It’s been a busy year for Shauna Walters, and it looks like 2020 should be even busier.
Walters came into the year a single mother, full-time student at Washington State University Vancouver and former military combat medic. She’s finishing off her year the leader of a north county political movement that will see her elected to the Battle Ground City Council.
After Wednesday’s election results were released, she increased her lead for Position 3 on the council in her race against Neil Butler. Josh VanGelder, who campaigned a lot with Walters, cut into his deficit for Position 7 against incumbent Philip Johnson. VanGelder has 1,178 votes to Johnson’s 1,292 as of Wednesday. The 114-vote difference is down from a 142-vote difference between the two after Tuesday’s results.
Not too many items saw big changes after Wednesday’s results. Gary Medvigy saw a slight increase in his lead for the District 4 seat on the Clark County Council. Not much changed either in the Vancouver council races, where Sarah Fox, Ty Stober and Erik Paulsen all continued to hold sizeable leads in their respective races.
Two school board candidates whose victories were unclear affirmed their leads in Wednesday returns. In Vancouver Public Schools Position No. 4, former kindergarten teacher Kathy Decker kept her lead over high school science teacher Lisa Messer. Decker took 51.7 percent of the votes to Messer’s 48.3. In Evergreen Public Schools District No. 2, incumbent Rob Perkins leads with 51.3 percent of the vote to high school teacher Bethany Rivard’s 48.7 percent.
The numerous educators running for public office saw mixed results in this year’s election. Tracie Barrows, a school psychologist, won handily over accountant Chris Lewis, taking 59.3 percent of the vote to Lewis’ 40.7.
Over in Camas, the controversial bond measure to build a community center is still trailing by a rate of nearly 90 percent against. Mayor Shannon Turk’s re-election is up in the air. She still trails the write-in ballots, with 3,032 votes for write-ins and 2,051 votes for Turk. Councilor Melissa Smith and Barry McDonnell both ran as write-ins for the mayoral seat. The high number of write-in votes will trigger elections staffers to go in and count them individually. Clark County Elections Supervisor Cathie Garber said the write-in count started Wednesday, and the office hoped to release “preliminary counts of the declared write-in candidates” early next week, possibly on Tuesday.
Anti-1639 candidates have mixed showing
Walters got interested in local politics surrounding the backlash to Initiative 1639, a controversial gun control measure voted for statewide last year. She started attending Patriot Prayer events, and she pushed for Battle Ground to declare itself a sanctuary city from the gun control measure. It didn’t, but her efforts were successful in Yacolt, when town councilors passed a resolution declaring the town a sanctuary from the initiative. She and others in north county have started collecting signatures to get a repeal effort on a future ballot.
“I am blessed to have had so many opportunities to be involved with these things,” Walters said. “I think the 1639 thing really spurred me into action. I’m really, really excited for the opportunity to overturn it.”
She wasn’t the only one. VanGelder also became active in local politics from the anti-1639 movement. Rhiannon Parks, who worked on Walters’ campaign, announced a late run as a write-in candidate for Battle Ground City Council Position 2 against Deputy Mayor Shane Bowman. Bowman’s lead increased as of Wednesday’s results.
Over in Yacolt, Michelle Dawson increased her lead for council Position 2. Dawson was another local resident who campaigned against 1639. Dawson filed for that seat during a special filing period, but lost that vote. She filed to run in the November election and faced Josh Beck, a write-in candidate for the seat.
Walters said she hopes her run inspires other to get into politics. Parks said her original plan had been to run in a future election, and Walters expects to see Parks on a ballot again.
“I’m hoping we have people to step out and run,” Walters said. “I’m hoping this will serve as an inspiration that they can. I can’t speak for them. I can’t say that this is what they’re plans are.”
Looking ahead, Walters said she knows the city’s potential annexation into Fire District 3 will be a big discussion in the coming months. She’s also interested in bringing holiday decorations back to the city and working on finding room for the Rose Float Committee to work.
If the results hold, she’ll be on council with Johnson, who filed a complaint with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission against Walters during the campaign. The PDC dismissed the complaint.
Johnson had a short message for Walters.
“Welcome aboard,” Johnson said.
When asked how he thinks the two will work together, should both hold their leads, he repeated the same message: “welcome aboard.”
“I really hope that this will be the beginnings of the end of the division that we’re feeling in Battle Ground,” Walters said. “My pledge is to be that person to come to the table and try to heal some of those wounds.”
Johnson has been particularly critical of Walters, VanGelder and others for attending rallies with Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson, who even hosted a campaign rally for the two Battle Ground candidates.
“We’re friendly people out here in Battle Ground,” Johnson said. “We’ll not turn anyone back, even (Joey) Gibson. He’s more than welcome to come out here and spread his word. I’m more than hopeful the people will shun his word. More than anything, I’m grateful for the people out here: the gun-toters and the non-gun-toters, the religious and non-religious, I’m grateful for those who came out to vote.”
Columbian staff writer Katie Gillespie contributed to this article.