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News / Opinion / Columns
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Donnelly: Primary election voters flex muscles, narrow choices

By Ann Donnelly
Published: August 7, 2022, 6:01am

The most consequential primary election in years is in the books. All the candidates deserve respect for stepping forward. The results brought stunners, no-brainers, giant thumbs-up, and one example of “what were the voters thinking?”

First, thumbs-up to primary voters who flexed their muscles and tackled a challenging plethora of candidates and issues. Fewer than 45 percent of eligible voters cast votes, according to Clark County Elections. Those who voted exercised outsized power by narrowing the final choices for November to the top two.

A stunner occurred in the 3rd Congressional District race. Voters likely eliminated 3rd Congressional District conservatives Joe Kent and national activist Heidi St. John, leaving incumbent Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler and newcomer Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez to battle for the seat. Kent may survive if final vote counting goes strongly his way.

Shadowy national PACs likely played a role in hard-charging Kent’s vote deficit. Nonetheless, conservative voters must set aside their differences and rally around their Republican incumbent.  Control of the House is at stake.

A giant thumbs-up to Clark County voters who approved Proposition 11, a sales tax increase for a permanent law enforcement body camera program and additional funds for public safety and criminal justice. The cities, where public safety can certainly use permanent support, will receive 40 percent of the proceeds.

Admirably, voters, challenged with high fuel and food prices, still funded Prop. 11. This measure is just the first step in restoring public safety. Replacing the antiquated jail, rebalancing several soft-on-crime laws passed in 2020 — thus rebuilding crucial sheriff staffing — must also be priorities.

Another thumbs-up goes for county council races, charting a new course for Clark County’s governance. With 10 mainly new and younger candidates contesting three seats, if we recall high school math, voters slashed the possible combinations from 84 to 20. Combinations of personalities and philosophies create important dynamics on the council.

In District 1, Glen Yung will face Hector Hinojosa; in District 2, Michelle Belkot will oppose Chartisha Roberts; and in District 5, Don Benton narrowly leads Rick Torres to face Sue Marshall.

In the sheriff’s race, a field of three experienced candidates has been narrowed to Rey Reynolds and John Horch. The winner will need fortitude, persuasive powers and political acumen to revive staffing, address crime and work productively with council members, staff and legislators. For full disclosure, I have elsewhere endorsed John Horch as having that rare combination of skills.

The most obvious election no-brainer was 24-year incumbent Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, a trusted known factor to most voters, supported by over 70 percent of them in his race against newcomer Brett Simpson.

Kimsey, an almost certain winner in November, will have the responsibility to review concerns of the local GOP’s Election Integrity Committee regarding ballot security. No system is perfect and consistent vigilance is prudent.

In the “what were the voters thinking” category, too many passed up a chance to vote for Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Tiffany Smiley, initially polling at 32 percent. Her unifying message makes a compelling case for replacing incumbent Patty Murray.

Finally, a hat tip to Citizen Crain. In July, Carolyn Crain successfully challenged John Ley’s eligibility to run for Position 2 in the 18th Legislative District. Ley is a prominent resident of District 17. Without Crain’s efforts, Ley may have edged out legitimate 18th District resident Greg Cheney in the primary. Instead, Cheney will oppose Duncan Camacho.