Election results reflect county mood

From oil terminal to charter schools, voters had their say



Now that the 2017 election is behind us, what happened to the stories behind the election? On Oct. 29, The Columbian highlighted five questions on the local ballot with deeper meaning. Here’s how they turned out:

Oil terminal on slippery ground

A combination of oil money and a robocall campaign that in its last days urged voters to vote against “out-of-state extreme left-wing extremists” didn’t overcome antipathy toward Vancouver Energy’s oil terminal proposal at the Port of Vancouver. Aided by a big in-kind donation by the Washington Conservation Voters, project opponent Don Orange outpolled the oil money’s candidate, Kris Greene, by nearly 30 percentage points.

That prompted the outgoing commissioner, attorney Brian Wolfe, to say Friday that he won’t do anything to either cancel or extend Vancouver Energy’s lease with the Port of Vancouver before his term expires at the end of next month.

It’s widely expected that after Orange takes office in January, he and Commissioner Eric LaBrant will vote to terminate the lease on the property over the objections of the third commissioner, Jerry Oliver.

Even if the lease were somehow extended, the project isn’t a done deal. It’s been undergoing years of review by a state agency, and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee would have the final decision under the state’s energy facilities siting law.

Vancouver City Council to choose its new member

City of Vancouver voters were clear: they wanted Scott Campbell to serve as city councilor, or at least want the new council to pick his heir.

Campbell died Sept. 17, nearly two months before the election but several months past the deadline to alter the November ballot. On Tuesday, he received 17,192 votes, or about 62 percent of the total.

So come Jan. 1, the city council will decide who will fill the seat vacated by Councilor Jack Burkman. Burkman decided not to run for reelection, and says he will not seek an appointment.

The council will accept applications for the position and interview candidates before making an appointment. The term is for one year; to stay on the council, the appointee will run on the 2018 ballot.

Mayor-elect Anne McEnerny-Ogle said the city council has not made any decisions about the appointment process. While the council may discuss the subject before next year, the application process cannot formally begin until after the seat is vacated Dec. 31, according to Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey.

Charter schools not a polarizing issue in county

While charter school expansion may be a big issue nationwide, Clark County voters offered no real referendum on the topic in local school board races.

Pro- and anti-charter school candidates alike won seats on school boards, suggesting, perhaps, that national polarization over the subject has not reached Clark County. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is an advocate for charter schools as an alternative to public education, but critics say the privately run, publicly funded schools divert dollars from the public school system.

In Battle Ground Public Schools, Troy McCoy edged out Mitch Taylor with 64.94 percent of the vote. McCoy said charter schools that are “managed correctly and fairly” can be a good option for students. Becky Greenwald, who said charter schools “create competition and competition leads to better results for the kids,” won over Damion Jiles, Sr. for Ridgefield Public Schools with 71.95 percent of the vote.

Wendy Smith and Gordon Smith, who are not related, won their respective races in Vancouver Public Schools and Hockinson School District. Both spoke against charter schools.

“I believe that public funds should be used for public schools,” said Gordon Smith, who beat Scott Swindell with 62.51 percent of the vote. Wendy Smith beat Heather Christiansen with a 57.19 percent lead.

Madore’s candidate falls

Molly Coston will be the next mayor of Washougal. Her competitor, Dan Coursey, conceded the race on his Facebook page and thanked everyone who supported him during the campaign.

“Currently, there is a 344-vote difference, and we probably won’t be able to cover that with the few ballots left to count,” Coursey wrote on his page shortly after noon Thursday. “I have called Molly Coston and congratulated her as Washougal’s new mayor. It was a hard-fought campaign on both sides, but I look forward to working with Molly, and for great things to happen here in Washougal under her leadership.”

The race was also a bellwether for David Madore, who for most of the last few years dominated local GOP politics in a manner reminiscent of President Trump, before being voted out of office last year. Madore and state Rep. Liz Pike of Camas had been among Coursey’s biggest backers.

Ex-cop wins Woodland seat

Woodland voters appear to have continued their streak of electing police and former police to city offices. Although a few ballots remain to be tabulated, former Woodland police Det. Dave Plaza appears to have defeated Nate Cook by a few dozen votes for Woodland City Council Position No. 3. (The margin is currently 582-511.) After being separated from his employment with the Woodland Police Department, Plaza had filed state and federal lawsuits that were settled out of court.

That didn’t seem to matter to voters in Woodland, where four of the last five mayors have come from law enforcement backgrounds.