Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Sept. 21, 2021

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Vancouver school board race close in early returns

64 votes separate Zavala-Ortega, Belkot

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Just 64 votes separate the top candidates vying for a seat on the Vancouver school board.

Early results from Tuesday’s primary show Position 2 incumbent Sandra Zavala-Ortega neck-and-neck with challenger and political newcomer Michelle Belkot with more than 16,000 votes cast. Zavala-Ortega had 5,435 votes (33.92 percent) compared with Belkot’s 5,371 (33.52 percent). Both candidates will advance to November’s general election.

Zavala-Ortega was appointed to the board in the spring, and said Tuesday night she was happy to see results in her favor.

“I’m so thankful for all the support I’ve had throughout the campaign and I think our community has spoken,” she said. “I’m excited to work toward the general (election).”

Belkot, a procurement analyst, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Chartisha Roberts, with a background in human resources, took 21.21 percent of the votes, and Kathleen O’Claire, a former VPS employee, had 11.34 percent.

In Vancouver Public Schools’ other director race — Position 3 — incumbent Wendy Smith captured a plurality of votes, gathering 52.82 percent of 15,994 total. She will face Jorge Bailey, who received 33.12 percent of votes, in the general election.

Smith said the results suggest voters feel good and confident about the work of the board.

“This is reassuring,” Smith said, “and it makes me feel good about what we’ve been doing.”

The other challenger for Position 3, Megan Gabriel, got 14.06 percent of the votes.

Bocanegra leads in Evergreen

Clark County’s largest school district had one contested primary: Position 1. Two-time incumbent Julie Bocanegra led with a comfortable margin, receiving 58.52 percent of the 14,217 total votes. Mike Appel was second with 35.31 percent of the votes and advances to November. Another challenger, Raelynne Altree, captured 6.17 percent.

Bocanegra said she was “quite pleased” with Tuesday’s results.

“I think it shows voters have faith in the work I’m doing and the people that know me know my intentions are good and want to do what’s best for the district,” she said.

Battle Ground races

In Position 1, incumbent Mary Snitily, a retired educator appointed to the board in March, captured 44.53 percent of the votes in her first election. In November she will face Chloe Seppala, a 2013 graduate of the district, who finished second with 29.52 percent.

Not only was Snitily thrilled at advancing to November and for the opportunity to continue to serve the district, but she also praised the community — and the candidates.

“What really excites me is the fact that so many people are really involved and interested in the community,” she said. “That shows the community really does care about what goes on in schools. And that’s a really good sign.”

Devin Scroggins, a work crew chief for the city of Battle Ground, fell to third with 20.28 percent of votes. John Siemssen Sr. was fourth with 5.67 percent.

In Position 3, Ted Champine ran away with 83.40 percent of the votes. Diane Langan finished second, with 11.35 percent.

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