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Jan. 19, 2020

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Pridemore, Stewart share public service experience

But county commissioner candidates differ on issues

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There’s one thing you can say about the two candidates vying for Clark County commissioner: They both have plenty of public service experience.

Democrat Craig Pridemore served as a county commissioner for six years before moving to the state Senate, where he served for another eight. A failed bid for state auditor in 2012 put an end to his time in public office.

Craig Pridemore

o Age: 53.

o Party: Democrat.

o Jobs/political experience: Finance director for the Washington State Department of Licensing; Washington state senator; interim executive director of Clark County Mental Health; Clark County commissioner; Clark County public works director.

o Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington.

o Campaign website.

Jeanne Stewart

o Age: 67.

o Party: Republican.

o Jobs/political experience: Small-business owner; US Bancorp; Vancouver City Council; Vancouver Planning Commission; Association of Washington Cities Federal Legislative Committee.

Craig Pridemore

o Age: 53.

o Party: Democrat.

o Jobs/political experience: Finance director for the Washington State Department of Licensing; Washington state senator; interim executive director of Clark County Mental Health; Clark County commissioner; Clark County public works director.

o Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Washington.

o Campaign website.

Jeanne Stewart

o Age: 67.

o Party: Republican.

o Jobs/political experience: Small-business owner; US Bancorp; Vancouver City Council; Vancouver Planning Commission; Association of Washington Cities Federal Legislative Committee.

o Education: Associate degree in business from Clark College.

o Campaign website.

o Education: Associate degree in business from Clark College.

o Campaign website.

Republican Jeanne Stewart served on the Vancouver City Council for 12 years before being unseated last year by Alishia Topper.

But when it comes to the issues, the candidates differ. And those differences tend to be in the details and in how they view the sitting commissioners.

Both candidates say more could be done to bolster economic development. Pridemore has focused on reinvigorating the Discovery Corridor in north Clark County and renewing partnerships with local organizations.

“I’m striving to keep the discussion about economic development because it is about the future,” Pridemore said.

Stewart has also spoken about economic issues, saying she supports efforts to attract more businesses.

Whether she would throw her support behind waiving fees on all new commercial development, she said she’s not sure, adding that she’d have to look at the program closely. The county currently has a fee waiver program, which has been backed by Commissioner David Madore.

“Cost recovery is critically important for any governmental jurisdiction,” Stewart said of the program. “If the purpose is to stimulate growth … it makes sense to do that.”

Pridemore said he wouldn’t fault the sitting commissioners for trying something different to spur growth, but he wasn’t sure whether he would do the same thing. He has called for an analysis of the program.

Stewart has also spoken of the importance of building a stronger regional transportation plan.

“It’s time for us to be the county we can be,” Stewart said. “That’s going to take work. That’s going to take protection of the natural resources. That’s going to take protection in our transportation corridors.”

Focusing on transportation, and how it relates to economic development, Pridemore said the county needs to focus on what it can do locally, instead of relying on the federal government.

He said he’s concerned the county will have no more freeway capacity for the next 30 years.

Stewart said transportation issues, especially along Interstate 5, were of particular importance to her, too.

Renewing partnerships with local organizations has been a focus of Pridemore’s campaign. He has been critical of commissioners Madore and Tom Mielke for not working well with other organizations, including the Columbia River Economic Development Council and the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

He has called the recent trajectory of local government “troubling,” adding that there are scant few issues on which he shares common ground with Madore and Mielke.

Stewart has voiced her own complaints, saying she would have given more thought to certain decisions — such as the hiring of Don Benton as environmental services director.

But when it comes to the proposed home rule charter, which Pridemore supports, Stewart said she opposed it as a “reaction to an action by two county commissioners.”

“When you are disgruntled or unhappy with a couple of elected officials, you can wait until the election cycle and change those elected people,” she said.

When it comes to fundraising, Pridemore had the edge until he recently found himself behind, having raised $67,892 to Stewart’s $84,100, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission

Stewart had been trailing in fundraising until this week, when she received a $35,000 in-kind donation from the Washington State Republican Party for broadcast advertising.

Pridemore said he hopes to raise another $20,000 by the end of the campaign.

The lack of money in the race is a stark contrast to the 2012 commissioner race, which pitted Madore against incumbent Marc Boldt.

That race ended with Madore having raised $331,897, much from his own funds, to Boldt’s $90,357. Madore eventually won.

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