Marshall holds slim lead in bid for port seat

Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Bill Ward (left) talks with Kim Noah, the Port's director of operations, at an Oct. 22 Port meeting in Washougal. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Cassi Marshall is cautiously optimistic that she has won her bid for Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Bill Ward’s No. 2 commissioner seat, but given how incredibly close the vote counts have been since Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 5, Marshall said she is preparing for anything.

“I’m not celebrating,” Marshall told the Post-Record on Monday, Nov. 11. “There’s still a little bit of unknown. I just don’t know. I’m hopeful and excited about the possibility (of winning), but I’m not counting on anything yet.”

As of the latest vote count, taken Tuesday, Nov. 12, Marshall had 6,098 votes (50.27 percent) and Ward had 5,949 votes (49.04 percent). With 500 ballots left to count, Ward’s chances to mount a comeback are slim. But Marshall knows that nothing is final just yet.

In Washington state, a mandatory machine recount is required for a non-statewide race when the difference between the top two candidates is fewer than 2,000 votes and fewer than one-half of 1 percent of the total number of votes cast for both candidates.

“So if I hold on to the lead I have now, a recount won’t be triggered,” Marshall said. “But if it gets closer, a recount is a possibility.”

On Monday, Ward seemed ready to concede the election.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do some other things,” Ward said.

The race has been one of the closest to come out of the Nov. 5 general election.

When the general election results were announced on election night, Marshall had earned 4,063 votes (50.2 percent), and Ward had garnered 3,969 votes (49.1 percent).

When the vote totals were announced the next day, Marshall’s lead had decreased to about 30 votes. On Thursday, Nov. 7, a vote-count on the county elections office website showed Marshall and Ward in a tie, with each candidate having earned exactly 5,149 votes.

“A lot of people sent me the screenshot from the Clark County website showing our vote totals on that day,” Marshall said. “The day of the exact tie actually provided me with some comic relief. It was just too ridiculous; a true ‘what are the odds?’ moment. That alleviated some of the stress. That just pointed to how unpredictable things can be.”

Marshall, the co-owner of Marshall Development, a local residential development business, gathered with family, friends and supporters at A Beer at a Time in Camas on Nov. 5 expecting to receive closure — one way or another — to her campaign and the election. That didn’t happen.

“It has been pretty wild, a long, rollercoaster of a week,” she said. “I started out feeling hopeful that maybe things would work out my way, then when the trend started to go the other way, I had to process the feeling of ‘maybe not.’ I had to emotionally deal with all of the possibilities. I had never been through this process, and there are so many unknowns.

“I didn’t understand how some batches can come out so drastically different,” she continued. “I don’t know; maybe a lot of my supporters are procrastinators. It was tough to play the waiting game with the daily counts, and then we had to sit on (the count through) a three-day weekend, which was challenging.”

During her campaign, Marshall told potential voters that she would be “a collaborative commissioner” by pushing the Port to work closely with its partners, strengthen recreational opportunities and grow the local economy by providing more jobs at its industrial park and waterfront development.

“I felt going into it that I had the tougher road, being the ‘newbie’ going against an established name with great experiences at the Port,” Marshall said. “I felt some pressure to work hard at it, but I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve had phenomenal support along the way. Community leaders have given me not only vocal support, but also behind-the scenes advice and advisement and encouragement. I’ve been super lucky.”

Ward said he believes Marshall has the potential to succeed as a Port commissioner.

“She obviously ran a good campaign, and I’m sure that will translate into an equal amount of effort on behalf of the Port,” Ward said. “(Her success) can build confidence in her ability to contribute. Hopefully a change in leadership can accelerate the Port’s efforts with the riverfront development and other projects. I’ll be interested in seeing how well things move forward from another perspective.”

Ward, a Port commissioner since 2008, told the Post-Record before the election that he was proud of the Port’s accomplishments during his tenure.

“We’ve been able to improve the finances, got that more stable,” he said. “We’ve really built up the competency in the Port’s staff. The waterfront trail and the park area, to go out there and see people walking, enjoying themselves, really getting to experience the outdoors at the waterfront, (has been great). I love to watch the boaters go out on the marina. We’ve got a pretty good group of pilots at Grove Field and they’re all enjoying (the airport). We’re adding a lot to the economy of the area because of the number of jobs we have in our industrial park. And we’ve built relationships with the city of Camas and the city of Washougal.”

Ward owns and operates Management Engineering Associates, a Camas-based engineering consulting firm, is a member of the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club and is active with the Columbia River Economic Development Commission, Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, Washington Public Ports Association, East Vancouver Business Association and the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m looking for some new challenges,” he said. “For me, it’s pretty much been business as usual. I’ve already been involved with some community service activities, and I also have had several business projects that are going on right now. I have plenty of things to occupy my time.”

Marshall, meanwhile, is hoping to have Port activities occupy a lot of her time in the near future.

“I’m ready to move on one way or another,” she said. “If I’m able to hold on (to my lead), I’m going to be really excited. I’ve spent so much time learning about what the Port does, and I feel like I’m in a spot where I have enough knowledge to contribute and know what’s going on, although I know the learning curve will be steep. I’m just excited and ready to be done with campaign work and get on with some real work.”

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