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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Sept. 28, 2023

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Three candidates vie to replace Hoff in 18th Legislative District Position 2

Two running to replace Vick in Position 1 will be on November ballot

By , Columbian staff writer

Although there are only two people running for the 18th Legislative District Position 1 seat, the names of Republican candidate Stephanie McClintock and Democrat John Zingale are still on the ballot, thanks to a state law that requires partisan races for state office to be included no matter how many candidates there are.

Both McClintock and Zingale will automatically move on to the general election in November. The position was left open after state Rep. Brandon Vick announced in April he would not run for reelection.

The 18th Legislative District Position 2 seat is also on the ballot but has drawn three candidates. This seat, too, was left open when state Rep. Larry Hoff also announced in April he wouldn’t seek reelection.

The list of priorities for the three candidates vying for the Position 2 seat vary greatly, even among candidates from the same political party.

Republican Greg Cheney put fighting inflation, job creation, and funding police and mental health as his main goals. Fellow Republican Brad Benton has a lengthier list of priorities that includes property rights, taxes, education, law enforcement, the Interstate 5 Bridge and mental health. Democrat Duncan Camacho looks to drive job creation, support first responders and focus on education.

At a recent League of Women Voters’ candidate forum, Cheney said he’s running for the Legislature because he loves the community and wants to ensure it’s a vibrant and livable area “that we can all appreciate and enjoy long into the future.”

Growing up in Clark County as the son of a state lawmaker gave Benton the opportunity to see how state government works. He said it also gave him the desire to serve his community.

“I saw how much good could be done by good governance and how much bad can be done,” he said at the candidate forum.

Benton is the son of Don Benton, former state senator and state representative. The senior Benton is running for the Clark County Council in the 2022 election.

Brad Benton vowed, if elected, he would never vote for a tax increase “of any kind, under any circumstance.”

In an interview Tuesday, Camacho said he began following the Legislature’s work a few years ago, then got involved in lobbying last year. Seeing the work that needed to be done prompted him to run. He says the Legislature needs more representatives from the health care community, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“When I say I want to do my part to help people, that’s not a political pandering statement, that’s my career path,” he said.

While health care is important, Camacho said there are wider issues, such as public safety, homelessness and the economy to focus on, as well.

First try for Legislature

The list of candidates running for the Position 2 seat was narrowed by one, even before the first vote was cast. On July 15, Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson ruled votes cast for John Ley would not be used in determining the top two candidates moving on to the November general election. Ley was ruled to be ineligible for the position after a voter registration challenge confirmed he did not reside in the 18th Legislative District when he filed to run.

Benton received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and political science from Whitworth University in Spokane. He worked as an intern for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican who represents Washington’s 5th District.

This is Benton’s first run for office. He volunteers his time as an offensive line coach with King’s Way Christian Schools and at Camp Attitude, a summer camp for disabled children.

Cheney, too, has never been elected to office, although he did run for the Clark County Charter Review Commission in 2020.

He said he has a history of serving the public. He previously served on the Battle Ground Planning Commission, National Alliance on Mental Illness board, and as treasurer of the Clark County Republican Party.

Cheney is a practicing attorney with a law degree from Seattle University School of Law, a master’s degree from George Washington University and bachelor’s degree from Walla Walla University.

Camacho is also seeking his first time in office. A longtime medical professional, he is in his fifth year working as a registered nurse in PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center’s neuro/trauma intensive care unit. He received his bachelor’s degree in nursing from Texas Tech University.

He volunteers his time as a neighborhood food drive organizer for Clark County Food Bank and at Family of Christ preschool.

Public safety

To reduce the county’s growing crime rate and make residents safer, Cheney said it’s vital to have a jail that “houses those who are breaking the law, which we don’t currently have, but also for those dealing with addiction issues, mental health, we need to bring resources to the table so that those folks can get treatment.”

Cheney said if those addiction and mental health issues aren’t treated, criminals will simply get out of jail and break the law again.

However, Benton said the best thing the Legislature can do is get out of the way of law enforcement and empower police officers’ ability to do their jobs by fully funding law enforcement.

“Make sure that cops can chase and arrest bad guys and that prosecutors can put those people away or get them the resources they need,” he said.

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Camacho, who also worked as a paramedic, said he’s seen firsthand what law enforcement and first responders face and what they need to do their jobs.

“First and foremost, you need personnel to do the job. Multiple agencies are short-staffed,” he said. “Recruitment and retention is the bigger hurdle right now.”

Camacho said fixing those staffing shortages will take more funding, some of which could come from the state’s budget surplus. He also sees responding to homelessness as a big part of the public safety puzzle.

“Homelessness deals with so many different factors, and it’s not just one thing that will help solve the problem. It’s establishing the foundational support for longer-term solutions,” he said.

Campaign funds

How campaign fundraising will affect the outcome of the primary election is still anyone’s guess. But the trio has been hard at work raising money. According to the Public Disclosure Commission, Benton has raised the least of the three candidates, just more than $12,000. Most of Benton’s campaign funds come from individual donations.

In the middle of the fundraising pack is Camacho with just more than $18,500. Along with individual donations, Camacho received campaign funds from the Washington State Nursing Association, Southwest Washington Central Labor Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 335, Democratic Party and others.

Cheney is leading the pack in campaign fundraising with $32,900. Along with individual donors, Cheney also received donations from the Washington Healthcare Association PAC, Georgia-Pacific, Washington Hospitality Association PAC and the National Electrical Contractors Association Puget Sound chapter.

Ballots for the Aug. 2 primary are due by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 2. Ballots can also be dropped off in person at the Elections Office at 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 2.

Ballots can also be dropped off in any one of the 22 permanent drop boxes found throughout the county and are available 24 hours a day until 8 p.m. on Election Day. To find the nearest drop box, go to https://clark.wa.gov/elections/ballot-deposit-locations.

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