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Voter Primer: Southwest Washington's Nov. 3 Election

The 2015 election in Washington state is all about local races. Voters in southwest Washington will elect candidates for mayor, city council, ports and county-wide seats.

While voting is underway, the Washington Secretary of State’s office is projecting a little less than 50 percent voter turnout. Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 3, to count, or voters can drop ballots off at drop boxes around the county.

Here’s a look at a few of the races that are getting attention:

Clark County Council

In Clark County, voters will elect two new members to the county council, formerly the county commission.

Voters are finishing something they started last November when they passed a new charter, which changed the county’s form of government.

As part of the new charter, the county created four districts for council members to represent and added a countywide chair position.

Voters are electing the District Two position – a race between Republican Julie Olson and Democrat Chuck Green – and the at-large council chair – a race between Democrat Mike Dalesandro and Marc Boldt, who doesn’t state a party preference.

Clark County Republicans are waging a write-in campaign to elect state lawmaker Liz Pike for the district-wide chair position. Back in August, Republican candidates didn’t get enough votes to make it through primary chair position. Washington has a top two primary system, meaning the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation.

Currently, Pike represents Camas in the Washington state legislature. Her name won’t appear on the ballot, but backers of her campaign are trying to get voters to write her name in.

Pike isn’t campaigning for the seat, but she has registered, so her name will appear in the results. Registering also means that if voters that don’t write Pike’s name correctly on the ballot, but clearly intended to vote for her, their votes will get counted for Pike.

A PAC advocating for Pike has raised more than $45,000 and the Clark County Republican Party has spent close to $200,000 on advertising and other campaign related activities on her behalf.

Port of Vancouver

Many important issues face the Port of Vancouver, but a proposed oil terminal is what’s driving the race.

Current port commissioner Nancy Baker is not seeking re-election, making it an open seat.

Vancouver Port Candidate Eric LaBrant opposes the oil terminal. He argues that it’s dangerous to the community, especially for those who live close to the port. LaBrant also has said the oil terminal is not good branding for the community and not the kind of investment the port should seek.

He’s raised more than $130,000, most as in-kind contributions, largely from Washington Conversation Voters.

Vancouver Port Candidate Lisa Ross has said she supports the oil terminal. Ross believes it’s an opportunity for jobs and to help build the local economy. She’s concerned that if the oil terminal doesn’t get built another part of the state or the West coast will get the construction and other jobs associated with the oil terminal.

Backers of the project have said in the past that the terminal will create more than 300 construction jobs in the short term and about 200 additional jobs once it’s up and running.

Ross has raised more than $55,000, most of it cash. Some of her big donors include the backers of the oil terminal: Tesoro Companies and Savage Industries, as well as Vancouver Real Estate Developer Clyde Holland and Clark County Councilor David Madore.

It’s not clear exactly how the outcome of the race will affect whether or not the oil terminal gets built. But observers see the election as a way to measure community support for the energy project.

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