Voters favored Eric LaBrant as the newest Port of Vancouver commissioner during Tuesday’s election, according to early results.
LaBrant collected 56.17 percent of the votes counted as of Tuesday night, leading Lisa Ross, who has 43.21 percent. LaBrant led by 4,281 votes out of slightly more than 33,000 tallied so far. Another batch of results will be released today.
At Clark College’s Gaiser Hall on Tuesday evening, LaBrant said he felt “pretty overwhelmed, but in a good way,” at the outcome.
“I think it speaks to where the heart of the community is at, and it’s time to take back our port,” LaBrant said.
Ross said Tuesday night that she’s not ready to concede the race just yet.
“I’m a little disappointed, to say the least, but there’s still a lot of ballots to count,” Ross said.
LaBrant and Ross vied for the Port of Vancouver commission’s District 2 seat. Commissioner Nancy Baker, who now holds the post, did not seek re-election.
In the August primary, LaBrant and Ross advanced from a field of seven candidates to face off in the general election. The two offered voters a clear contrast on several issues, including a proposed oil transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver. LaBrant opposes the facility; Ross supports it.
Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies want to build an oil terminal capable of handling 360,000 barrels of crude per day. If built, the Vancouver Energy facility would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the United States.
The Tesoro-Savage proposal became a defining issue in the campaign. Ross touted her support of the oil terminal and the economic benefit and the jobs that backers say it would bring. LaBrant has been a vocal opponent of the plan, citing safety risks, among other concerns.
Many saw the port race as a sort of referendum on the oil terminal. LaBrant said the issue was on the top of voters’ minds as he met people during the campaign.
“I think they’ve spoken pretty loudly here,” he said.
The race between LaBrant and Ross was one of the most expensive local campaigns this year, with LaBrant far outpacing Ross in total spending. LaBrant’s campaign raised about $135,000, including more than $100,000 in in-kind contributions from Seattle-based Washington Conservation Voters, a group that opposes the Vancouver oil terminal.
“A victory for Eric LaBrant will be a win for communities all across Washington, including Spokane, the Tri-Cities and towns all along the Columbia River,” Shannon Murphy, the organization’s president, said in a released statement. “This race is about Clark County voters standing against dirty and dangerous fossil fuels. They want a future built on forward-thinking energy and infrastructure.”
Ross raised about $58,000. Among her largest donors were Clark County Councilor David Madore and developer Clyde Holland, plus Tesoro and Savage.