Vancouver mayoral candidate Steven Cox announced today he has withdrawn from the race.
This move effectively leaves Vancouver City Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle as the only candidate for mayor. Cox will, however, remain on the ballot, said Cathie Garber, Clark County elections supervisor. The last day to withdraw was May 22. If Cox wins the seat anyway and chooses not to accept, the council would fill the position in January.
Cox’s announcement Tuesday came after an appearance before the Vancouver City Council on Monday evening during which he claimed that Councilor Jack Burkman had violated his First Amendment rights during a Vancouver Neighborhood Alliance meeting Sept. 19.
Cox alleged Burkman — who was not at the meeting — told him to “back off” when Cox was criticizing the city’s Tower Mall project.
“I falsely accused an innocent man of wrongdoing,” Cox wrote in an open letter he shared with The Columbian. “Jack Burkman is an upstanding citizen and credit to his community, and I sincerely apologize for mistakenly using his name. The shame is mine and not his.”
Cox said that while he cannot explain his mistake, those who are veterans with mild traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder will understand. In the primary election voters’ pamphlet, Cox described himself as a retired Army lieutenant colonel with 36 years of experience.
“There is a reason I am 100 percent disabled, and it was believed I could lead a normal life with therapy,” he wrote. “This is my third attempt at leading a normal, healthy and productive life, and I have failed again, embarrassing friends and family, those people I love and harming those who are innocent.”
Burkman’s initial response to the allegations on Facebook was that of anger.
“I do not quietly accept attacks like this, so I am speaking out … and yes, I’m pissed,” Burkman wrote.
Cox apologized publicly on Burkman’s post.
“This is my mistake, and I own it and am deserving of your scorn,” Cox wrote. He said Burkman has every right to be angry and added, “I will gladly go back to City Hall to correct the record if you wish.”
The pair agreed Cox would return to the council’s next citizen forum on Oct. 9 to correct the record.
Burkman said he thought the situation had been resolved.
“I’m surprised,” he said at the news of Cox’s withdrawal.
Cox had commented further Tuesday morning, alluding to his announcement.
“I have made a terrible mistake, and there is only one honorable thing left for me to do.”
Councilor and opposing candidate McEnerny-Ogle said the announcement was a surprise, and while she wishes Cox well, there’s still a race to win.
“Nothing really changes. This may be a marathon where Mr. Cox is sitting on a bench right now, but I still need to cross the finish line,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “People are talking. They want to share their vision, they want to share their concerns and they want to share it with whoever’s running for mayor.”
In addition to withdrawing as a mayoral candidate, Cox resigned as chairman of the Burnt Bridge Creek Neighborhood Association, as precinct committee officer 692 and from the Republican Party.
Cox said he plans to return his unspent campaign contributions. As of Sept. 26, his surplus campaign contributions totaled $2,332.70.
“Integrity violations are inexcusable and my only redemption is self-exile,” he wrote. “My continued presence would only tarnish the legitimacy of my comrades and our oath.”