Election 2020: Clark County Council, District 3 seat


Republican Karen Bowerman and Democrat Jesse James battle for District 3 seat after John Blom loses Aug. 4 primary

CLARK COUNTY — The Nov. 3 general election is almost here, and the League of Women Voters Clark County (LWV) wrapped up their final candidate forums for residents to watch through a Zoom call format streamed on Clark/Vancouver Television, Wednesday night. 

On Wednesday (Oct.14), the candidates for Clark County Council faced off; including the race for the District 3 seat. Incumbent John Blom ran as an independent in the Aug. 4 primary and was ousted by Republican Karen Bowerman and Democrat Jesse James. 

In the primary, Bowerman received 44.3 percent of the vote and James received 33.89 percent, while Blom received only 21.57 percent. 

This report focuses on three key questions and candidate responses from the forum. To view the responses to all questions, visit CVTV.org. Due to poor audio quality from Bowerman, her responses have been inserted from an emailed statement. James was given the same option, but did not send responses in time. His originals are seen here.

Opening Statements

Karen Bowerman
Karen Bowerman

Bowerman began:

“Why running for the office:  I’ve always had a belief that although our adult lives are a mix of activity, they also follow a flow from emphasis on rearing family, to focus on career, to emphasis on service to others. Giving back through community service is of special importance to me now, and I seek office because I can bring a wealth of experience in business and public service.  Voters can count on the principles that are firmly rooted in my experience, from not raising taxes on one hand and fiscal restraint on the other, to emphasis on job development.”

Bowerman also touched on her two man goals if she were elected, and how she would initiate plans to execute them. 

“[Number one is] small business and job development and [number two is] less government control and regulation. Those immediate goals weigh strongly because of the need to support struggling families and businesses as they pull through pandemic effects. Business must experience a clear permitting pathway from Clark County as new business emerges from the closures we’ve had the last few months.”

Jesse James
Jesse James

James followed:

“I’d like to say thank you to the League of Women Voters of Clark County for hosting this forum. Thank you for your dedication to the democratic process. I’ve lived in Clark County for over 40 years. I’m a longtime resident, I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time. My wife and I began buying our home in District 3 about 10 years ago. Together we have two beautiful children who attend elementary school here in the Evergreen School District. I’m running because I want to see a good future for my kids. Our campaign is working for everyone. For you and your children alike. We envision a more equitable and sustainable Clark County for all.”

Question: The county is facing serious public health challenges. How do you see the county planning for these challenges both financially and programmatically? What kinds of policies if any, will you pursue to promote public health in our county?

James began:

“First, regarding COVID-19, we need leadership we can trust. We do not need councilors arguing anecdotal stories with our top health official over the effectiveness of masks. When our top health experts try to explain the science we don’t need counselors who feel they are getting the ‘talk to the hand’ treatment. We need counselors who trust the science and experts. We need leadership, not partisans who use a deadly disease for some sort of political gain. Our COVID-19 cases in this county are beginning to skyrocket right now. I believe, in part, due to leadership who attend political rallies unmasked, not distanced, and arguing that this virus is just the sniffles and we have to open up our schools.”

James’s comment is a reference to Council Chair Eileen Quiring and Councilor Gary Medvigy attending an outdoor campaign event for Washington gubernatorial candidate, Loren Culp.

“This sets an example for many in our community. A potentially deadly example,” he added. “We are not going to get out of this pandemic until we listen to the scientists, doctors, the epidemiologists. I will pursue and promote policies that are recommended by our health officials. We should also convene a board to create a pandemic plan for our county before the next virus hits us.”

Bowerman followed:

“The council must seek and receive funding to support public health efforts. At this point, anticipated $80 million federal funding falls millions short because the state has kept more than its fair share. The Council must remain aggressive in going after that which is deserved at the County level. Councilors: Do not be tempted to add additional ongoing new expenses for new programs. ‘Tax More to Spend More’ is not the approach to get us through these serious challenges. Our budget is almost $500 million. A ’Tax to the Max’ approach is not necessary, and gives unneeded burden to our residents.”

