In politics, futures change on a dime. And in Clark County, that’s abundantly clear.
Two weeks after Clark County swept through changes to county governance in the form of a home rule charter, whisper campaigns have begun spreading murmurs about potential candidates considering bids for the two new county council positions created by the charter.
Mere days after the Nov. 4 election, potential candidates were being vetted by would-be campaign managers behind closed doors. And by that point, a poll had already been conducted to see which candidates had the greatest name recognition among the hoi polloi of county voters.
All the while, the names of could-be candidates began stacking up, though it’s still too early for many to commit to a campaign. For now, it’s a wait-and-see game for some of the county’s prominent political names.
Among the fence-sitters for a run at the council chairperson position are Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Marc Boldt, a former Republican county commissioner and state representative. Both potential candidates say they’re mulling their options and considering a run. They’re also both former freeholders, who helped craft the charter.
The county’s charter calls for the board to grow by two positions. While the charter goes into effect on Jan. 1, the two new positions won’t until the start of 2016. The new positions up for election next year will be for the newly formed District 2 spot and the at-large chairperson.
With those elections on the horizon for next year, most of the focus is on who will run for the chairperson seat, the top spot in both pay and authority.
On Wednesday, Rivers said she was waiting to see who else steps up before making a decision about her political future. In a statement to The Columbian, Boldt took the same tack, saying he was seriously considering a run, but first had to wait.
“This is a decision you do not make lightly,” he said. “Many community members have contacted me and asked me to run. I am evaluating it closely and will make my decision after the first of the year.”
Republican Sheriff Garry Lucas, set to retire at the end of the year, is also considering a run at the urging of supporters.
He, too, was a freeholder and, along with former county Commissioner Betty Sue Morris, was the face of the charter campaign. Lucas’ supporters worry that mounting another campaign, so soon after announcing his retirement, could pose too daunting a task for the 72-year-old. They’ve nonetheless urged him to take the leap and announce his candidacy.
Lucas has remained characteristically tight-lipped about what he will do.
“I’m thinking about it but, thus far, when I’ve had that nightmare, I’ve managed to slap myself until I wake up,” he said.
Among Democrats, Paul Montague, the former executive director of Identity Clark County, is seen as a viable candidate, but not for the countywide chairperson position. Clark County swings Republican, Montague acknowledged, likely making the chairperson position out of reach.
Montague said he is considering a run at the newly created District 2 position but won’t make a decision until 2015. Since leaving Identity Clark County, Montague started the Responsive Leadership Institute.
“I’ve got enough other considerations right now,” Montague said. “If I make a decision, it will come after the holidays.”
One name has already voiced a strong desire to run. Commissioner Tom Mielke, the board’s senior-most commissioner and the current chairman, has said he plans to campaign for the chairperson position.
With a term that’s set to expire in 2016, Mielke has nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking a shot. A chairmanship win for Mielke would mean he and the other councilmembers would have to appoint a Republican replacement for the vacant board seat. A loss would keep him in his current position.
More names are expected to crop up in the coming weeks, as the year winds down. Who those names are will have a bearing on which potential candidates choose to enter the race.