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Still some close races in the county and legislature

It’s not likely things will change much, but a few races remain too close to call

CLARK COUNTY — As the votes continue to be tabulated, some local candidates are planning their next steps. A couple, though, are still holding on to a sliver of hope that the rest of this week will bring better news.

We’ve covered the County Chair race here, which continues to be incredibly tight.

Attendees at Warehouse 23 on election night check results on a television. Photo by Mike Schultz
Attendees at Warehouse 23 on election night check results on a television. Photo by Mike Schultz

Here is a quick recap of some of the other local races.

17th Legislative District, Position 1 – Rep. Vicki Kraft (R) and Tanisha Harris (D):

Close races are nothing new to Kraft, who won her seat in 2016 by just over three percent after Lynda Wilson left to become a state senator. This time she leads Harris, a political newcomer, by just 801 votes, although that margin has more than doubled from election night, which around 30,000 ballots remaining to be counted.

“This is the 17th District,” said Harris on election night. “We have close races, and it usually comes down to that last day when the ballots are being counted to determine a winner.”

Kraft expressed optimism that, historically, later votes in Clark County tend to lean republican. Results from Wednesday night would seem to bear that out, but the race is still too close to call.

17th Legislative District, Position 2 – Rep. Paul Harris (R) and Damion Jiles, Sr. (D):

Harris is heading back to Olympia for a fifth term as Representative from the 17th District’s second seat. The republican defeated Jiles, Sr., a political newcomer. As of Wednesday Harris had a lead of nearly 8,000 votes.

“I just work across the aisle a lot,” said Harris, “listen to constituents, vote what I think my constituents want, and I think I have, and I will continue to represent them well.”

Larry Hoff (left) talks with 17th District Representative Paul Harris after both men appeared to win their respective races on election night. Photo by Mike Schultz
Larry Hoff (left) talks with 17th District Representative Paul Harris after both men appeared to win their respective races on election night. Photo by Mike Schultz

Harris was instrumental in helping to negotiate what became the McCleary funding fix, but said he’s disappointed with the bill that was ultimately approved at the end of the last session. While he said McCleary is done, the legislature will need to make changes to avoid a new school funding crisis.

Meanwhile he hopes to tackle issues with how the state deals with people in a mental health crisis, as well as expanding reimbursements for medicare in order to increase access to care for people in Washington.

18th Legislative District, Position 1 – Rep. Brandon Vick (R) and Chris Thobaben (D):

This race looks sure to remain in republican hands, as Wednesday night saw Vick’s lead widen to more than 11 percentage points.  Vick will be entering his fourth term representing the 18th District.

17th District Legislator Brandon Vick talks with Don and Janet Scott during an election night event at Warehouse 23. Photo by Mike Schultz
17th District Legislator Brandon Vick talks with Don and Janet Scott during an election night event at Warehouse 23. Photo by Mike Schultz

“Campaigns are about doing the work right?” said Vick. “When tonight’s over, campaigns are over, it’s time to do the work. Regardless of who’s in charge, regardless of what the margins are, we all got to get down to work for the people of Washington and that’s what I plan on doing.”

Thobaben ran a spirited race, but says he felt like they got too late of a start to get his message out. The political newcomer said he’s hoping to run for the seat again, and will start his campaign at least a year before the next election in 2020.

18th Legislative District, Position 2 – Kathy Gillespie (D) and Larry Hoff (R):

In the August primary election, Gillespie and Hoff were the only people on the ballot. In that race, the democrat won by just over three percentage points. As of Wednesday night, those primary results had more than flipped, with Hoff pulling ahead by just over four points. While the 3,100 vote lead is not insurmountable, it appears the 18th LD-2 seat will remain in republican hands after Rep. Liz Pike decided to step away from politics.

“Anytime you enter any kind of competition, you have to know you may emerge victorious or you may fall short,” Gillespie said on election night. “For me personally, I’m just feeling really proud of what we’ve done, and as the coming days and weeks pass by we’ll figure out what’s next.”

Gillespie stepped down as chair of the Vancouver School Board in order to fully commit to running this race, after coming up short against Pike in 2016, and appeared to have much of the momentum coming out of the primary.

“We’re excited,” Hoff says. “It’s been a lot of work and to tell you the truth I’m already a winner. Getting to meet all the folks in the 18th district was an absolute win for me.”

Hoff ran primarily on a business-friendly platform, and said he will push for the conversation around the area’s transportation issues to focus on a third bridge across the river. The former credit union CEO says he’s excited to potentially move on to this next chapter — though he said it’s premature to say whether he hopes to remain in Olympia on a long term basis.

Vancouver City Council, Position 1 — Laurie Lebowsky (incumbent) and Sarah Fox:

Lebowsky won her seat through a selection process, after Scott Campbell was elected to city council after passing away in 2017. Lebowsky beat out 56 other contestants, including her opponent this year. Sarah Fox is currently senior planner for the city of Camas, and was surprised in August to find out that she had finished second and was headed to the general election.

18th District Legislative candidate Chris Thobaben (right) talks with Vancouver City Council candidate Sarah Fox on election night at the Clark County building. Photo by Mike Schultz
18th District Legislative candidate Chris Thobaben (right) talks with Vancouver City Council candidate Sarah Fox on election night at the Clark County building. Photo by Mike Schultz

As of Wednesday night, Fox was trailing Lebowsky by only 448 votes, or just over four percentage points.

“I just really came into this race … thankful for all the support that I’ve gotten,” said Fox. “That’s really boosted me, and kept me going in this race.”

The veteran and single mother said she ran just as a way to give back. And it’s possible that Fox could still end up on the city council.

Current Vancouver council member Alishia Topper appears to have a lock on the Clark County Treasurer race, meaning that there will be another vacancy next year.

For her part, Lebowsky wouldn’t say specifically if she would support Fox for that empty seat, saying the process needs to take place.

“I have tremendous respect for Sarah,” Lebowsky told CVTV, “She ran a great race, and she was a great candidate.”

Fox says she’s still interested in being on council, but said she felt it was too soon to speculate about applying to fill Topper’s soon-to-be-vacant seat.

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About The Author

Chris Brown

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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