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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Write-in candidate McDonnell wins Camas mayoral race

Late entry has a lead of nearly 800 votes with an estimated 500 ballots left to count

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: November 12, 2019, 4:00pm

A little more than a month after launching his write-in campaign, Barry McDonnell learned Tuesday he will be the next mayor of Camas.

McDonnell, who jumped into the race against incumbent Mayor Shannon Turk about a month before Election Day, had a lead of nearly 800 votes as of Tuesday’s results — with an estimated 500 ballots countywide left to count.

McDonnell was in California on Tuesday for work and couldn’t be reached. He found out about his successful run for mayor from his wife, Anastasia McDonnell, who helped organize his campaign.

“We have a group text message where people were exploding,” she said. “He was just amazed. We are amazed this has happened. We are really excited, and really, really grateful to make this happen in 34 days.”

McDonnell received 3,545 write-in votes compared to Turk’s 2,757 votes. A second write-in candidate, current Camas Councilor Melissa Smith, has 420 votes as of Tuesday’s results.

McDonnell, 41, entered the race partly due to the city’s controversial bond for up for $78 million to build a new community center. Residents were upset about the large dollar amount, the location of the proposed center and how the city shared information during the bond campaign. The bond itself still sits at nearly 90 percent disapproval as of Tuesday’s results.

The last time there was a successful write-in campaign in Clark County was when Linda Smith advanced in the primary for the 3rd Congressional District in 1994.

Turk was appointed mayor by her fellow councilors about a year ago after then-Mayor Scott Higgins stepped down. The community center has been a much-discussed topic around Camas in recent years, especially since councilors voted in 2018 to not to open the historic Crown Park pool for the summer. The county’s only public outdoor swimming pool — which opened on May 22, 1954, and was last used in the summer of 2017 — was demolished earlier this year.

Councilors have spent the last few years working through various ideas on how to bring a water feature back to the city. There was talk of replacing the pool with a splash pad, building a new pool and, ultimately, running a bond to build a new 78,000-square-foot community center with a leisure pool, competitive pool, gym and community rooms. Bond money would also have gone toward renovating five sports fields around the city

“I don’t regret putting the bond on the ballot,” Mayor Shannon Turk said Tuesday. “It was what we were hearing. Clearly, it was not the right bond measure. I’m happy for the council taking measure on something we’ve been talking about a long time. I’m sad it was so divisive, but glad we can move forward.”

Turk said she hasn’t made up her mind on what her future plans are. She wished McDonnell well as her successor, and said she anticipates the city will continue to thrive.

“It didn’t do well because of me,” she said. “It did well because of many other people and it will continue to do well.”

It’s been a tough few months for Turk as she tried to lead an increasingly tense city heading toward the bond vote. The last week was especially rough, she said. It was clear on election night the bond wasn’t going to come close to passing. However, thanks to new state regulations, write-in totals are handled differently and only counted if the total write-in count exceeds the leading vote-getter. With the write-in total out-numbering Turk on election night, it triggered an individual count of write-in votes. The first count of those wasn’t released until a full week after the election.

In that week between the election and Tuesday, Turk said she continued to receive emails and letters from angry citizens, including some telling her to move away. Turk moved to the city in 2002, and joined the council in 2011.

“I’ve been working for the community and volunteering for the community since 2002,” she said. “I moved here with the thought it would be my forever home. I’m just saddened that people didn’t believe I had the city’s best interest at heart.”

Turk said the anger directed at her since the election has been the first time she has considered moving from Camas.

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“It made me question why I wanted this to be my forever home,” Turk said. “Last Memorial Day, I was looking at if I should buy a plot or buy something in the Camas Cemetery.”

It wasn’t the election results that stung most of all for Turk this last week.

“Losing the election is not difficult,” she said. “Losing that feeling of community I used to feel so strongly is the difficulty.”

Columbian Staff Writer