Former credit union CEO, previous candidate declare for Pike’s seat

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Two new candidates have taken aim at the seat currently held by Liz Pike, R-Camas.  Democrat Kathy Gillespie and Republican Larry Hoff announced their candidacies shortly after Pike’s handpicked replacement, John Ley, for Washington state House of Representatives 18th District, position 2. 

Pike, who is leaving the state capitol with hopes of landing a spot on the Clark County Council next year, told The Reflector she couldn’t think of anyone better to fill her seat than Ley. Gillespie and Hoff have different plans.   

The CEO 

Hoff will lean heavily on his four decades as a business leader to attract voters.

After retiring from the credit union industry at the beginning of this year, Hoff decided he wanted to use his expertise to help residents in his district. 

“My passion is helping folks and I just wanted to continue that,” he told The Reflector. 

As to why his lack of political experience could prove advantageous, Hoff said he worked with people from both parties throughout his whole career and understands the differences they have and believes he’ll be able to work well with whatever group he needs to. 

“The old adage is working across the aisle. I’m not even sure I enjoy talking about an aisle,” he said. “I like working with people, and I’m excited to see if there is a way that I can help make things happen.” 

“I’ve been serving individuals and small businesses all of my professional career and am excited to bring my leadership, problem-solving skills and collaborative nature to the Legislature in order to continue serving and making a positive impact on our community,” he wrote in his official announcement.

When asked what issues pertinent to District 18 inspired him to run, Hoff was quick to mention what will likely be the driving force for many Clark County candidates     

“If I didn’t talk about transportation I wouldn’t win the election,” He said “We have to figure this thing out. And the sooner we start, the better off we are.”

Hoff is married and has one son and one grandson. 

He moved into District 18 over four decades ago after serving in the U.S. Navy and graduating from the University of North Dakota. 

He recently retired as president and CEO of Fibre Federal Credit Union after 15 years. At one point, he also held the position of interim president at Columbia Credit Union.  

Hoff helped with the development of the “Credit Unions for Kids” charity, which has raised over $160 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the United States. He also served on the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation board of directors. The press release stated that while involved with Doernbecher, Hoff played a significant role in raising more than $8 million for sick children by co-founding charity events. 

Hoff is also the former president of St. Paul Lutheran Church and is, or has been, involved with Vancouver Dawn Lions, Fort Vancouver Lions and Longview Noon Rotary. 

The Board Member             

Kathy Gillespie is the first candidate to emerge from the left. Less than a year ago, as the Democratic nominee, she lost to Pike in the general election. 

Gillespie said she was inspired to take another swing at the seat as she watched lawmakers in Olympia continue to squabble among themselves while managing to accomplish very little. 

“Last session has to be one of the worst on record in terms of legislation passed, time in session and really delivering value to people like you and I,” she told The Reflector after her announcement. 

She points to her work with an over $300 million dollar budget on the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors as evidence of her ability to effectively manage taxpayer dollars. 

“I think I’ve got the experience after eight years. I can build the relationships, work with people toward solutions and help government become more performance based,” she said. “Today we all are on the losing end of Olympia’s divisive, hyper-partisan squabbles. We see dysfunctional government and accept the disappointing result — our tax dollars wasted. The damage done by those who obstruct and divide has dimmed our faith in government, hurt our communities and eroded our trust.”

Gillespie has also made some tweaks to her second campaign. She kicked it off earlier than her first run and has a sophisticated campaign website up and running already, which, among other things, hosts a 45-second announcement video that she also shared on a number of social media outlets. 

“My goal in running right now is to remind people that the state government belongs to you. I think we can do a better job holding them accountable, setting higher standards, and letting them know when they are falling short — and I believe they’re falling short in some dramatic ways that are really impacting my life and your life, and it’s unacceptable.”  

It’s not lost on Gillespie that she’ll be asking for votes from residents of a district who have favored right-leaning candidates, but she thinks voters are frustrated with a lack of results and are looking for a change. 

“My sense is that voters can be fooled once, maybe be fooled twice — I’m not sure they can be fooled three or four times,” she said.  

Gillespie said Republican candidates who continue to stump on the idea of fewer taxes and limited government have not managed to make that happen. 

“I’m not aware of anyone who’s paying fewer taxes. In fact, we’re paying more,” she said, also pointing to the expense of three extra sessions lawmakers needed last session. 

“That doesn’t say to me that we’re having less government,” she said. 

“I think voters are smart people and look at the bottom line. And the bottom line says ‘let’s try something different,’” she later added.   

Gillespie has set her sights on her own version of limited government, noting at one point in her official announcement she wants to “restore limited, efficient and effective government that respects our priorities and doesn’t waste money."

Gillespie graduated with a degree in political science from Colorado State University in 1985 before entering the print media industry, where she worked as both an editor and reporter in Colorado, Arizona, California and Oregon. She has lived in Southwest Washington since 1991.  Both her children graduated from Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. 

Gillespie’s community volunteer work includes mentoring girls and serving as a Lunch Buddy and reading tutor at Fort Vancouver High.

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