Clark County Democrats reflect on election losses

If Democrats want to win future elections in Clark County, they need to focus on registering more people to vote in the Democratic-leaning 49th Legislative District, and increase voter turnout, a defeated Joe Tanner said last week during a meeting of the Clark County Democrats.

“That’s exactly how (President Barack) Obama won,” Tanner said. “He had a much better ground game.”

Tanner and others shared statistics regarding the 2012 general election during a meeting on Jan. 14. Tanner’s stats showed that in his failed Clark County Commissioner race, the parts of Clark County who typically favor Democrats had weaker voter registration than other areas.

Tanner ultimately lost to incumbent Republican Tom Mielke by more than 6,000 votes.

In the more conservative 18th District, 85,070 people registered to vote, and 82 percent of them cast a vote. By contrast, in the more liberal 49th District, just 73,684 people registered to vote and only 78 percent of those registered actually cast a vote.

In the 17th District, which elected Republicans and Democrats in this last election, 69,328 people were registered to vote and 78 percent of them voted. Each legislative district has roughly the same population.

Rather than campaigning to voters in his own party, Tanner said he focused on independent voters during his campaign.

“Well guess what? The Democrats didn’t vote,” he said. Tanner added that he campaigned aggressively in the 18th District during the primary, using up half of his campaign money.

Democrats agreed that they need to address the challenges of registering voters in the 49th District. Is the population in the 49th more transient? Are they younger or poorer? Do they have cultural barriers to voting?

The Democrats invited me to talk about my reporting on a Columbian story that broke down election results precinct by precinct. (They weren’t the only ones interested in that story. Longtime Clark County Republican Mike Gaston requested the maps we made to be printed and mailed to him.)

PCOs energize the base

Clark County’s Republicans and Democrats had much different precinct committee officer situations during the 2012 campaign season. That’s important to note, because PCOs play a large grassroots role come campaign season, Democrat David Shehorn said at the Democratic meeting last week.

Precinct committee officers are members of the party’s central committee and choose who should serve in party leadership roles as well as help recruit candidates and determine which candidates to support using the party’s resources. They also play a role in selecting interim state legislators if a lawmaker leaves office prematurely.

Last year, a movement to shift Republicans to the right, philosophically, gained the party several PCO seats that had been vacant. There are 222 voter precincts in Clark County, and each of them can have one Democratic and one Republican precinct committee officer — although some seats remain vacant if nobody runs for the job.

Clark County Republicans have 210 of their 222 PCO seats filled.

The number of Democratic PCOs in Clark County: 82.

Shehorn noted that in most cases, Tanner earned more votes than Mielke in the precincts that had a Democratic committee officer.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or or or

Scroll to top