All four state legislative districts encompassing Clark County are on the 2022 ballot, but it’s the 17th and 18th districts that have drawn the most candidates. Of the four positions — two in each district — only one incumbent, state Rep. Paul Harris is running for reelection.
District 17 Position 1
With one Democrat and three Republicans vying for the 17th Legislative District Position 1 seat, narrowing the field to just two proved to be a close race.
Tuesday’s preliminary returns put Democrat Terri Niles ahead at 10,817 votes, or 45.41 percent of votes cast. Republican challenger Kevin Waters is in second place with 5,356 votes, or 22.48 percent of votes cast in Clark and Skamania Counties.
Republican Hannah Joy received 4,258 votes, or 17.87 percent, putting her in third place. In fourth place is Anthony Ho, who received 3,370 votes, or 14.15 percent.
The legislative seat was left open when Republican state Rep. Vicki Kraft announced she would leave the Legislature to run for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
Among the most pressing concerns for Niles is education funding and transportation projects like the Interstate 5 replacement bridge.
“I’m really pleased and really honored with the support I got from the community,” Niles said.
Niles said she feels good about her campaign moving forward and looks forward to the general election in November.
Waters, an economic development manager from Skamania County, wants the state surplus reinvested into communities, especially police, mental health and infrastructure.
District 17 Position 2
Tuesday’s preliminary returns put Democratic challenger Joe Kear in the lead with 10,933 votes, or 46.17 percent of votes cast. Incumbent Republican state Rep. Paul Harris is in second place with 7,321 votes or 30.92 percent of votes. Republican Earl Bowerman was in third place with 2,903 votes, or 12.26 percent, and independent Justin Forsman had the fewest votes at 2,486 or 10.5 percent of votes cast.
A resident of Washougal, this is Kear’s first time running for office. Kear supports the Interstate 5 bridge project and would like to see a third crossing planned for the future. As for the state’s budget surplus, he said it should be invested in infrastructure, child care and mental health programs.
“I’m pleased because I think it’s really important to have a candidate that people respond to, who’s advocating for working families and investments in working families, and local jobs and small business,” Kear said.
Kear said he was pleased by the early results and is hopeful a Democrat will be elected to the district to give residents more influence and a voice in where investments are made as well as provide better representation.
“I was hoping for these results. I was hoping as the single Democrat we would consolidate Democratic vote,” he said.
Harris, who was elected to the Legislature in 2011, said he will continue to work on lowering costs for residents and improve public safety. He said his proven experience working across the aisle with Democrats shows that he is able to advocate for everyone.
“I’m pretty happy. It looks like I’m going to make it through to the general election and I’ve got work to do in my district it looks like,” Harris said.
Harris said he wasn’t at all surprised to see a Democrat take the lead in the primary since there were three candidates splitting the Republican vote.
District 18 Position 2
Although the ballot voters received had four names listed, only three are eligible to advance to the general election. This will be the first time elected to office for all three.
Candidate John Ley was declared ineligible after Auditor Greg Kimsey upheld a voter registration challenge to Ley’s Battle Ground address and a Superior Court judge ruled votes cast for Ley wouldn’t be included when determining the top two candidates in the primary.
Tuesday’s preliminary returns put Democratic challenger Duncan Camacho ahead with 9,344 votes, or 46.83 percent of votes cast.
Camacho, who is a registered nurse, was working on election night and was not available for comment.
Republican challenger Greg Cheney received 3,865 votes, or 19.37 percent of votes cast.
Brad Benton, also a Republican, received 2,655 votes or 13.31 percent of votes.
Cheney lists fighting inflation, job creation, and funding police and mental health as his main goals. Cheney said he wants to ensure Clark County remains a vibrant and livable area everyone can enjoy long into the future.
“(The results) were probably what I expected,” Cheney said. “I feel very confident by tomorrow I’ll be fully into second place… I feel pretty good about where I am.”
Camacho has said his hands-on experience in health care is needed in the Legislature. He said he will work to create more family-wage jobs in Clark County, champion education and ensure all first responders, including law enforcement, have the tools they need.
Ley, who cannot advance to the general election, received 4,056 votes, or 20.33 percent of the total.