One race will feature a former council member against a multiple runner-up
VANCOUVER — The race for Vancouver City Council’s open Position 6 seat will likely come down to a pair of familiar names in area politics.
After initial results on Tuesday night, it was a virtual dead heat between Camas City Planner Sarah Fox and former County and City Councilor Jeanne Stewart.
First-time political candidate Diana Perez was still in the running, trailing by 635 votes with an estimated 11,000 ballots remaining to be counted.
“I know odds are probably slim, but you never know, and so I remain with that hope,” said Perez on election night. “I’m just glad that I did as well as I did.”
The race for the council’s lone open seat, left vacant after Councilor Bill Turlay decided to retire and not run for re-election, drew plenty of interest. Seven candidates ran, including four who had never run for elected office before.
For Mike Pond, who was in fifth after the initial round of votes were counted, it was his second try. In 2015, at the age of 27, Pond finished third in a bid for the Clark County Council seat ultimately won by Julie Olson. In the years since, he helped to manage several other campaigns.
“The top two had some pretty fierce name recognition and that’s hard to beat,” said Pond of Tuesday’s results. “Learned a lot, grew a lot, you know, have a lot to be proud of.”
Pond, who was hoping to become the first Vancouver City Council member under the age of 35, said this is very likely to not be his final time running for public office.
“I knew all of this would be worth it, whether or not the payout was tonight or in the future,” he said. “I ran a campaign I’m proud of and left it all out on the field and so whatever comes next, we’ll see.”
“This has been a horse race from the very start,” Vancouver businessman Paul Montague told CVTV.org after the results came in. Montague finished next-to-last with 8.74 percent and said name recognition, in his mind, played a major role in the outcome of the race.
“I don’t think there are any givens,” said Stewart. “I don’t think the voters go ‘oh, she’s been around, I’ll vote for her again.’”
Perez, who declared for the race back in February, says she believes the number of candidates, and the similarities between many of them, perhaps watered down the race a bit.
“I wish that we would have worked better together to really strategize on moving forward the candidate bench,” said Perez. “Because, in the end, people ended up stealing votes from each other. And I think that that could have made a big difference in the outcome.”
Stewart disagrees, saying she feels like voters actually are paying attention to where candidates stand on the issues.
“Most decent people vote their conscience, to some degree their pocketbook, and a thoughtful way of recognizing and solving problems,” said Stewart.
Fox, who finished second to Laurie Lebowsky last year and was a finalist for the seat Erik Paulsen was named to fill earlier this year, said she believes her persistence showed voters she’s serious about serving the city of Vancouver.
“I feel like I’ve been campaigning for a year and a half,” she told ClarkCountyToday.com. “I think the more people that I meet, the more people realize that I’m not looking for this to be a stepping stone to some other political gain. I really am in it to represent the city of Vancouver on the City Council.”
Fox, who served with the U.S Army during the gulf war, says she also has a background in construction and small business. She currently serves as city planner in Camas.
“It’s not just that I care about all these different interests, it’s that I’ve lived it, you know?” says Fox. “So when I say that I’ve been a small business owner, that means that I understand the issues that are facing small businesses, and increasing taxes and fees and permits has a big impact impact on a small business.”
Fox, who was surprised by her close finish last November, said she was no less surprised this time around to see she was on top of the primary ballot.
“My personality is a little more mellow than maybe others, and so faced against so many opponents, I wasn’t sure how it would all play out,” says Fox. “You know, my polling is showing I’ve got 100 votes going into this race, you know, how many more do I need? I don’t know. So I was just as surprised this time as I was last year.”
In the other Vancouver City Council race on the ballot, current council member Erik Paulsen will move ahead, after pulling in 64.3 percent of the vote.
“I don’t take this for granted,” said Paulsen. “This is my first time in front of the voters and asking them to make a decision and support me, and so I’m really gratified that they chose to do that.”
Paulsen will face Maureen McGoldrick who, like Fox, has been close to a seat on the council several times but always come up short. McGoldrick was in the building to observe the ballot counting process, but did not stick around after the results were in and was not available for comment.
Paulsen served eight years on the city’s Planning Commission before being named to fill the seat vacated when Alishia Topper became Clark County treasurer. He says the move to City Council has, in some ways, been a natural transition.
“I think I’ve also already proven the skill set that I have of, you know, articulating things in a manner that resonates with my fellow council members and brings people together on issues behind sort of a common sense of purpose,” said Paulsen.
The winner of the Position 2 race in November will only be for the remainder of Topper’s term, which is for two years.
Other council races
The ballot in November will include two council races not on the Primary ballot. Councilor Ty Stober is facing off against bail bondsman David Regan in a bid to be re-elected to the fifth seat. The race was not on the ballot because it’s a top-two primary and there are only two candidates, plus it is a nonpartisan position.
Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Bart Hansen will also be up for re-election to the Council’s Seat 4, though he is running unopposed.