Wednesday, March 22, 2023
March 22, 2023

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Activist files suit against auditor

Berrigan argues PCO candidate Cheney is ineligible to run

By , Columbian politics reporter

A petition filed with the Clark County Superior Court this week argues that a precinct committee officer candidate must be removed from the 2018 ballot.

Former Clark County Republican Party state committeeman and local conservative activist Christian Berrigan who describes himself as the sole officer of the Citizen’s Committee to Drain the Swamp Political Action Committee, filed the petition against Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey and PCO candidate Greg Cheney Wednesday.

Berrigan argues that Cheney has been wrongfully placed on the ballot and is ineligible to run for the position. Berrigan is also running for a PCO position in a different precinct.

To file to become a PCO, a candidate must only be registered to vote in the precinct for which they are filing. At that time, the candidate marks which party they are seeking to represent as a PCO in the specified precinct.

“Any member of a political party who is a registered voter in the precinct may file his declaration for candidacy with the county auditor for the office of precinct committee officer of his party in that precinct,” Kimsey said in his response to the petition. “To my knowledge, the term ‘member’ is not defined in state statute or rule.”

The aforementioned rule states “any member of a major political party who is a registered voter in the precinct may file his or her declaration of candidacy.”

Berrigan argues a different interpretation of the rule. He says a PCO candidate must be a member of good standing in the party they wish to represent. Among other claims, Berrigan alleges that Cheney is not a member of the Republican party because his only recent contributions to the party were in the form of tickets to attend party events.

Berrigan claims that Cheney is ineligible to file and hold office “until he can present to the court sufficient evidence of an official membership in good standing.”

Kimsey said once an individual has submitted a proper declaration of candidacy, their name must appear on the ballot. If only one person files, they are deemed elected. If there are two or more candidates, they appear on the ballot. Only those in the precinct can vote.

Cheney is running unopposed in his bid for office, whereas Berrigan is running against Bill Davis.

Further, Kimsey said in his response, the auditor’s office does not investigate whether the candidate holds the qualifications for the office they seek.

“I look within the four corners of the document to determine if it was filled out correctly and meets the requirements for the person’s name to be placed on the ballot,” he wrote.

Washington’s primary election also doesn’t require candidates to state a party preference. Candidates may state a preferred political party, but Washington used a top two primary system, meaning the top two candidates regardless of party move forward.

In addition to the claim that Cheney is not eligible to file for the position, Berrigan argues that Cheney’s election as a PCO would violate the free speech of specific PCO’s already serving the Clark County Republican Central Committee.

Cheney serves as attorney for Clark County Republican Chair David Gellatly in an active civil suit against Richard Colwell, a PCO accused of defamation.

As such, Berrigan argues Cheney filed to “chill the free speech of the Clark County Republican Central Committee.”

Berrigan asks the court to direct Kimsey to remove Cheney from the 2018 Washington Primary ballot and reject Cheney’s declaration of candidacy.

Columbian politics reporter