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Sunday, September 24, 2023
Sept. 24, 2023

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Clark County voters have variety of offices, issues to address in Aug. 2 primary

By , Columbian staff writer

With a robust number of races and measures on the Aug. 2 primary election ballot, County Auditor Greg Kimsey is hoping for voter turnout around 40-45 percent. But if last year’s elections are anything to go by, Kimsey may be overestimating voters’ interest. Only 25 percent of eligible voters returned their ballots for the August 2021 primary.

As of Thursday, 7,402 ballots had been received by the Elections Office, out of more than 324,000 registered voters in Clark County.

For a midterm election, the August primary ballot is a long one. There are 17 candidates challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, and U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, faces eight challengers.

New Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, a Democrat, is facing challengers from the Republican, Democrat, Union and America First parties as he seeks to fill the remainder of Republican Kim Wyman’s unexpired term.

Clark County voters will also weigh in on state representatives in the 17th, 18th, 20th and 49th legislative districts.

Register to vote

Eligible citizens can still register to vote in this year’s primary election. Visit clark.wa.gov/elections/registering-vote for details.

Columbian Election Coverage

Be sure to check out The Columbian’s election coverage, including candidate profiles and endorsements, at www.columbian.com/elections

In the 17th, which now combines east Clark County and Skamania County, voters will choose the top two among four newcomers to advance to November’s general election in Position 1. Democrat Terri Niles faces Republicans Hannah Joy, Anthony Ho, and Kevin Waters. For Position 2, incumbent Republican Paul Harris is challenged by Democrat Joe Kear and Republicans Earl Bowerman (husband of Clark County Councilor Karen Bowerman) and Justin Forsman.

Both 18th District (Hazel Dell, Felida, Salmon Creek, Battle Ground) House seats will be filled by newcomers. With only two challengers for the Position 1 seat, Democrat John Zingale and Republican Stephanie McClintock will move on to the general election. For Position 2, Democrat Duncan Camacho will face Republicans Greg Cheney and Brad Benton. Benton is the son of former state Sen. Don Benton, who is running for county council. Republican John Ley’s name will appear on the ballot, but last week a judge ruled his votes will not be counted because he does not reside in the district.

Representing north Clark County, District 20 incumbents Peter Abbarno and Ed Orcutt are all but guaranteed to be reelected after neither drew a challenger. This will be Abbarno’s second term and Orcutt’s 11th.

In the 49th, which includes west Vancouver, Democratic Rep. Sharon Wylie is challenged by Republican Park Llafet. In Position 2, Democratic Rep. Monica Stonier faces Republican Jeremy Baker. All four candidates advance to November.

County races and issues

Three of five newly nonpartisan Clark County Council seats are up for grabs. Hector Hinojosa, Glen Yung and Doug Coop are running for District 1; Chartisha Roberts, Kim Hamlik and Michelle Belkot are running for District 2; and Don Benton, Sue Marshall, Rick Torres and Richard Rylander Jr. are running for District 5. Rylander was appointed to District 5 by Gov. Jay Inslee in May after Eileen Quiring O’Brien retired.

Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins is retiring after two terms, and three career law enforcement officers are vying for the job: John Horch, Clark County’s chief criminal deputy; David Shook, a sheriff’s sergeant who spent most of his career in Oregon; and Vancouver police Officer Rey Reynolds.

Several other county offices appear on the ballot, but only Auditor Greg Kimsey drew a challenger. Kimsey will face Brett Simpson both next month and again in November.

Ballot measures, levies

There are seven ballot measures on the primary ballot.

Clark County Proposition 11 would add a 0.1 percent public safety sales tax. The measure, if passed, would generate an estimated $12 million annually, with the county receiving 60 percent and local cities splitting the remainder.

The county would use its money to fund the ongoing costs for a body and patrol car dash camera program for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. The council will use American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase the equipment.

The county also expects to use some of the tax revenue for jail improvements and upgrades and to increase sheriff’s office pay and/or staffing. The cities have not said how they would spend the additional revenue, but would be required to spend it on public safety.

Opponents say county taxpayers are already overburdened. Instead, they want the county council to find money in the budget, even if cuts elsewhere are needed.

La Center School District seeks to renew its local levy through 2025. The levy rate is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value and would generate approximately $2.6 million the first year, $2.8 million the second year and $3 million the third year to be used for educational programs and activities not funded by the state.

Ridgefield School District is asking for a levy to fund current educational programs and operations through 2025. The proposed levy rate is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value and would generate approximately $9.05 million the first year, $10.4 million the second year and $11.6 million the third year.

Several local fire agencies also seek voter approval on tax measures:

  • Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue (Ridgefield, La Center, Woodland) seeks 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value through 2028 to maintain current services.
  • Clark County Fire District 5 seeks to restore its 2022 regular property tax levy of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value through 2027. District 5 covers Vancouver’s eastern suburbs and contracts with the city of Vancouver to provide fire services.
  • Clark County Fire District 6 (Hazel Dell, Felida, Salmon Creek) is asking voters for a tax of 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value through 2028 to maintain services.
  • Clark County Fire Protection District 10 (north Clark County) is asking for a property tax increase of $1.35 per $1,000 of assessed value to significantly increase emergency medical services, including staffing more firefighter-paramedics and providing some ambulance services.

For more information on all of the August primary races and measures, go to https://clark.wa.gov/elections and click on the 2022 primary and special election voters’ pamphlet.