Incumbent Ann Rivers and challenger Rick Bell appear headed to general election in race for Washington State Senate 18th District

Bell, the lone Democrat, garners the most votes in primary election, and Rivers edges Camas resident John Ley in the battle of two Republicans

It appears Sen. Ann Rivers will advance to the November general election to face a challenge from Democrat Rick Bell in the race for the Washington State Senate in the 18th District.

Rick Bell • Ann Rivers • John Ley
Rick Bell • Ann Rivers • John Ley

In a race that featured two Republicans and the lone Democrat, Bell has emerged from the Aug. 4 primary with the most votes. Rivers appears to have a comfortable lead over fellow Republican John Ley in the top-two primary. Bell has garnered 39.50 percent to advance to the November general election. Rivers, who haas received 32.24 percent, holds a lead of 1,579 votes over Ley, who has received 28.26 percent. The results were updated at 5:25 p.m. Wednesday by the Clark County Elections Department.

By his own admission, Ley said Tuesday night it would be a reach for him to garner enough of the remaining votes to catch Rivers.

“We figure I will need 55-60 percent of the remaining votes,’’ Ley said after the initial results were reported Tuesday night. “We know the late voters trend Republican and they trend conservative Republican. We expect to close the gap, but it’s a reach. We’ll know Friday night for sure. Perhaps Thursday night if I don’t close fast enough.’’

Rivers was confident her lead would hold.

“Yes, as votes continue to come in my lead may go up or down, but it should hold, so I am moving on towards the general election at this point,’’ Rivers said. 

Despite receiving fewer votes than Bell in the primary, Rivers said she was encouraged that the two Republicans in the race received almost 60 percent of the votes.

“I’m really encouraged by how many conservative voters came out to vote in the primary,’’ Rivers said. “It is telling for the general election that people are fired up about what’s happening in Olympia right now between the COVID response and concerns about the economy. Those are the two things I heard most about during the primary campaign. But also, in looking at the numbers, I believe I garnered some crossover support. I know that in elections past  that’s been the case and so I appreciate that there were Democrats and Independents who crossed over again. I think voters in the district really have always been people over party, and my interpretation of the numbers bear that out.’’

Bell agreed with Rivers on the people over party theme.

“I’m very happy that the voters were receptive to our message of ‘Better Healthcare, Lower Prices,’ which is key to solving some of our future economic challenges like closing the budget gap and fully funding education,’’ Bell said. “This primary race was interesting and though only two candidates will move forward, I think all three candidates found voters with whom they resonated.

“The general election race will be an entirely different dynamic where party will not be as important as what we offer in the path forward,’’ Bell added. “I think that many voters are personally seeing their incomes and savings diminished by healthcare costs and nothing has been done to fix this.  I have worked in healthcare technology for 20 years and have dedicated the last four years of my life to developing solutions to improve quality and lower costs.  My job from now to November is to show voters what I can bring to Olympia to help improve their lives: ‘Better Healthcare, Lower Prices.’  Ultimately, the voters will decide which path they want to take.’’

Obviously, Bell and Rivers both hope to gain support from those who voted for Ley.

“We need more voices in politics, not fewer,’’ Rivers said. “What a robust primary election allows for is debate, contrast, and ultimately, a choice for voters about values. In the general election, I think most people who voted for John will unify because we both campaigned on similar issues of accountability in Olympia. Checks and balances are important, and having experienced leadership matters to voters. Tactically, my goal is to just keep talking to all voters about the issues our community faces, and why Southwest Washington needs a seat at the policy table in what will likely be one of the most difficult legislative sessions imaginable next year.’’

Bell realizes he still must introduce himself to the voters during the next few months.

“We have a great deal of work to do in letting the voters get to know my story and what I’d like to do for them in Olympia on affordable, high-quality healthcare,’’ Bell said. “Then we have to show how solving the problem of healthcare costs will help close our budget gaps.  But the real question is whether the voters want to keep the status quo in the legislature or challenge it.  I’d like to forge a new path forward with a fresh perspective that is free of the old baggage.’’