Justin Forsman is an earnest political candidate who cares about his community. Whether this is enough to make him a worthy city council candidate, I don’t know — but the Clark County Republican Party apparently believes it does.
The local GOP has endorsed Forsman in his race for Vancouver City Council against incumbent Alishia Topper, a fact that he mentioned during a recent meeting with The Columbian’s Editorial Board. This struck me as odd, considering that Forsman also has some negative attributes that likely will hurt his candidacy.
For one thing, he has a felony criminal record stemming from 2008, when he was 20. “It took me going to prison for 2 1/2 years and giving my life away to sit and think and find out who I was as a person,” he told The Columbian in 2015. “I wasn’t happy with what I’d become, and my family wasn’t proud. In order to change, I had to change everything, because I didn’t want to be remembered as a criminal if I died.”
This isn’t meant to belabor points brought up during previous campaigns; Forsman apparently has worked to improve his life, and he deserves credit for that. But, as with any candidate, Forsman’s past deserves consideration as voters decide for themselves how much weight it carries.
The same can be said for a campaign platform that suggests Vancouver should have its own currency. An unedited quote from his website: “Our City can issue it’s own currency, but unlike other cities who back their’s by worthless federal reserve notes, We should back ours by silver, making our currency more valuable than nearly any one else’s. This currency would be spent within the city of Vancouver and possibly Clark County and would most definitely boost our economy.”
In the past, Forsman also has spoken before the city council to complain that chemtrails are “being sprayed into our atmosphere, and it’s poisoning our community.” He also has made a campaign issue out of the fluoridation of drinking water, claiming it is dangerous and costly.
In 2015, Forsman ran for city council in a two-person race against Bart Hansen and received 18 percent of the vote. Last year, in a four-person primary for the state senate, he received 5 percent.
Forsman is to be lauded for his interest in the community and his desire to make a difference. But, to be charitable, he is a fringe candidate.
Buzzwords earn support
Which brings us to the point of this column: The rather perplexing endorsement from the Clark County Republican Party.
While endorsements are nowhere to be found on the party’s website and while chairman David Gellatly did not respond to inquiries, other members close to the party confirmed that Forsman received their endorsement. “He asked for our endorsement, and we provided it,” said A.J. Gomez, head of the vetting committee and a precinct committee officer. “We didn’t dwell on it.”
If candidates seek an endorsement from the party, they are given time before a meeting of precinct committee officers, and the officers in attendance then vote on whether to provide that endorsement. Forsman, it seems, passed muster.
This is not meant as an indictment of the Clark County Republican Party. With six of the nine local legislators being Republicans, the party is robust in Clark County.
But the endorsement of Forsman is curious, and it is an indictment of our political climate. Forsman’s campaign touches upon many themes dear to conservatives, with his website urging voters to “Take a Stand for Freedom” and trumpeting “Liberty is Our Gain” while frequently referring to him as a “patriot.” Buzzwords, apparently, are more important than experience and thoughtfulness, which are the attributes that Topper brings to the campaign.
Those buzzwords might be enough to impress the Clark County Republican Party. But if we truly want to make America great again, the sense is that we can do better.