Three pursue Pike’s seat in 18th Legislative District

By Jake Thomas, Columbian staff writer

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When state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, announced her bid for Clark County council chair last month, it set off a round of political musical chairs for the seat she’ll vacate.

So far, three individuals have announced bids for Pike’s seat representing the 18th Legislative District. They include two Republicans — John Ley, an airline pilot, and Larry Hoff, the retired head of a local credit union — as well as Democrat Kathy Gillespie, a two-term school board director with Vancouver Public Schools.

John Ley

Ley, 62, said he got involved with local politics by opposing the Columbia River Crossing, a controversial $3 billion bridge and freeway project that died in the Washington Senate in 2013. Now, much of his focus and energy remains on transportation issues.

He’s vocally opposed Oregon’s plans to toll both Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, which he said disrespects Clark County residents who commute to the state.

“My goal is to ensure Southwest Washington citizens have a seat at the table and that their wishes are taken into consideration,” he said.

He also said it’s long past due for Oregon and Washington to look into building a third bridge across the Columbia River to relieve congestion. He said there’s already interest in the idea from mayors in east Multnomah County as well as from some members of the Oregon Legislature.

“It’s a very tough nut to crack,” Ley said of getting Oregon to buy into the idea of a third bridge. “But it has to start with very respectful two-way communication.”

Ley said that with the Legislature having struck a deal that significantly increases funding for education, the challenge is now on making sure it’s well spent.

“It seemed to focus on money and more money, and there was very little discussion about where that money should go,” he said.

Previously, Ley said, he served in the U.S. Air Force for 11 years. He’s also served as a Republican Party precinct committee officer.

He was also elected as a representative for the pilots union for Delta Air Lines, where he’s been flown for 28 years. He added that in addition to legislating, he wants to help citizens who have problems or concerns with state government.

“That truly can be the most important thing a legislator can do,” he said.

Larry Hoff

“I’ve been working to serve individuals and small businesses for almost 40 years,” said Hoff, who served as president and CEO of Fibre Federal Credit Union. “When I retired, I felt like I needed to keep doing that somehow, and this opportunity came up.”

Hoff, 65, said that from his career working in business, he’s seen how politics work and doesn’t work. He said he wants to see less political polarization and, if elected, he said he’ll work across the aisle.

Hoff said he’s interested in working on transportation issues, particularly congestion on Interstate 5. He said he’ll also use his business background to look for greater efficiencies in state government and will take a close look at regulations.

“I want to make sure that we have conservative principles while we are spending people’s money,” he said. “I think it’s just too easy to spend tax money without thinking of where it came from.”

Hoff said he’s passionate about taking care of sick kids. A press release states he’s been involved with efforts to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and served on the board of directors at the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation, as well as other charitable activities.

He’s also had service roles with St. Paul Lutheran Church, Vancouver Dawn Lions, Fort Vancouver Lions and Longview Noon Rotary.

A first-time candidate for public office, he said that right now he’s focused on listening to the district’s residents. According to a news release, he’s been endorsed by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.

The release also states that he’s been endorsed by Republican state Sens. Lynda Wilson and Ann Rivers as well as Republican Reps. Paul Harris and Ed Orcutt.

Kathy Gillespie

Gillespie is making her second run Pike’s seat in the Legislature. She couldn’t be reached for comment, but in a press release, she highlighted her career as a newspaper editor and reporter, as well as her eight years on the board of directors for Vancouver Public Schools.

“Now I’m headed to Olympia to restore limited, efficient, and effective government that respects our priorities and doesn’t waste money,” Gillespie said in the statement. “I’m running to shake up the status quo and help re-imagine our future. I have always answered to taxpayers. I show up. I don’t dodge and I don’t avoid.”

The statement also decried hyper-partisanship and dysfunction in Olympia and noted that she would “listen to all sides.”

Gillespie ran as an “independent Democrat” for the same position in 2016 against Pike. Gillespie finished with 43 percent of the vote to the 57 percent received by Pike, who significantly outspent her. Previously, Gillespie said she would focus on transportation and education if elected.

The press release also highlights her volunteer as a reading tutor and high school mentor to young women at Fort Vancouver High School. She’s also served in leadership roles in Parent Teacher Associations at multiple schools, according to the release.