After an election night count showed one of four seat-seekers in the Washington State Legislature districts representing North Clark County leading as a Democrat, updated numbers show Republicans will continue to represent the area even after a drastic redrawing of district boundaries.
As of press deadline, three newcomers to the statehouse and one longtime serving lawmaker are poised to take the victory. All but one of the seats featured new candidates after last year’s redrawing of district boundaries left previous leaders out of their respective districts.
17th Legislative District
As of press deadline, Republican Kevin Waters held a solid lead over Democrat Terri Niles for the 17th Legislative District’s position one seat.
On Monday morning, Waters led with about 53.1% of the vote, while Niles had roughly 46.7%. Waters will replace current Republican Rep. Vicki Kraft, who was drawn out of the district last year and unsuccessfully ran for the state’s Third Congressional District.
For position two, incumbent Republican Paul Harris had a stronger lead in his race against Democrat Joe Kear. As of Monday morning, Harris had about 54.6% of the vote to Kear’s roughly 45.3%
Harris maintained a lead starting with the first count of ballots on Nov. 8. In a Nov. 10 interview, he said about two-thirds of voters in his redrawn constituency are new to him.
“It’s different in population and geographics, but I think the voting (preferences) is about the same,” Harris said.
In the past, the district included urban development both in and to the north of Vancouver city limits, but it now covers the east part of Clark County, and also includes Skamania County.
Although Skamania County is more Republican, areas like Camas balanced the voting demographic, which made it more like the previous makeup of the district. Harris said this played to his strengths as a lawmaker. First elected in 2010, he feels his track record appealed to voters.
“I’ve always done well in a ‘mixed bag’ area, to be quite frank. I’ve always listened to the people really well,” Harris said. “I think just being aware of the issues and listening to people is the most important thing.”
Harris said his focus for 2023 is reworking some of the recent law enforcement reform legislation and working on substance abuse treatment resources for incarcerated people.
“I think with the recent spike in inflation and in crime, both, we need to pay our officers more. We need to give them better training, but we need to give them the respect that they deserve. It’s a very difficult job,” Harris said.
More state resources for homelessness issues is another priority of his.
“We need to help these individuals. Having them camp is not compassionate,” Harris said. “We need to find facilities for them, get them the help that they need.”
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said public health departments have been more prominent in the services they provide.
“I think we’ll see a reinforcement of public health” in the next session, Harris said.
18th Legislative District
Both seats for the state’s 18th Legislative District feature newcomers, though the district is set to remain Republican-controlled.
As of Monday morning, Republican Stephanie McClintock had about 52.4% of the vote, with Democrat John Zingale taking roughly 47.5%. Zingale initially led in the first count with about 50.7%, though the lead shifted in subsequent counts.
“I kind of prepared myself that I might be down in the first couple days,” McClintock said.
She noted a shift in what the top issues were during the campaign. When she first sought election to the seat, crime was the number one issue among would-be constituents. As the months went on that changed to a greater focus on inflation as prices for nearly everything increased.
McClintock said speaking on behalf of people like herself, with families feeling the strain of rising prices, is chief in her plan in Olympia.
“I want to just go and be an advocate, and I continue to push that message,” McClintock said.
Though she didn’t have a full game plan laid out as of Friday, given the uncertainty with tens of thousands of ballots left to count at that time, McClintock has a number of committees she would like to sit on. She works in public relations for a Portland-based grain export company, so she said agricultural concerns are among her top focuses for her in Olympia. The daughter of a retired law enforcement officer, public safety is another issue she’s paying attention to.
By press deadline, the district’s position two seat had Republican Greg Cheney with about 54.7% of the vote, against Democrat Duncan Camacho’s roughly 45.1%.
Cheney believes focusing on issues that mattered to a “broad swath of the community” led to his polling success. He mentioned the hike in gas tax planned for 2023 specifically.
“It doesn’t matter what your political views are, you’re going to be paying more at the pump come January,” Cheney said.
Cheney noted he hit the streets shortly after filing week as he went door to door on Memorial Day weekend.
“There is no better way to learn what your voters want than by simply standing at the doorstep and listening to them,” Cheney said.
Cheney said his team would analyze the election data “to see just how purple” the newly-drawn 18th Legislative District is. In the past, it sprawled across the east and north of Clark County, but it is now centrally located in the county and includes Battle Ground.
Cheney, an attorney by trade, said he is going to bring a small business-minded approach to Olympia, something his predecessor, fellow Republican Larry Hoff, was particularly focused on.
“I’m going to be focusing on helping small and medium (sized) businesses, particularly when we’re coming into a recession, helping them stay and thrive in our environment in this kind of economic uncertainty,” Cheney said.