The election for Vancouver City Council Position 1 is now filled with unknowns.
The leading candidate, Scott Campbell, died Sunday. But his name will still receive top billing on November’s ballot. Campbell was up against Maureen McGoldrick for Councilor Jack Burkman’s seat. Burkman is not seeking re-election.
According to Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, a similar situation has only occurred once before. In 2013, Rob Figley died before the election but after candidate filings. Figley was a candidate for a Clark County freeholder position — District 3, Position 2.
Campbell could still be elected, Kimsey said.
“If he’s elected, the council will appoint someone to fill that position,” Kimsey said. The normal city vacancy protocol would then be followed. The council would declare a vacancy on Jan. 1, 2018, advertise the position and interview candidates in a public forum before making an appointment. This process can begin whenever the council deems fit — after Burkman vacates his seat Dec. 31.
“If whoever is appointed wants to retain that position, they have to run for re-election in the 2018 general election,” Kimsey said.
Jim Mains, Campbell’s campaign spokesman, said that seems a likely possibility.
“We’ve been receiving numerous messages on his campaign page and seeing it out there on Facebook saying, ‘Hey I’m still voting for Scott, he’s my guy,’ or ‘I’m honored to vote for Scott,’ ” Mains said.
If Campbell still wins the election, it could send a message to the council that the community wants to see someone like Campbell in that position, Mains added.
But the Campbell campaign is done. “It’s in the hands of the community,” he said.
That doesn’t mean others can’t campaign for Campbell, however. City Attorney E. Bronson Potter said “it’s completely legitimate,” thanks to a 1999 decision by then-state Attorney General Christine Gregoire.
A write-in candidate is also a possibility, although Mains said it won’t be coming from the Campbell campaign.
“We felt a write-in campaign would be in poor taste,” he said.
Kimsey said one person has contacted him already about the possibility of a write-in campaign.
Candidates could still file as a declared write-in candidate. This wouldn’t put their name on the ballot, but it would make it more likely that their votes would be counted, Kimsey said. For example, the filing would ensure a vote for a Jon Doe would count toward John Doe.
Among the unknowns, there’s a lingering feeling that the community doesn’t know the alternative candidate, McGoldrick. Campbell described McGoldrick — who only received 16.57 percent of the primary vote compared to Campbell’s 54.63 percent — as a “mystery” before the May primary election. The Columbian reached out to McGoldrick for comment but did not hear back by press time.
“It’s going to be up to the voters if they vote in that person who only got 17 percent or if they want to hand it to council for an application and interview process,” said Burkman, who also endorsed Campbell for his position.
Mayor Tim Leavitt said he’s heard similar concerns from the community about McGoldrick.
“I think at the end of the day the citizens of our community expect individuals serving the city council or at least individuals who are asking for their vote to clearly lay out their intentions, their platform, their position, their understanding of our community before offering their vote in support of their representation on the city council,” Leavitt said.