It can be difficult for a political newcomer to make a case for why the public should hire them, particularly for a high-profile position such as Clark County Council chair. But Democrat Eric Holt has managed to do that, earning the recommendation of The Columbian’s Editorial Board.
As always, this is simply a recommendation designed to generate discussion and encourage voters to examine the candidates. But as The Columbian wrote editorially before the primary election: “We believe the public will find Holt to be a thoughtful, articulate, well-informed candidate. He has a strong understanding of the issues, to the point of knowing the county’s bond rating for borrowing money.”
Such information would seem to be fundamental to those seeking elected office, but it is surprising how often candidates fail to grasp the basics of the office they are pursuing. Holt, however, goes far beyond the basics, demonstrating an engaging and collaborative style to match his articulate delivery.
Holt, a mining company manager who lives in Hockinson, has run for office once before — an unsuccessful campaign for state Senate in 2016. While that lack of name recognition leaves him with an uphill battle in the race against county Councilor Eileen Quiring, a Republican, we hope that voters will not dismiss him simply due to a lack of familiarity.
Predictably, given their party affiliations, Holt and Quiring differ on many of the issues facing Clark County. Holt favors lifting the county’s moratorium on marijuana businesses, saying that lifting the ban would provide revenue to help address a budget deficit. Quiring has supported continuing the ban and said lifting it would increase the need for drug and alcohol treatment. “With freedom comes responsibility,” she told the editorial board. “And unfortunately, the county will take on more responsibility when we legalize that.”
Regarding the overcrowded and outdated county jail, Holt said he would not support a bond measure for a new jail, noting that the county’s credit score would increase costs to taxpayers. Quiring said she is waiting to see recommendations from a committee looking at the future of the jail.
While Quiring is an experienced and qualified candidate, her political ties to former Councilor David Madore are disconcerting. Quiring dismissed those ties, saying, “You can see the differences. I think there was a perceived discontent and rancor on the council. I think it was just a mix of people. I think that David Madore moved too fast with policy.”
In truth, Madore created that rancor with a heavy-handed approach that made enemies ranging from local officials to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington. Quiring’s failure to denounce Madore’s style of governing creates questions about her ability to be a team player and guide the council through important policy decisions. A return to the caustic days of the recent past would poorly serve residents. Regarding policy, Quiring supported Madore’s fee waiver for developers — even after a county audit showed it to be ineffective — and his unilateral pursuit of an unrealistic growth management plan.
Some voters will agree with Holt on policy questions while others will support Quiring. But for those who are also interested in a well-run council that moves Clark County forward, the editorial board believes Holt is better suited for the job. “My job as chair would be to listen to every voice and to listen to the concerns of the community,” he said.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Eric Holt as Clark County Council chair.