It’s a ‘no’ to fire district, ‘yes’ to GOP

Washougal voters nix ‘strong mayor’

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Washougal Mayor Molly Coston listens to a council member during the Aug. 13, 2018 Washougal City Council workshop. General election results, released Tuesday, Nov. 6, show Proposition 8, which would change the city's form of government from mayor-council, or 'strong mayor,' to council-manager or 'strong council' is passing with 54.84 percent of the vote. (Post-Record file photo)

Clark County voters turned out in record numbers for the Nov. 6 midterm election this week, with 52 percent of registered voters casting ballots and weighing in on everything from the next congresswoman for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District to the next chair of the Clark County Council. As of this newspaper’s press deadline, there were still about 45,000 ballots — roughly 23 percent of the vote — left to be counted, countywide.

Following are results from races affecting Camas-Washougal voters:

Washougal form of government

Washougal voters are supporting Proposition 8, a measure to change the form of government from mayor-council, or “strong mayor,” to council-manager or “strong council.”

With 4,617 votes counted so far, 2,532 voters (54.84 percent) have approved the change in the form of government, while 2,085 voters want the city to continue with the current mayor-council form of government.

A similar effort, then-known as Proposition 1, to change the form of government from mayor-council to council-manager, received 34.38 percent of the vote in November 2013.

Mayor Molly Coston said Tuesday night she was a little surprised by the results, but that she would be fine with the final result, whichever way voters went.

“I figured people would say, ‘Why should we change? Things are going well,'” Coston said. “I did initiate a committee (to examine both forms of government). Without any influence, they decided the council-manager form was a great form of government, and it was time to put it on the ballot. Certainly, that is valid, to put it on the ballot.”

If the proposition passes — and that seems likely — it will go into effect after the election results are certified Nov. 27.

Under the “council-mayor” form of government, Coston would become an eighth council member, and the Washougal City Council would continue with eight members until the expiration of Coston’s current mayoral term in December 2021.

After Coston’s term expires, the council would revert to seven members. The council would designate one of its members to hold the position of mayor, and that person would chair council meetings and represent the city at ceremonial occasions.

Coston said Tuesday night, she would like to continue to serve as mayor.

If the proposition passes, Washougal City Administrator David Scott would become an interim city manager until the city hires a new city manager or appoints the interim city manager on a permanent basis.

Scott, the city administrator since May 2010, said Tuesday night that, if the results hold up, he is very committed to the community and would be honored to serve as a city manager.

East County Fire and Rescue levy lid lift (Prop 2)

Voters are rejecting a levy lid lift for East County Fire and Rescue, voting 53.77 percent against Proposition 2 as of the final count on Tuesday night.

The proposition would have allowed the East County Fire and Rescue (ECFR) district to raise its property tax levy rate to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2018, for collection in 2019. The owner of a $350,000 home would have paid an extra $6.13 each month at the new rate. The proposition would have authorized annual increases of up to 6 percent for each of the coming five years.

The current rate rests at $1.29 per $1,000. The rate has been maintained at its current level to keep department revenue stagnant. However, ECFR Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said in August that ECFR calls have increased by about 52 percent over 2007 levels and that fixed costs within the district are rising much faster than the allowed 1-percent annual increase in revenue.

ECFR leaders said in August that if voters did not approve the levy lid lift, they would have to reevaluate ECFR operations and likely make cuts to service.

On Tuesday evening, ECFR Deputy Chief Mike Carnes said fire district leaders were pleased with the high voter turnout, but disappointed by the election results.

“It was certainly not the outcome we’d hoped for. We hadn’t asked for 10 years, so it seemed like it was a good time to ask,” Carnes said.

Carnes said fire district leaders would need to look at their overall operations “and what we might do differently to save a little money.”

The deputy chief said ECFR is OK this year, but would likely “have some trouble maintaining the service levels” in the near future.

Washington’s 3rd Congressional District

Initially considered a “safe red” district, the race for incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s 3rd Congressional District seat became heated this election season, and the Republican congresswoman got an unexpected run for her money from Democratic challenger Carolyn Long, a longtime political science professor at Washington State University, Vancouver.

When the initial results came in Tuesday night, Long was actually ahead, beating the Republican Herrera Beutler in Clark County and districtwide. Then, as more rural votes were counted, the incumbent congresswoman pulled ahead.

As of this paper’s print deadline, Rep. Herrera Beutler is in the lead with 52.25 percent of the vote districtwide, and likely to retain her 3rd District seat in Congress.

Long performed better in Clark County, where she had 75,413 votes to Herrera Beutler’s 70,203 votes Tuesday night.

18th Legislative District, Positions 1 and 2

The majority of voters supported Republican candidates in the state’s 18th Legislative District. As of this paper’s print deadline, incumbent Rep. Brandon Vick was holding on to his position, with 54.92 percent of the votes districtwide. His challenger, Democrat Chris Thobaben, had garnered 45.08 percent of the votes as of 8:08 p.m., Tuesday.

Republican Larry Hoff, a former credit union CEO, was winning the race against Democrat Kathy Gillespie, a former Vancouver School Board member, in the race for retiring Rep. Liz Pike’s 18th Legislative District, Position 2 seat. Hoff had 51.85 percent of the vote and Gillespie had garnered 48.15 percent of the vote, as of this paper’s print deadline.

Clark County Council Chair

In the race for Clark County Council Chair Democrat candidate Eric Holt held a slight lead over Republican Clark County Councilwoman Eileen Quiring as of this paper’s print deadline. The race is extremely close, though. With about 22 percent of the ballots left to count, Holt had 50.43 percent of the vote, with 71,545 votes, while Quiring had 70,315 votes, or 49.57 percent of the vote.