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Aug. 7, 2022

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Press Talk: The accidental politician


The way outgoing County Council Chair Marc Boldt tells it, most of us would have never known his name were it not for lots of leftover wood and green paint.

The year was 1994 and Boldt was helping a candidate with signs. When that candidate lost, another politician suggested Boldt run for state representative.

Boldt had leftover supplies from the losing campaign. “I had green paint and a lot of wood. Nothing else. All of a sudden I’m a state representative. Didn’t even know where the bathrooms were.”

Today’s ambition-driven political types — you know who I’m talking about — will do just about anything to get elected.

They’ll move into a district so they can run. They’ll lose an election for one office, then shop for a different office. They will abandon their beliefs and analyze polling to see what they should stand for.

Boldt? Well, he had leftover wood and some green paint.

Yep, if there ever was an accidental politician, Boldt would be it.

He’s no top-tier college graduate (he attended high school and community college.) He doesn’t wear expensive tailored suits and he didn’t share the Obama gene for gifted speaking. Yet he managed to hang around in elected office for more than two decades.

After his run in the Legislature Boldt made his way over to the county where he won, and lost, and won, and lost. His latest loss — an attempt to retain his county chair position — will bring the gavel down on his career at the end of the month.

“I think I’m done,” he said with little regret.

The 64-year-old will continue to do what he needs to do to stay in decent financial shape. The last time he lost a political race, I found him driving a truck outside The Columbian’s office. Today, he continues to help his brother with a little farming. But at some point he hopes to get back to helping people, maybe getting involved in mental health issues. “I have kind of developed a unique skill of being able to cooperate with other people.” (Not something most politicians employ today, but useful in the real world.)

Despite this latest political loss, Boldt said he’s happy with how things have turned out for him.

“I never expected to get this far. I was a poor farmer who didn’t have a clue.”

• • •

I interviewed Boldt three times for this column after his defeat in the primary. For those of you not closely following local politics, Boldt won election to the county chair four years ago, badly defeating his archrival, Republican County Councilor David Madore. Boldt, who had identified as a Republican when he was in the Legislature, won despite running with no party affiliation.

When he ran for re-election this year, there was some talk within his campaign about running as a Republican. He knew he would have a better chance to win by being affiliated with the county’s most predominant party, but he couldn’t pull that trigger. So he was in limbo land. Not a Republican. Not a Democrat.

Especially in a primary, tribes stick together, but Boldt had no tribe. And if we’re being honest, he won the last time with no party affiliation because it was more of a vote against Madore than for Boldt. This time, Madore was simply a fading memory. Without him, Boldt had no staying power. He finished third, behind a Republican and a Democrat.

Also, Boldt refused to send out any hit pieces about his opponents. So I asked him if he felt he might have won if he had done so?

“If I would have won, I don’t know if I would have liked myself.”

• • •

Over the years I’ve criticized Boldt now and again but he has a refreshing view on newspaper reporters and columnists.

He likes us! Plus he’s puzzled by that president who hates us.

“This is my 25th year of public service and I’m amazed at watching Trump and the press. I don’t know how many reporters (I’ve worked with.) Some of them are just tough. I was hated by (The Columbian’s) editorial board for a while. But I’ve had the greatest time with reporters. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. When a reporter calls you, call them right back.”

And he also said, “I read editorial columns all the time. And they have changed me.”

For the record, the editorial board never hated Boldt or anybody for that matter. Strongly disagree on issues? Yes. Hate? No.

And what I’m hearing here is a guy who has had disagreements with the press but respects the job reporters do. And more than that, he actually listens to opposing opinions and learns from them.

• • •

What about his biggest regret? For Boldt it was losing the chance for Clark County to get a minor league baseball team. If any of you follow minor league baseball, the Hillsboro Hops — who now play in a suburb west of Portland — had made Vancouver their first choice.

There was a contingent opposed to the team because an entertainment tax was part of the proposal to pay for its venue. Boldt’s vote was needed to move the final decision to the Vancouver City Council. And he decided to vote no, which killed the project.

When the history of Clark County is written, Boldt would have liked to have been known as the guy who brought minor league baseball here, not the guy who was able to speed up building permits.

• • •

At the end of our interviews I asked Boldt what he would like to be remembered for. He didn’t hesitate:

“I think it would be that he cares about people. When a person comes into this office, it’s my goal when you leave this office you know that I care about you and you feel a little bit better than when you came in.”

And what advice would he give to Republican Eileen Quiring, who will be the new Clark County chair?

“Put your agenda and opinions in your pocket until you know every other person’s perspective.”


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