Camas voters send strong message to city leaders

$78 million community center bond failing with 90 percent 'no' vote; mayor could lose to write-in candidate

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"Vote No" and "Vote Yes" signs related to the city of Camas' proposed $78 community-aquatics center bond mingle with candidate signs throughout Camas.

One hour after the first results flowed in from the Nov. 5 general election, one thing was certain in the city of Camas: voters were not happy with “business as usual.” 

Voters sent the strongest message to city leaders with an overwhelmingly negative response to the city’s Proposition 2, which asked voters to approve a $78 million bond to build a public community-aquatics center and renovate sports fields throughout the city. 

That proposition needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, but only garnered 10 percent of the vote with about 73 percent of ballots counted. 

Camas Mayor Shannon Turk said she was still happy city leaders had put the issue to voters despite the failing proposition. 

“I would say that the people have spoken loud and clear,” Turk said Tuesday night. “We put the issue to the people for them to decide. We will listen to that and decide how to move on.” 

Online and in public meetings, bond opponents questioned everything from the price tag, which would have cost taxpayers an additional $1.04 per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2021, to the proposed location of the center on a busy stretch of Northeast Lake Road near Lacamas and Fallen Leaf lakes, to the ongoing maintenance and operations costs the center would have required. 

Mayor’s race could go to write-in candidate

Another message from Camas voters that could have been tied to the community center proposition was seen in the Camas mayoral race. 

Incumbent Shannon Turk, a former city councilwoman appointed by her council peers in 2018 to take over for former Mayor Scott Higgins after his unexpected resignation, was running unopposed until early October, when Barry McDonnell, a newcomer to politics, filed as a write-in candidate and came out in opposition to Proposition 2. 

A few days later, longtime Camas City Councilwoman — and Camas native — Melissa Smith also filed as a write-in mayoral candidate. 

As of Tuesday night, with 73 percent of ballots counted, Turk had garnered 1,898 votes to the combined write-in total of 2,753. Smith and Turk both said it may take a few days until anyone knows who has actually won the Camas mayoral race. 

Turk said she would continue to find ways to contribute to her city, even if she suffered an upset in the election. 

City Councilwoman losing to political newcomer

Voters also seemed to be rejecting incumbent Camas City Councilwoman Deanna Rusch Tuesday night. 

With 73 percent of the ballots counted, Rusch, the councilwoman representing Ward 1, Position 1, was losing to her opponent, Navy veteran and real estate professional Shannon Roberts 42 to 56 percent, by a margin of 600 votes. 

Other city council incumbents, including Councilman Greg Anderson, who has been on the city council for more than 22 years, also faced write-in candidate opposition in this election. As of Tuesday night, Anderson was winning his race with 72 percent of the votes.

Look for more detailed coverage of these races, as well as races in the city of Washougal and for the Port of Camas-Washougal Commission, in this week’s Post-Record.