City Council’s Position 2. Smith had 54.53 percent of the vote as of Tuesday night, followed by Emilia Brasier, who had 26.85 percent, and Amanda Stamness, who had 18.29 percent. Smith, who appointed to the city council in 2004, is seeking her fourth term.

The three are all focused on how to best handle growth in Camas, and make sure the city can keep up city services for residents.

La Center

Doug Boff was the only candidate for La Center City Council Position No. 1 to hit triple digits in Tuesday’s results, as he had 332 of a returned 464 votes, or 71.55 percent. Next up was Linda Tracy, who had 16.38 percent, and she was followed by Michael Smith, who had 11.64 percent.

Boff has been on the city’s planning commission since 2016, and if the results hold, he’ll go up against Tracy in the general election. Tracy was on the city council from 2004 to 2012.

The two are both focused on bringing different revenue streams to La Center to make up for lost cardroom tax revenue thanks to the opening of Ilani Casino Resort and the closure of New Phoenix Casino, leaving the city with two cardrooms.