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Feb. 8, 2023

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Judge dismisses Berrigan’s petition, orders him to pay court costs

Court found it did not have jurisdiction in the case

By , Columbian politics reporter

A judge in Clark County Superior Court formally dismissed a petition to remove a precinct committee officer candidate from the 2018 ballot Friday.

The petition was filed last month by Christian Berrigan, a former Clark County Republican Party state committeeman and local conservative activist. Berrigan argued Greg Cheney was ineligible to run for a PCO position and had been wrongfully placed on the ballot. The petition, which also named Auditor Greg Kimsey, was first dismissed by the court May 25 and was set over until Friday to hash out attorney’s fees and sanctions.

The court found there was insufficient basis under an existing statute to remove Cheney’s name from the ballot and that the court had no jurisdiction to decide the case.

Cheney requested Berrigan pay his attorney fees and costs for the case. Berrigan said the judge ordered him to pay Cheney $2,400. The final judgement could not be verified by The Columbian by press time.

“The argument today was whether or not my action was frivolous, and if so, whether or not the Respondent would be entitled to attorney’s fees on that basis,” Berrigan said in an email. “The upshot is that if a candidate files for an office for which he is not eligible, the court claims no power to enforce the eligibility requirement, and if a citizen has the temerity to ask the court to do so, they will be punished with sanctions for attorney fees.”

Berrigan said he has been waiting for two years for a case where he could force the court to issue an opinion on PCO eligibility.

“I tried to do this two years ago with Brent Boger and Sean Guard because each of their membership statuses were slightly different, one was like Cheney’s, quite certain to not exist, the other was because Brent had formally in the newspaper renounced his membership in the party a couple of years earlier and there was no evidence he had ever rejoined,” Berrigan commented on the Columbian’s website and confirmed on Friday. “I was ignorant at the time that, although the court closes at 5 (p.m.), the clerk’s office closes and won’t file pleadings after 4:30 (p.m.). So I missed the deadline by 15 (minutes).”

Berrigan said when he saw Cheney was running for a PCO position, it was obvious he should use his candidacy to test the law.

“Everyone wants to avoid making a decision about this,” he said.

Washington only requires PCO candidates to be registered to vote in the precinct for which they are filing. When a candidate files for an open seat, they select which party they want to represent.

Berrigan argued candidates must be a member in good standing of the party they wish to represent. But as Kimsey stated in his response to the court, his office does not investigate whether someone is a member of the party they choose to represent, and therefore fulfilled his obligation by placing Cheney on the ballot. Ultimately, the court agreed.

Katy Sword: 360-735-4534; Twitter:

Columbian politics reporter