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Dec. 4, 2022

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Clark County GOP leaders urged to resign

Key party members angry about election of official convicted after incidents with girl, 15

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter

A coalition of local Republican elected officials has called for leadership turnover within the Clark County Republican Party. The demand comes after a man previously convicted in connection with incidents involving a teenage girl was elected as a committee chair.

In an open letter sent Tuesday to precinct committee officers, 13 signatories — including city, county and state officials — said they “cannot be associated with” the local party under its current leadership. The letter called for the resignations of Clark County Republican Chair Earl Bowerman and several other party leaders.

“To put an individual with this past behavior into a leadership position is dangerous and reckless,” the letter reads. “As party chairman, Dr. Bowerman bears ultimate responsibility for it and his declination to take action to set it aside has done severe damage to the Republican brand in Clark County.”

“If they do not resign, we ask the PCOs to undertake the process to remove them from CCRP office.”

State Sens. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, co-signed the letter, joined by the following Republican state representatives: Paul Harris, Brandon Vick and Larry Hoff, all of Vancouver, and Chris Corry of Yakima. Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins, as well as county Councilors John Blom and Julie Olson and Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick also signed it.

Battle Ground Deputy Mayor Shane Bowman, Washougal City Councilor Brent Boger and former Clark County Republican Party Vice Chairman Steve Nelson attached their names to the letter, as well.

Dan Clark, also a precinct committee officer, was elected chair of the party’s Bylaws and Resolutions committee last week. His election came after a secret ballot vote by 12 PCOs, with roughly 70 percent of voters approving.

Clark faced legal scrutiny in 2011 after repeatedly sneaking into a teenage girl’s bedroom, kissing her and giving her alcohol, according to Clark County Superior Court records. He was convicted of residential burglary, violation of a civil anti-harassment order and furnishing alcohol to minors and sentenced to roughly nine months in jail.

Clark resigned as chair of the committee on Saturday. He has not offered additional comment, including about his future as a PCO.

Bowerman said that he was not present for the election and learned about it later. He added that Clark has been elected twice as a PCO and that his criminal history was discussed “openly and extensively” prior to the vote.

The party’s chair said he reviewed court documents and spoke with Clark throughout the week. On Saturday morning, Bowerman consulted with Eileen Quiring, chair of the Clark County Council and vice chair of Clark County Republicans, in the hours before Clark’s resignation.

“We recognize that the individual in question ultimately, under pressure, resigned his position as the chair of the committee,” the letter from elected officials said. “Yet we are deeply disappointed by the appalling lack of judgment provided by many of those in leadership in our party.”

Bowerman issued a statement shortly after the letter was released, saying “a fire storm of accusations, posturing and name-calling ensued, some based on fact and some on innuendo only.

“I took action to discuss with Dan Clark applicable court documents as well as his resignation, which was forthcoming immediately,” the statement reads. “Republicans do not condone Dan Clark’s convictions of misdemeanors of furnishing liquor to a minor or violation of a protection order or a felony of ‘residential burglary’; it should be noted that the same charges against Dan Clark were dropped before his trial and other charges were fully resolved with fines paid in full and sentence served.”

In an email to Bowerman on Tuesday, state Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, said that the issue appeared to be resolved after Clark’s resignation and that she would not be involved further in the matter.

“Most know that I am on public record in Olympia and also locally as being opposed to sexually related activities involving, especially, an adult and a minor — whether it’s sex trafficking prevention or standing against pedophilia. My stance on these issues has not changed,” Kraft wrote. “I will look to the elected and appointed members of the CCRP to address future matters of the party as appropriate moving ahead.”

Bowerman, who ran in last year’s congressional primary election against U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, was elected to the chair position by four votes in December. Bowerman, a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump, was viewed as an alternative to Herrera Beutler, who has opposed the president at times.

“As I point out to all, it is up to the leadership, and to everyone who has commitment to the Republican Party (and any other party), to be models of morality and to exhibit moral courage at all times,” Bowerman’s statement reads. “Without fail, try to do what is right.”

As local Republicans have espoused divergent viewpoints in recent years, clashes such as the most recent episode have become common. Bowerman avoided a recall effort in August.

“This whole sorry incident can be called nothing other than a disgrace,” the letter from elected officials reads. “The only way to heal the wounds it has caused is for the CCRP to make a clean break from its recent past.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter