First-time candidates spurred on by pushback against recently-approved gun control Initiative 1639 are moving onto the November general election for Battle Ground City Council.
About 24.4% of registered Clark County voters took part in the primary. Of North County cities, only Battle Ground had primary races with three or more candidates, with about 24.5% of voters in the city participating. As of press deadline, Clark County Elections anticipated only about 200 ballots left to count with more than 57,000 already accounted for.
Battle Ground City Council
For Battle Ground City Council Position 3, all three running were newcomers, seeking to fill current councilor Stephen Phelps’ seat. Leading the pack in that race is Shauna Walters, an Army veteran and organizer of North County Sons and Daughters of Liberty. She garnered about 49.3% of the vote as of press deadline. Coming in second is former city parks advisory board member Neil Butler with about 33% of the vote, while current city planning commission member Candy Bonneville has about 17.1%.
Both Walters and Butler said that advancing made them, in a word, “excited.”
Walters pointed to the support of her campaign volunteers as helping her get nearly half of the three-way vote.
“I started off just mostly by myself, and it kind of grew into this amazing group of volunteers,” Walters remarked. She also pointed to some of the controversy right before the election when Councilor Philip Johnson filed a complaint against her for violating state campaign finance laws. To the Public Disclosure Commission, she wrote it off as honest mistake from a first-time political campaigner.
“(The controversy) may have pushed some voters in my direction as well,” Walters said. She had previously stated she felt allegations by Johnson, who she isn’t running against, were a “political tool” against her campaign.
“It’s going to be a tough race,” Walters said of the November face-off against Butler. She plans on getting more face-to-face contact with voters in the lead up.
Butler is also a first-time candidate, previously serving on an appointed board for the city. He said boosting voter turnout for November’s contest would be an important strategy for victory.
Butler pointed to a message of “focusing on the actual issues” as an asset to his campaign.
“If city councilors just do the things they are legally allowed to do, do it fiscally responsibly and do it well, then all of Battle Ground is going to benefit from it,” Butler he said.
For Battle Ground City Council Position 7, the incumbent, Johnson, managed to get the most votes with about 45% as of press deadline. Coming in second is Joshua VanGelder, another North County Sons and Daughters of Liberty member, with 35.8% of the vote. Katrina Negrov, an office manager at a local trucking company, came in third with about 19.3% of the vote.
Johnson pointed to his focus on specific issues council faces, such as decisions on water utilities and potential annexation into Clark County Fire District 3, as part of his success.
“I talk about things that face the city, not just things that face the abstract,” Johnson said.
Johnson plans on taking the month of August to return to work before kicking up his campaign into full gear in September.
“We’ll just hit it hard in the middle of September and October and see if we can’t prevail in November,” the former mayor said.
VanGelder, who like Walters was pushed to seek office over the city’s refusal to pass a resolution against I-1639, is excited to be moving on and said the results were about what he expected early in the race.
“I think people just resonate with my message. They understand that I’m about the people and I’m not trying to do my own thing,” VanGelder said. That message has leaned heavily into both the U.S. and Washington State constitutions which are featured prominently in his campaign dialogue.
“Everyone needs to make sure they get out and vote, and know what they’re voting for,” VanGelder remarked.
One race on the ballot is more of a dress rehearsal for the November general election. Only two candidates filed for the Clark County Council District 4 seat, meaning both move on. Incumbent Gary Medvigy, a retired California judge and Army general, had 58.1% of the vote as of press deadline. Medvigy, a Republican, was appointed to his position in January. His opponent, current Battle Ground City Council Member Adrian Cortes, had 41.6% of the vote as of press deadline. Cortes is a Democrat.
School, EMS levies
Ballot measures outside of elected races in North County seemed poised for success as of the preliminary numbers of votes. As of press deadline, Green Mountain School District’s vote to replace an expiring property tax levy had about 65.3% of voters approving the $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value tax.
North County EMS’ vote to boost its operations levy also looks likely to pass. The ballot measure, which would raise the property tax rate from 34 to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for emergency service, was passing with 81.8% of voters in the district voting in approval as of press deadline. As for other areas North County EMS serves, the measure was passing in Yacolt with 85.7% approval and in parts of Cowlitz County by 82.6%.