Bowerman went on to explain her thoughts on pandemic response and how she would support aspects of the current plan, but significantly change others. 

“Policies from Public Health must be data-driven, communicating the best available research. Those bases must be included in reports to the Councilors sitting as Board of Health in clear, direct non-political terms. The Public Health Department’s mission is good, but what are the measurable goals and plan in each area? Clark County had 76 cases per 100,000 but yesterday, only 3 weeks later, we had 100 cases per 100,000. Why such a big change in the wrong direction?”

Question: What is the county’s responsibility in dealing with homelessness and the lack of affordable housing? What specifically would you propose to address these issues?

James began:

“As the cost of housing increases for most of us, the cost of luxury apartments has been going down. We seem to be going about this backwards. We should be encouraging the building of more ADUs both on private and public properties. Accessory Dwelling Units are an attractive option to transition homeless from shelters to their own homes as they recover and work for a better life. They can also provide a low cost rent alternative for seniors on fixed incomes and young people wishing to move out on their own. Good public transit also plays a role. Affordable Housing becomes even more affordable when a person does not need to buy gasoline or pay insurance premiums. We should strengthen and expand C-TRAN services.”

James drew some parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic effects and the rise in homelssness as well as shortage of affordable housing.

“As COVID-19 continues and the eviction moratoriums and foreclosure moratorium expire, we are looking at a serious houseless crisis on the horizon. We must be aggressive in addressing the cost of housing. All ideas to address this issue should be on the table not just my own. We must do what we can to ensure that our friends and our neighbors don’t find themselves on the streets.”

Bowerman followed:

“The short answer is a combination of compassion and intervention. The County already has a budget of about $15 million in different agencies to deal with local housing and homelessness. Estimates of the number of Clark County persons who are homeless varies depending on the source from 1,000 to 3,000 – including way too many children. We are fortunate to live in a caring community. But caring shouldn’t jump directly into giving a small house. What about dealing with substance abuse? Mental illness? Job training? Theft? Spousal abuse?  All of those factors have additional budgets attached to them in Clark County and they are important.”

Bowerman said she sees faulting law enforcement agencies for the issues surrounding homlessness increases as unfair, and that solutions should involve a more holistic approach.

“In Clark County we have, and should continue, the Coordinated Entry for Shelter Hotline through the Council for the Homeless as a way of organizing how people in need access emergency shelter. In addition, our Emergency Rent Assistance Program provides assistance related to COVID-19. I applaud churches here that provide Safe Park overnight. I applaud enforcement of laws for public safety such as legitimate permits to park overnight in front of residences. Enforce the laws and require caring, tough intervention.”

Question: What specific measures can the council take to help individuals and businesses recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. And how would you fund them?

Bowerman began:

“Some measures require no additional funding. Reopening responsibly is critical to the survival of our small businesses. The timing of re-opening of the economy for small business will, in many cases, determine if they are able to survive or not. I am committed to reducing regulatory burdens on small business. The public health department needs to be known as a central location for providing individuals and small businesses testing information, tips for safe reopening and information to find emerging data on COVID-19.”

Bowerman went on to share about her volunteer work and how she believes private sector volunteers can partner with small businesses to keep them afloat.

“The council must seek and receive state and federal funding that is offered to support outreach from the public health department. Many small businesses and their employees will need additional financial assistance, and legislation is necessary to prevent higher unemployment insurance taxes.”

James followed:

“This pandemic has hit the county hard, the county will not be able to recover quickly all on its own. We’re going to need state and federal help. It’s my hope that the politicians in DC will get their act together and do what is right for the people. Locally, we need to make sure individuals who have been hit hard are able to stay in their homes and avoid eviction. Make sure they retain utility and water services so they may stay healthy and warm during this winter.”

James explained his plan for cutting businesses required property taxes to lessen the burden during closures. 

“Businesses should not have to pay property taxes for the days they have been ordered to close. Taxes should be prorated, and the county should seek reimbursement from Olympia. We will get through this together, wash your hands, wear your masks and please practice your social distancing.”

No closing statement was provided by Bowerman, so these statements have not been included.





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