There’s a powerful new ally in the effort to remove Clark County Councilor David Madore from office.
Camas investor and philanthropist David Nierenberg, along with a bipartisan team of community leaders, has formed Connecting Clark County, a political action committee focused on electing Republicans John Blom and Jennifer McDaniel in council Districts 3 and 4, respectively.
“The mission of the group that’s working together is to restore common courtesy, common decency and common sense to the government of Clark County, so that it can resume working together to make forward progress addressing the needs of the community,” Nierenberg said.
Nierenberg, who has put $50,000 into the PAC, said the group will work to ensure Madore, a Republican running to keep his seat in District 3, and District 4 candidate Eileen Quiring lose in their races. Madore and Republican Councilor Tom Mielke have both endorsed Quiring, a Republican.
“We are all known by the company that we keep, by the endorsements that we kept,” Nierenberg noted about Quiring.
Neither Madore nor Quiring returned calls from The Columbian requesting comment.
Nierenberg, president of the Nierenberg Investment Management Company, a member of the Washington State Investment Board and a member of numerous local boards for charities and foundations, has been a longtime backer of both Republican and Democratic candidates and causes. He was a supporter of Jeb Bush’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination this year, as well as his longtime friend Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign against President Barack Obama in 2012.
This year, however, Nierenberg said he’ll be focusing his energy on these local races.
Nierenberg praised his preferred candidates, citing their experience working with local government. He called Realtor Blom, who serves on the Clark County Planning Commission, a “smart, well-educated guy,” and Washougal City Councilwoman McDaniel a person “with a knack of making friends and building coalitions to get the job done.”
Political action committees are not allowed under state campaign finance laws to coordinate with their chosen candidates. But Blom and McDaniel were both pleased to hear they’d picked up the PAC’s support.
“David (Nierenberg) has a long history of giving and giving generously,” Blom said. “If he’s chosen to support me, I’m honored by that endorsement by him.”
McDaniel echoed Blom.
“I appreciate the fact that they want to form something like this and support me throughout the campaign,” she said. “It’s great to hear.”
Blom is running against Madore and Democrat Tanisha Harris, program specialist for YWCA Clark County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, to represent the east Vancouver district. McDaniel is competing against Realtor Quiring, who’s also on the county planning commission, and Democrat Roman Battan, owner of a Camas advertising and marketing firm.
Meanwhile, Nierenberg spoke pointedly and at length about Madore’s work on the county council since he was elected in 2012.
“The public as well as the employees of Clark County began to see a disturbing pattern of behavior (from Madore), which included name-calling, punishment of those who asked questions and those who disagreed,” Nierenberg said.
Nierenberg denounced the role both Madore and Mielke have played making county government “far more partisan and far less civil than it should be.”
“Potholes don’t know parties. Parks don’t know parties. I don’t even know that transportation, which is another burning need of the community, needs parties,” Nierenberg said. “I don’t know that local government is partisan.”
Nierenberg questioned Madore’s track record of describing himself as a fiscal conservative, pointing to lawsuits against the county centered around Madore, large public records requests filed by the councilor and in connection to him, and the hiring of investigators and consultants to look into Madore’s proposed policies and complaints against him.
He also criticized the councilor for failing to distance himself from the vitriolic rhetoric of his supporters, recalling a 2013 meeting when local conservative Dick Sohn told then-Democratic County Commissioner Steve Stuart he was going to “fillet you open like a carp.”
“I don’t recall hearing him repudiate that person or what that person said,” Nierenberg said. “He has demonstrated a knack for antagonizing people.”
Anyone with an eye on local politics will quickly recognize the names of Connecting Clark County’s committee officers, who include Republican political strategist Kathy McDonald, who has worked on national campaigns, land-use attorneys Steve Horenstein and Jamie Howsley, and former Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris.
The coalition could pose a serious threat to Madore, who has a track record of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on his campaigns, featuring flashy leaflets and cable television ads. Madore dropped $240,000 into his own campaign for Clark County council chair last year, and, after losing in the primary, he spent nearly $300,000 on the write-in campaign for state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, for county chair.
While Nierenberg was shrewd about providing specifics about the group’s strategy, he did hint at a contrast to Madore’s style, noting it would be a “micro-targeted campaign” by political experts. He also said it will be unnecessary to match Madore dollar for dollar on fundraising.
“We will say what needs to be said, but we intend to conduct ourselves with decency and dignity even though we have strong discomfort about what Councilor Madore has often said and done,” Nierenberg said.
The primary election is Aug. 2. Though the two heated races are arguably being watched countywide, only voters who live in districts 3 and 4 will have the opportunity to vote. The top two candidates in the primary, regardless of party, will go on to the Nov. 8 general election.