Clark County Council District 4 has its first challenger for the seat up for election this year as current Battle Ground City Councilor Adrian Cortes announced his candidacy last week.
“It was actually something I’ve been thinking about for quite a few months, and quite a few people have been urging me to consider taking a run,” Cortes said.
The two-term city councilor is eyeing the countywide seat after noticing the shifts in Clark County over the last decade and beyond, adding he felt there was a lack of experience on the council for living in District 4, somewhere he’s lived for more than 37 years.
“I think that’s really important, especially when we are talking about big decisions moving forward,” Cortes said, mentioning work to bring industry to the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad and to develop by the Interstate 5/Northeast 179th Street interchange specifically.
“There needs to be someone who has lived here long enough, seen a lot of change, but also understands that we need to take a better approach to how we’re moving forward as a county,” Cortes said.
Cortes, a special education teacher with the Camas School District, will be running against the current District 4 Councilor Gary Medvigy, who was appointed in January following the shift of former seatholder Eileen Quiring to council chair after a successful November election. Cortes said he has met Medvigy, saying he was a “fine gentleman,” but pointed out he is a recent transplant to Clark County, having previously lived in California. Cortes added Clark County Manager Shawn Henessee also isn’t a longtime resident of the county.
“There’s a lot of new faces in county government, both elected and at the bureaucratic level, that haven’t had that historical background that I’ve had,” he said.
Cortes pointed to other big county issues such as another look at the current moratorium on marijuana businesses in unincorporated Clark County, work to come up with a jail replacement plan as well as county growth more generally. He mentioned that Battle Ground had undertaken a visioning process recently, beginning with a group of citizen “navigators” who helped craft guidelines for city staff to follow when drafting a long-term plan that the city would follow. He felt a similar process could benefit the county.
On the I-5/179th Street development project, Cortes had reservations over the county’s approach as of late, mentioning that any funding for needed infrastructure would likely require a tax increase for county residents.
On both that project and Chelatchie Prairie work, Cortes felt there had not been proper planning undertaken. Currently, the county is in litigation with the railroad operator regarding contract disputes, postponing any work to implement industrial uses along the railroad.
On the marijuana moratorium, Cortes noted he had voted against Initiative 502 which legalized recreational marijuana use in the state, though he accepted that it was voted in and wasn’t actively against the implementation of the law.
“I think we need to abide by the will of the voters,” he said.
Cortes also touched on an issue that comes up often in his role as current chair of the C-Tran board of directors: replacing the Interstate 5 bridge. He said that although he was for replacement he felt that demands for light rail on any replacement did not take into account the values of Clark County residents.
“We need a new bridge, but any transit solution is going to be BRT, bus rapid transit, not light rail,” he said.
Though Cortes, running as a Democrat, acknowledged that District 4 is the most conservative out of the county’s four districts, he pointed to his history growing up and continuously living in Clark County as an important distinction as to why he could lead it well.
“I’m not naive to not understand that historically the fourth district has elected Republicans, but at the end of the day I think people elect the person, not the party,” he said.