Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Sept. 30, 2020

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Get primed for Tuesday primary in Clark County

133 candidates running for office; here’s an overview of key races

By , Columbian political reporter,
, Columbian staff writer,
, Columbian Staff Writer,
, Columbian Education Reporter, and
, Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:
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The League of Women Voters of Clark County sponsor forums for candidates of the upcoming election for the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors at Cascade Park Library on Tuesday evening, July 16, 2019.
The League of Women Voters of Clark County sponsor forums for candidates of the upcoming election for the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors at Cascade Park Library on Tuesday evening, July 16, 2019. (Zach Wilkinson/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

This year, 133 residents of Clark County filed to run for elected offices that include port, fire, school and cemetery districts, as well as city councils and a special election for county council.

That number of candidates will be narrowed on Tuesday when voters return ballots for the 2019 primary election.

Whoever wins these races will influence the direction of local cities, which are grappling with how to provide services to the county’s burgeoning population. Also at stake are how school districts respond to enrollment and financial pressures. Additionally, four funding levies for education and emergency medical services will be on this upcoming ballot.

But, like other off-year primary elections, a majority of Clark County voters are expected to sit this one out. Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said he expects roughly 30 percent of voters to turn out for this election, up from 2017’s 20 percent turnout and 2015’s 25.8 percent turnout.

Kimsey said that ballots have to be postmarked by Election Day on Tuesday at the latest to be counted. Ballots can also be dropped off at seven ballot drop locations by 8 p.m.

Primary Election

Read more of The Columbian's coverage of candidates in the 2019 primary at www.columbian.com/news/politics/election. Election results will be posted on that page about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday night. Or follow The Columbian on Facebook or Twitter for results as they are released. Join the conversation on Twitter by following or tweeting the hashtag #clarkelex.

Find all of the endorsements from The Columbian's Editorial Board at www.columbian.com/news/opinion/endorsements.

For last minute voter registration information, visit www.clark.wa.gov/elections/voter-registration.

The two candidates that receive the most votes in the primary will advance to November’s general election. Races with only two candidates will only appear on the November ballot, meaning just eight races are on the primary ballot. Unlike elections that occur in even-numbered years, races on this year’s ballot are nonpartisan. The one exception is a special election for the partisan Clark County Council.

Clark County Council Position 4

The special election for Clark County Council will determine if Gary Medvigy, a former Army general and California Superior Court judge, will keep his council seat after being appointed to fill a vacancy in January. Medvigy, a Republican, will face off with Democrat Adrian Cortes, an educator and member of the nonpartisan Battle Ground City Council.

Although he’s lived in Clark County for only a few years, Medvigy has touted the skill set he’s developed during his career in law and military service as an asset to county government. He’s taken firmly conservative positions on taxes and property rights as he seeks to keep his seat representing the rambling and rural District 4.

Cortes has highlighted his deep roots in Clark County and experience in local government, including serving as the current chair of the board of directors for C-Tran. He’s made his call for the county to undergo a “visioning” process, similar to Battle Ground, central to his campaign. He’s also taken fiscally conservative positions, opposing taxes and costly plans to replace the aging jail.

This race is the only partisan election that will appear on the ballot this year. A quirk in state law requires all partisan races to appear on the primary and general election ballot regardless of the number of candidates running. That means that while the race will appear on the primary ballot, only the results of the general election will count. Whoever wins the race will have to run again in 2020 for a full four-year term.

Vancouver City Council Positions 2 and 6

Four positions on the Vancouver City Council are up for election this year, but only two races will appear on the primary ballot.

The most competitive is Position 6 — seven people are in the running for the seat currently held by Bill Turlay, who’s not seeking re-election. Two candidates will advance to the general election.

The roster of hopefuls ranges widely in age and experience. One one end of the spectrum is Jeanne Stewart, who served 12 years on the city council and most recently as a Republican on the Clark County Council. On the other are political first-timers, like 34-year-old teacher Adam Aguilera, and Dorel Singeorzan, a pastor and business owner.

Also in the running are Diana Perez and Sarah Fox. Both came close to the council dais as finalists in past council appointment processes; the seats went to Laurie Lebowsky and Erik Paulsen.

Also seeking Position 6 is Paul Montague, who worked at the Vancouver and Battle Ground chambers of commerce and as executive director of Identity Clark County, a coalition of local businesses.

Rounding out the pack is Mike Pond, a 31-year-old progressive candidate who got his start working on regional political races, including Anne McEnerny-Ogle’s mayoral campaign and Jim Moeller’s 2016 bid for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The second Vancouver City Council race appearing on the Aug. 6 primary ballot is for Position 2, the seat currently held by Paulsen.

Paulsen is running for re-election in a three-way primary race. Justin Forsman, who’s run a couple of council bids on out-of-the-box ideas like having Vancouver print its own citywide currency, is in the race. So is Maureen McGoldrick, an elusive candidate who made it onto the general election ballot when she ran against Scott Campbell in 2017 despite very little traditional campaigning. Campbell died before the general election but still won, which launched an appointment process to fill his seat. The appointment went to Laurie Lebowsky, who then had to run in 2018 to retain the seat.

Two other Vancouver City Council seats are up for election in 2019, but they won’t come into play until November. Ty Stober, the Position 5 incumbent, has one challenger in local bail bondsman David Regan. Both are guaranteed a spot on the general election ballot.

Bart Hansen, the Position 4 councilor and mayor pro tem, is running for re-election unopposed.

Vancouver Public Schools Positions 1 and 4

It’s rare to have a single contested school board election on a primary ballot, let alone three.

But that’s exactly the position Vancouver Public Schools voters are in this week, as four candidates each vie for three seats on the school board.

