For most, the answers to those questions are a mix of “yes” and “no.”
“We’ll still be supporting candidates,” said Joe Maldonado, who is chair of the Clark County Democrats and the group’s recommendations and endorsement committee. “In nonpartisan races, rather than endorsements, we do recommendations. We’ve already started the process for interviewing candidates.”
Maldonado said choosing candidates will primarily be based on where those candidates stand on key issues. For Democrats, 2022’s key issues have revolved around the economy, inflation, gas prices, transportation and the environment.
“The questions we’ll be asking when we meet with them will be issue-based questions; basically seeing how they align with Democratic Party values,” he said.
Once the Democratic Party has decided on which candidates to recommend, they will be posted to Facebook and the party’s website, as well as emailed to mailing lists.
Joel Mattila, chair of the Clark County Republican Party, said precinct committee officers will decide on which candidates to recommend or endorse.
While it’s not on the agenda for the PCOs’ next meeting, Mattila said they would likely focus on issues as they have with other nonpartisan races.
The website for Washington Republicans said party members statewide are focused on public safety and rising crime rates, emergency powers reform, and elections and security.
As for how voters will select candidates, Maldonado said that during elections for other nonpartisan offices, voters often call or email their local party asking whom the party recommends.
“I imagine it will be pretty much the same this year,” Maldonado said.
Candidates weigh in
Vancouver resident Belkot, who is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, said she expects changing the county council positions from partisan to nonpartisan will have little impact on voters or candidates.
“I don’t think it will affect (voter) turnout. I think there are a lot of people who are getting a lot more aware of what the county councilors do,” she said.
Belkot said she expects voters to be focused on issues, like the county budget or redistricting, rather than party affiliation. Belkot said the school board position she previously ran for was also nonpartisan, adding voters in that race were concerned about the issues.
“If people want to ask where I politically align myself, that’s fine. The majority of the issues the council deals with are nonpartisan. Homelessness, security, things like that, are everybody’s concern,” she said.
Belkot said she chose to run for the District 2 seat because “some of the things going on at the county concerned me, just as they did with the school district.”
She specifically noted how the council handled the pandemic and Public Health, redistricting and a mini-initiative to ban mandates that discriminate based on health reasons, among issues that stood out.
“There seems to be a big disconnect with things being accomplished with the county councilors that affect our community as a whole,” Belkot said.
While everyone has different backgrounds and experiences, Roberts said it’s important to understand and recognize those differences and provide access to those who feel marginalized or disenfranchised.
One key issue for Roberts will be how the council addresses the county’s ongoing rise in homelessness.
“We should look at it more as our problem, rather than focusing on individuals. Where is the system broken?” she said.
Other issues she wants to focus on are public safety and public health.
“We’re still fighting through COVID. I just want to be in a space where we’re actually building and growing,” Roberts said.
County council candidates Coop and Hinojosa could not be reached in time for publication.