Some election watchers are crying foul that Port of Vancouver Commission District 1 candidate Don Orange moved into the district just to run for office.
Orange said he isn’t surprised by the criticism and he makes no apology for relocating.
“I moved specifically because I’m very concerned about the port,” he said.
Orange owns a home outside of the port’s taxing district, but he says that he moved into an apartment within port District 1 last March.
Clark County Republican Party Chairman David Gellatly said he’s spoken with people who say Orange is staying in his original home and who are irked that he doesn’t pay port district taxes for either property. Orange refutes claims he’s living in his house outside the port taxing district.
“It’s not that the Republican Party has been facilitating anything — or his opponents campaign,” Gellatly said. “It’s people who don’t like carpetbaggers.”
Orange said he considers his move a nonissue and what he did is “completely ethical and legal,” adding that while he’s new to District 1, he owns a business in the Uptown Village within walking distance of the port itself.
Elections to the nonpartisan commission once were a subdued affair, but that was before the port signed a lease with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., now jointly operating at Vancouver Energy, so they could build an oil terminal.
“Even in nonpartisan races, in Clark County as a whole, it’s important to have integrity to our elections,” Gellatly said, adding that Orange’s move rankles people for different reasons.
“For many it’s in an integrity thing, for others it’s a partisan thing — depending on whom you ask,” he said.
Orange’s opponent Kris Greene, said he’s heard similar rumors as well.
“But I’m not going to throw stones. It’s not my position to speak for his activities,” he said, noting that he’s lived in District 1 for 19 years. “I want to say I’d be uncomfortable having someone that just moved into an area represent me.”
Although Orange is renting in District 1 now, he plans to buy a home in the district if he wins the election, but he’s too busy to start house hunting now.
Carpetbagging isn’t a new phenomenon in Clark County.
Current but outgoing District 1 Commissioner Brian Wolfe, said he moved into the district so he could run for office in 2005.
“My wife and I got in our car and toured District 1 where they were leasing out houses,” he said.
He said they rented a house in District 1 a week or two before he filed for election, and then about two years later bought a home in the district.
Also in 2005, then former 18th District legislator Tom Mielke, a Republican and then a Battle Ground resident, bought a condominium in the VanMall neighborhood and announced a run for the Clark County Commission two weeks later. According to The Columbian archives, he denied the move was only for the election and he dismissed the carpetbagger label.
In 2004, Jeanne Harris announced plans to move into Clark County District 3 shortly after losing the race for the District 2 position.
More recently, in 2015, Monica Stonier moved out of the 17th Legislative District, a swing district, and into the solidly Democratic 49th District, where she won the following year. Around the time of her relocation, she said she moved for a number of reasons, being close to her husband’s work among them.
“It’s a fact of life sometimes people have to cross over boundaries to fulfill their passions,” said Rich Rogers Chair of the Clark County Democrats.
He said he’s not surprised to hear Republicans criticizing Orange’s move.
“If it were a Republican we’d probably come out against it,” he said. “That’s just politics.”