VANCOUVER — It’s 7:30 p.m. and local results haven’t yet started rolling in, but Clark County Democrats gathered at the Young Democrats of Clark County’s Election Night party at Warehouse 23 are buzzing with hope and optimism.
“I’m feeling really excited about what’s going on locally,” said Rich Rogers, chair of the Clark County Democrats. “I think people are feeling frustrated in Clark County. They’re ready to see some changes locally.”
On a big screen at the end of the room, numbers roll in from the presidential election. Cheers go up when Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the three West Coast states, but a hush is in the air as it becomes more and more apparent that Republican Donald Trump could become the nation’s next president.
“I’m anxious about what’s going on nationally,” says Susan Marmolejo Kipp.
The 69-year-old artist is dressed in an all-white outfit, paying homage to the U.S. suffragettes who fought 100 years ago for women’s right to vote. She’s stepped outside the events room at Warehouse 23 for a moment and is trying to stop worrying about the presidential race.
“I told my husband, if Trump wins, I’m moving … I’m going to Mexico and I don’t know if I’ll come back,” Marmolejo Kipp says, wryly.
Inside the Election Night party, local candidates are mingling with some of the local Democratic Party’s most loyal supporters.
Tanisha Harris, a Democrat running for Clark County Council, Position 3, is taking pictures with her supporters and looks like she’s having a great time at the Election Night party. Harris was 194 votes behind Republican John Blom in the first results released Tuesday night.
“It’s been a journey,” Harris tells Linda Garcia, a Democrat supporter from Vancouver who has come over to hug Harris, a CASA program specialist for the YWCA of Clark County.
Asked what made her start that journey, Harris says she simply felt like it was time for a change.
“It was time to make a difference,” Harris says. “I felt that it was time to bring respectability back to the county council … to have new leadership and to give people in this county a voice.”
A lifelong Democrat who grew up in Clark County, Harris says she has always been a fan of Hillary Clinton’s and that she was pulling for her candidate to be the first woman president of the United States.
Nearby, another Democrat candidate for Clark County Council, Roman Battan, who was running against Republican Eileen Quiring for the council’s Position 4, said he also felt it was time for a change on the county level.
“I believe in good governance and I would like to see us get back on track at the county level,” said Battan, who trailed Republican Eileen Quiring by a significant margin (60.36 percent to 39.52 percent) in the first batch of results.
Battan added that being a part of county government is not a very exciting job — in fact, much of governing a county means taking care of the things that people don’t often think about, like stormwater management and road maintenance — but that the current county government seems to be spending too much time on issues that distract from getting the job done.
“Folks are saying that (the county government) has gone off track,” Battan says. “I want to help get us back on track.”
At a table near the back of the room, a group of longtime Clark County Democrats watches the national numbers roll in and try to keep calm.
Wiley McCallum says he was born in Clark County but moved to Colorado for about 30 years before coming back recently. His Colorado friends told him he was lucky, because he was moving to Washington, a “blue state” that typically goes toward the Democrats in national elections.
“But when I got back here, I realized that we have (Republicans) Liz Pike and Ann Rivers and Jaime Herrera Beutler running things here,” McCallum says. “I’d like to see the Democrats win those local races.”
Roni Battan and Halina Lewandowsky, standing near McCallum, nod in agreement.
“Clark County is changing,” Battan says. “There are younger Millennials moving here who are more open, more diverse, more open to global issues … and a lot of progressive people from the Portland area are starting to move here. So I think things are going to start changing in Clark County.”
Lewandowsky, who moved to Clark County 35 years ago from Poland, says worries about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.
“The type of hatred that I’ve heard in this election worries me,” Lewandowsky says. “But I have hope for the local and state elections … here, in Legislative District 18, with Justin (Oberg) and Eric (Holt), we have a chance to have Democrats in those positions for the first time in about 30 years.”
For Ian Coker, 32, of Battle Ground, the prospect of getting progressive candidates like Eric Holt into local government positions excited him so much that he dedicated nearly 40 hours a week — on top of his regular, 40-hour-a-week IT job — to campaign for Holt and other local Democrats.
“I grew up in a conservative place in Texas and I was always politically outspoken,” Coker says. “But when we moved here in 2013, I realized that I could give speeches, but if I really wanted to make changes, that wasn’t enough, so I became a Bernie Sanders delegate.”
Coker says he has met a number of young Democrat progressives in Clark County over the past year and that he feels the times are changing in the historically conservative-leaning county.
“If more Democrats here are willing to work together, we can move the needle,” Coker says.