Candidates include educators, a parent advocate and a recent high school graduate all calling on the district to improve how it works with teachers and families. There are also dollar-driven candidates from the financial sector who say their top priorities are helping guide the district’s development of its roughly $324 million budget.

Here are the candidates running for each seat:

• Position No. 1: Dale Rice, an investment adviser, is running to maintain the seat he’s held on the school board for 29 years. His opponents are Caressa Milgrove, a self-described “mom on a mission” and local advocate, Kyle Sproul, a business professional with a background in marketing, and Thomas Higdon, a Republican party precinct committee officer and retiree.

• Position No. 4: Kathy Decker, a former Peter S. Ogden Elementary School kindergarten teacher who left her job to run for school board; Robert Stewart, a financial adviser for Columbia Credit Union; Lisa Messer, a science teacher at Heritage High School; and Lindsey Luis, a recent graduate of Fort Vancouver High School and national youth president for the League of United Latin American Citizens, are running for this position. One will replace Michelle Giovannozzi, who recently resigned from the school board.

• Position No. 5: Jennifer Hawks-Conright, communications administrator for the Clark County Association of Realtors; Tracie Barrows, a school psychologist in Evergreen Public Schools; Scott Dalesandro, a retired logistics manager; and Chris Lewis, a certified public accountant are running for the seat occupied by Rosemary Fryer. Fryer will retire at the end of the year.

Battle Ground City Council Positions 3 and 7

There are six candidates competing in Tuesday’s primary for two seats on the Battle Ground City Council.

Candy Bonneville, Neil Butler and Shauna Walters are running for Position 3 in an open race after Councilor Steven Phelps decided not to seek re-election. Councilor Philip Johnson is running for re-election for Position 7, and faces challengers Josh VanGelder and Katrina Negrov.

When asked about the major issues facing Battle Ground, the candidates had varying answers. Bonneville said she would want to focus on “traffic, road maintenance and infrastructure,” and look at the city bringing in a community activity center. Butler said he wants to look at allocating resources to provide for public safety and seeking out more community involvement. Walters is concerned about increased homelessness in the area and finding more long-lasting and impactful ways to help.

For the Position 7 candidates, Johnson said the city is working with Clark Public Utilities on stabilizing water needs, and with the sewage district on taking care of all the disposal activities that the added water service brings. Negrov is also concerned about homelessness in the city, and working with organizations like Flash Love to bring purpose and a new beginning to those struggling in life. VanGelder said the biggest issue facing Battle Ground residents is the “current lack of protection of their rights,” from the right to bear arms to private property rights.

Gun rights have been a hotly discussed topic around Battle Ground in recent months, with Walters and VanGelder using activism surrounding opposition to Initiative 1639 as their springboard to enter local politics. Both have been outspoken about their disagreement with the controversial gun control law statewide voters passed last year. None of the other candidates came out in support of 1639.

The 1639 issue did possibly bring some recent drama to the race, when Johnson filed a complaint with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission against Walters, who felt the complaint was in response to a few interactions the two had at past city council meetings.

North Country EMS Levies

North Country Emergency Medical Services is running two levies on the primary ballot.

One, for unincorporated residents, would renew a 10-year levy that represents a third of the ambulance service’s funding. The other, for Yacolt residents, has the same length and dollar amount.

The property tax levy for unincorporated areas, most recently approved in 2009 at 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, will again be on the primary election ballot at that rate. The owner of a $300,000 home would pay $150 per year.

Because of inflation and rising property values, the levy approved in 2009 has fallen in real value to 37 cents per $1,000, Chief Shaun Ford said. Considering new values, the average property owner would pay an additional $39 per year.

Additional revenue would help with rising costs of fuel, medical equipment and pay raises to maintain staffing, Ford said.

The levies requires a simple majority to pass. If the Yacolt levy fails, it wouldn’t completely shut down the agency, but the district would need to decide if it would still provide services to the town.

East County Fire and Rescue Levy

East County Fire and Rescue is making another attempt at a property tax levy increase after one was rejected in November.

The one-year levy lid lift would allow the district to set the collection rate at $1.50 per $1,000 of current assessed property values. Since the most recently approved levy for the same price in 2008, inflation costs and property values have risen, meaning the actual rate would be 34 cents higher. The owner of a $450,000 home would pay an additional $12.75 per month.

Voters, by 53.38 percent, rejected a lid lift in November at the same rate. That proposal had a five-year lifespan, though.

Since then, the district terminated an interlocal agreement for the shared service of Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart, prompting Mike Carnes’ promotion from deputy chief.

Also this year, the district has been subject to centralizing, or “browning out” employees at one station — instead of the typical two in operations — when staffing needs aren’t met due to illness or vacations. If the latest lid lift fails, the district would not be able to afford current staffing levels, which would force the process to become permanent, Carnes said.

Additionally, on top of several other cuts, the district has said it would eliminate advanced firefighter training and need to take out loans to replace two 13-year-old response vehicles.

Green Mountain School District Levy

Green Mountain School District’s programs and operations levy makes up a little less than 20 percent of operating funds for the single-school K-8 district, and the district is running a replacement levy in the primary election on Tuesday.

The district estimates the tax rate for the levy will be $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for all three years, bringing Green Mountain’s collection to an estimated $321,129 in 2020, $353,241 in 2021 and $388,566 in 2022.

Green Mountain typically runs levy elections earlier in the year, but Superintendent Tyson Vogeler said the school board decided to push it back after the district went out to voters in November, when residents approved a capital levy that will pay the district $1.25 million spread out evenly to $250,000 a year for five years.

The levy requires a simple majority to pass. Running it in August allows the district to put it up again if the vote fails, Vogeler said last month. School districts can only run a levy twice in a calendar year, so after August, the district could try again in November.

The district uses levy dollars for hiring staff, supplies, technology and professional development opportunities.

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