Will Stuart waltz to another four-year term?
Who’s stepping up against Big Stu?
As in Steve Stuart, the chair of the Board of County Commissioners, one of three people who control a total two-year budget of just over one billion dollars.
Heading into filing week, Stuart and Auditor Greg Kimsey are the only two local officials without announced opponents. Kimsey, who came into office after winning in 1998, ran uncontested in 2006. So that’s no shocker that he may go unopposed.
But an uncontested race for county commissioner?
Elections supervisor Tim Likness said that hasn’t happened in the 30 years he’s been with the county.
Likness did a little research and said his records, which go back to 1934, show that every commissioner has had at least one opponent, even if it was only someone from their own party.
In 2006, Stuart beat Republican Bruce Hagensen after raising $260,000 to Hagensen’s $88,000. In 2005 — a special election because Stuart had been appointed to fill Craig Pridemore’s seat after voters sent Pridemore to the state Senate — Stuart beat Tom Mielke. The race between Stuart and Mielke, now a fellow commissioner who had moved into Stuart’s district to run against him, also ranked among the most expensive commissioner races in county history.
Ryan Hart, chair of the Clark County Republican Party, said the party approached people several months ago who live in Stuart’s district, (District 3, or the city of Vancouver) about running but no one stepped forward.
“They just determined it wasn’t the right time to jump in the race,” Hart said. “We’ve been recruiting. We’ve got a week to go.”
Could it be that Republicans don’t want to bother raising tens of thousands of dollars to try and unseat Stuart when Republicans already control the board with Mielke and Marc Boldt, both of whom won’t be up for re-election until 2012?
No, Hart said.
“All partisan races are a priority for the Clark County Republican Party.”
The last Republican to serve from District 3 was the late Mel Gordon, who beat Busse Nutley in 1994 but was ousted by Pridemore in 1998. Nutley followed Democrat John McKibbin.
The deadline to file is 5 p.m. Friday. Candidates have to pay one percent of the annual salary as a filing fee, so for the $97,224-a-year commissioner’s job that would be $972.
As for Stuart, he said he fully expects he’ll get a challenger.
Even though he doesn’t see the job as partisan. In fact, when the board votes 2-1 it’s sometimes Stuart and Boldt voting down Mielke.
“We deal with issues, not politics, and those issues don’t run down party lines,” Stuart said.
— Stephanie Rice