Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Oct. 27, 2021

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Clark County commissioner candidate Svehaug largely a no-show so far

Stuart's opponent avoids interviews, raises little cash

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Vancouver resident Alan Svehaug has been running for a high-profile local office in a low-profile way.

Someone else paid his $972 filing fee to run for Clark County commissioner, a full-time job that pays $98,220 a year.

A June press release announcing his candidacy was inaccurate, as it called him a contractor when he didn’t have a valid contractor’s license.

Last week he didn’t show up to be interviewed alongside his opponent, Commissioner Steve Stuart, on CVTV, the local government and public affairs cable television station.

As of Monday Svehaug had raised $4,613 compared with Stuart’s $53,904, according to filings with the state public disclosure commission.

And while Stuart has a list of endorsements, perhaps the most telling one comes from the Building Industry Association of Clark County.

The 900-member trade association has favored a Republican over Stuart before. This time it has endorsed Stuart, a Democrat, over Svehaug, a Republican.

Svehaug, 58, who describes himself on his website as a builder who pledges “business- friendly” policies, also failed to win the endorsement of the Clark County Association of Realtors.

Steve Madsen, government affairs director for the BIA of Clark County, as well as government affairs consultant for the Realtors group, said Monday he doesn’t know Svehaug.

“If he has pro-builder positions, he certainly hasn’t been very outspoken about articulating them,” Madsen said.

While Stuart, who before becoming a commissioner was executive director of Friends of Clark County, may have some “creative” views that go beyond the comfort level of some BIA members, “he has always come through on everything he has promised,” Madsen said. “He could have easily been a hard-core environmentalist.”

Commissioners should be nonpartisan positions, he said.

“Good policy is good policy,” Madsen said. “And I think everyone recognizes that Steve Stuart has been an advocate for good public policy. You have to play in the middle.”

While Svehaug didn’t show up for his Sept. 9 CVTV interview or a Sept. 2 interview with The Columbian’s editorial board (or answer multiple phone and e-mail messages requesting an interview with The Columbian), he did show up for an interview to try to win the BIA’s endorsement.

However, Political Affairs Director Liz Pike said it was a unanimous decision to endorse Stuart.

She said Svehaug was nice and has conservative values that appeal to the group, but “he’s not ready to lead Clark County,” Pike said.

Svehaug owns the Learning Excellence Corporation, which according to its website promises to teach clients to speed-read.

In the interview, he didn’t seem to grasp issues concerning land use and it appeared he had not done his homework, Pike said.

“The learning curve is much too steep,” Pike said.

Opposition to tolls

The three county commissioners — Stuart and Commissioners Tom Mielke and Marc Boldt, both Republicans who aren’t up for re-election until 2012 — set policy on issues from land use to social services and control a total two-year budget of just over $1 billion.

One thing commissioners don’t control? The one issue Svehaug emphasizes on his signs, website and in his statement in the voter’s guide: bridge tolls.

Svehaug’s $972 filing fee was considered an in-kind donation from David Madore of notolls.com, according to his financial disclosure filings. His largest campaign donation, $1,600, was received from Donna Madore, who listed her occupation as homemaker.

Svehaug accompanied David Madore to a Vancouver City Council meeting in July when Madore denounced Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt at Leavitt’s first public meeting since announcing a change in his position on tolling across a new Interstate 5 bridge.

Josephine Wentzel, who sent out the press release announcing Svehaug’s candidacy, also spoke at the meeting.

In July, Wentzel spoke at a county commissioners’ meeting, asking the commissioners to stand up and oppose tolling.

Since she didn’t bother looking at Boldt or Mielke, Stuart responded.

“You are obviously talking directly to me, so I’ll respond,” Stuart said.

Stuart said he doesn’t believe that tolling is an equitable or efficient way to collect fees.

But the state Legislature authorizes tolls and the state transportation commission sets the rates, Stuart said.

Nobody with any authority has contemplated a public vote on tolls; Mielke proposed what would only be an advisory vote but that idea hasn’t gained traction.

Stuart has endorsed a vote on light rail, and said Monday that if Clark County residents don’t support it, “then the states have the wrong project.”

Stuart, who was appointed to the board of commissioners in 2004 to fill Craig Pridemore’s unexpired term after Pridemore was elected to the state Legislature, defeated Mielke, who was endorsed by the BIA, in 2005 to keep the seat. He then had to run for his own four-year term in 2006 and defeated former Vancouver Mayor Bruce Hagensen.

Stuart, 39, said he has door-belled approximately 2,500 residences.

“You work hard in the campaign to show how hard you are going to work in the job,” Stuart said.

Stuart was interviewed for CVTV by Marvin Case, former owner of the Battle Ground Reflector newspaper. The interview will be posted, along with interviews with other candidates, on CVTV’s web site, http://www.cityofvancouver.us/cvtv/cvtvindex.asp.

Case said last week that he did interview Svehaug earlier this summer for The Reflector, and said an article will be published closer to the Nov. 2 general election in the free weekly. He said he could not reach Svehaug when he tried to find out whether he was going to show up for the CVTV interview.

Ryan Hart, chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, said last week that ignoring requests for interviews “isn’t part of the Republican party strategy.”

Jim Demmon of CVTV said last week that Svehaug has until Friday to decide whether he wants to take CVTV up on the offer of an interview, as well as the opportunity to tape a three-minute segment for a video voters guide.

“Most candidates want to appear,” Demmon said. The goal of the interview with the candidates, he said, is “to let voters see them side by side.”

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