Camas voters stick with incumbents; Mayor Steve Hogan has wide lead over challenger Randal Friedman

Camas city council and school board incumbents all leading opponents; John Svilarich has 15-point lead in Council's at-large race

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Campaign signs for Camas City Council and Camas School Board candidates sway in the breeze in downtown Camas Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

It was a very good election night for Camas incumbents. 

The first batch of ballots counted Tuesday, Nov. 7, showed Camas Mayor Steve Hogan easily beating his challenger, Randal Friedman by 50 percentage points. As of Nov. 7, Hogan had garnered 2,851 votes (74.71%) to Friedman’s 950 votes (24.9%). 

“I feel good that it turned out this way and I’m happy a majority of voters felt I deserved another chance,” Hogan said Tuesday night. 

The mayor added that he was glad the race between himself and Friedman, an active Camas community volunteer who serves on the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club with Hogan, had not devolved into mean-spirited attacks. 

“I felt that Randal was not attacking, and I appreciated that,” Hogan said. “I tried to not attack him, but stand on my record.”
Camas voters signaled that they appreciated the work Hogan has done to steer the city back from what he called “a mess” when he was elected in 2021. 

“When I stepped in, it was clear to me that the senior staff felt like … a catastrophe was about to happen,” Hogan told The Post-Record last month. “I had to make them understand that it was not a catastrophe … that this is a 100-year-old business and that every city in the world has to deal with the same type of problems.”
Since taking over as the city’s mayor, Hogan has hired a new set of leaders to help him run the City, including a new police chief, fire chief, city administrator and community development director. 

“We had to have faith that we were going to be able to move forward,” Hogan said. “I told the staff, ‘If you have real problems, bring them to me.’ I knew that, if we could stabilize and grow properly, we would be back on track.” 

Hogan said Tuesday night he was celebrating his win with family at home and doing something he said he rarely does — enjoying a nice glass of wine. 

Voters in Camas not only backed the incumbent mayor, but also seem to have thrown wins to two Camas City Council incumbents: Councilwoman Bonnie Carter and Councilman John Nohr.

As of the first ballot count Tuesday night, Carter, who has been in her Ward 2, Position 1 Council seat since being appointed in February 2015, has 2,341 votes (62.41%), while her opponent, Camas newcomer Ry Luikens, has 1,401 votes (37.35%). 

Councilman John Nohr, the Clark-Cowlitz Fire and Rescue fire chief who was appointed to his Ward 1, Position 1 seat in October 2022, was leading his opponent, lifelong Camas resident Gary Perman by a margin of 301 votes Tuesday night, with 2008 votes (53.93%) to Perman’s 1,707 votes (45.85%). 

In the Camas City Council’s at-large race to replace longtime Councilman Don Chaney, who announced his retirement from the Council earlier this year, John Svilarich, a longtime Camas volunteer who has spent 20 years serving on various boards, commissions and associations, including as president of his Deer Creek Homeowners Association and as the former chairperson of the Camas School Board’s Citizens Advisory Committee, was leading his opponent, former law enforcement officer Stephen Dabasinskas, Tuesday night by more than 15 percentage points. As of the first ballot count, Svilarich has won 2,155 votes (57.74%) while Dabasinskas has garnered 1,563 votes (41.88%). 

“I feel really good with an almost 600-vote lead,” Svilarich said Tuesday evening. “And I’m so grateful that it’s pretty decisive.” 

Svilarich said he, like the mayor, chose to spend election night at home, where he was sharing some cashews with his labrador retriever and enjoying a glass of bourbon when The Post-Record reached him Tuesday evening. 

Although he knows elections aren’t truly over in Washington state until every last ballot has been counted, Svilarich said he felt confident with his lead over Dabasinskas and was looking forward to serving his community as a member of the city council. 

“I was telling my sons today that I hope it’s my day in the sun,” Svilarich, who came in third during the 2021 primary election for a different Camas City Council seat, said. “I’ve done the work, and I feel like I can hit the ground running.” 

In the other Camas City Council race, incumbent Councilwoman Jennifer Senescu, the director of the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce, ran unopposed for the Ward 3, Position 1 seat she has had since being appointed to replace longtime Councilman Greg Anderson in February 2023. As of Tuesday’s ballot count, Senescu has easily won her election with 93.71% of the votes, losing just 167 votes out of 2,655 total votes to write-in candidates.

Write-ins get few votes in Camas School Board election

Camas voters also continued to show their support of incumbents when it came to choosing the next round  of Camas School Board candidates. 

Though school board directors Connie Hennessey, Tracey Malone and Bamini Pathmanathan were all running unopposed this year, two write-in candidates were able to gain some traction in the races against Malone and Pathmanathan for their respective District No. 5 and District No. 4 school board seats. 

In the end, however, the write-in campaigns for educator Leanne Williams, who hoped to unseat Malone, and attorney George McCoy, who hoped to beat Pathmanathan, were not enough to sway the election. 

As of the first ballot count Tuesday night, Malone has 91.34% of the votes (3,069) while write-ins have 291 votes (8.66%). Likewise, Pathmanathan has won 89.48% of the votes (3,046) after the first ballot count, with write-ins garnering 358 votes (10.52%). Hennessey, who had no organized write-in campaigns competing for votes, has easily won re-election with 97.31% of the votes (3,185) as of Tuesday evening.