A university history professor is seeking a seat in North County state representation, as Democrat Donna Sinclair announced her candidacy for the 18th Legislative District last week.
Herself a lifelong Clark County resident, Sinclair’s family has roots in the Pacific Northwest dating back to the 1850s, a release announcing her candidacy stated. In an interview with The Reflector, Sinclair said she teaches history at WSU Vancouver and Western Oregon University and has lived in Washougal since 2007.
Though she lives in southeast Clark County, the seat Sinclair seeks represents all of North County except Woodland. She’s recently been brushing up on local matters ahead of the election race, mentioning she’s been educating herself on the potential annexation of Battle Ground into Fire District 3.
Sinclair’s first foray into elected office was on the Washougal School District Board of Directors, on which she currently serves.
“I wanted to get involved in my community is what it comes down to,” Sinclair said, adding she had previously been appointed to the Washougal Planning Commission and also has experience working with nonprofits. The latter experience gave her an understanding of working with state government, adding that she studied federal policy in her doctorate program.
Sinclair’s motivation to get involved in politics came in 2016. She was disturbed by hearing from her students that they were not voting. Both in the interview and in her release, Sinclair mentioned chief issues she sees: economics and small business, transportation, healthcare, education and a determination to “carefully guide regional growth without diminishing our quality of life,” as the release stated.
“My main focus is really that I’ve been a part of this community all of my life and I’ve seen the explosion of growth,” Sinclair said, adding that in some cases the growth led to tensions.
“When I grew up … 112th Avenue was a gravel road,” Sinclair said.
She said she wanted to be a part of the conversation regarding how the county grew, with the timing being right to take it on in 2020.
Sinclair announced her candidacy was for the seat currently occupied by Rep. Larry Hoff, R-Vancouver. She said the decision to challenge Hoff, who is in his second year as a representative, was based on Hoff’s counterpart, Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Felida, being more established in the Legislature, not based on any particulars about the incumbent’s work.
Sinclair said her doctorate in urban studies, combined with her other experience as a historian, gave her an understanding of the intersection of communities and state government that would be beneficial in Olympia. As an example of some of her historian work, she said she did a series of programs last year called “Clark County Stories” that fostered conversations about how people came to the county.
Having a historical perspective would be a boon for advocating on local matters, Sinclair said, but the biggest reason to vote for her is because she would “get things done.”
“I will pay attention to the needs of the district and I will fight for those needs,” Sinclair said. “Anybody who knows me knows that I don’t fool around. I work really hard and I will make sure that I am listening.”
“I’m an oral historian — listening is what I do for a living,” Sinclair said.