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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.

Jayne: Want the job? Got to the interview

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: July 22, 2023, 6:02am

As elections go, this is not the kind of barnburner that leads pundits to proclaim it “the most important election in our lifetime.” That will have to wait until next year.

It’s not even the kind of election that has ballots going to all voters throughout Clark County. Instead, it is limited to the city of Battle Ground, the city of Woodland, Clark County Fire District 3 and Clark County Fire District 5. Ballots in those jurisdictions have been mailed and should have arrived by now.

But the Aug. 1 primary and special election still generates intrigue. For somebody who is a recovering sports editor, my thirst for competition and debate and the drama of an uncertain outcome is now slaked by elections, and we are in an election season that will continue through Nov. 7.

Having an election in the air generates some thoughts — such as how The Columbian’s Editorial Board goes about making recommendations for local elections. Typically, we interview candidates for various positions and share our thoughts with readers. We do the same for some ballot measures.

You might have noticed that we have not conducted interviews or offered recommendations for the primary election. The reason: None of the races we focus on has more than two candidates; that means there is no doubt about who will advance to the general election.

Following the primary, we will reach out to candidates for Vancouver City Council, Evergreen school board, Vancouver school board and Port of Vancouver commissioner to request interviews. Typically, we interview candidates for a single position simultaneously, hoping to generate some authentic back-and-forth and making it easier to assess differences between the candidates. We record the interviews and post them unedited at Columbian.com and on our YouTube channel.

(By the way, the Editorial Board does not coordinate with the Metro department regarding political races. Reporters are tasked with reporting the news; the Editorial Board’s job is to generate informed opinions and then share the reasoning behind them. There is a reason our work appears on the “Opinion” page.)

If recent history is any indication, most of the candidates will accept our invitation. Some won’t. This brings up an interesting observation.

In recent years, an increasing number of candidates have declined invitations to meet with the Editorial Board. As far as I can recall, all of them have been far-right candidates; and as far as I can recall, none of them have won their elections. Joe Kent and Don Benton come to mind from last year.

The fact that those candidates lost might be a coincidence; we have no illusions about the Editorial Board being some sort of kingmaker for local politics. But there likely is a connection between a candidate who refuses to face difficult questions and defend a position, and one who fails to engage with enough voters to win election. There probably is much overlap on the Venn diagram of those two traits.

After all, speaking with the media or participating in a public forum is part of the job interview. Take Battle Ground, where nine candidates have filed for three open seats on the city council. Two of the candidates have not participated in interviews or public forums, and outgoing Mayor Philip Johnson said: “I am concerned that even those that said it was a big deal aren’t all that interested. I mean really, if you can’t show for the interview, do you really want the job?”

Indeed, Editorial Board interviews occasionally reveal a candidate who likes to complain about the state of the city or the schools or the world while offering few solutions. One candidate, for example, spent most of his time complaining about United Nations Agenda 21. Very interesting, but not really germane to a city council position.

But for the most part, local candidates are reasonable people who want to make our community a better place to live. At least that is true for those who speak with us.