Commissioner candidates face off

Fog hung over the links during the early morning debate at SunLand July 25, but the three candidates for Clallam County Commissioner District 2 were clear on their goal, to win over Sequim Sunrise Rotary members.

While voters in District 2, the Port Angeles area, will decide which two candidates will move on to the November general election during the Aug. 19 top-two primary, all voters in the county will decide which candidate will join commissioners Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, and Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness.

Sequim’s politically active land surveyor Dave Cummins moderated the forum, directing candidates when to talk and accepting audience questions.

Republican Terry Roth and Democrat David Fox, both of Port Angeles, are challenging incumbent Mike Chapman, who opted to run without party affiliation for this third term.

During his first two terms Chapman was endorsed by the Clallam County Republican Party. However, after backing Tharinger during his re-election campaign in 2007, the party rescinded its endorsement of Chapman.

In opening remarks each candidate discussed issues and solutions. Roth was the first to speak.

He cited real estate data to exemplify a faltering economy. He said in 2007 he posted 171 real estate transactions while doing nonjudicial deeds of foreclosure and that in 2008 he’d only done 60.

“I want to stabilize this economy,” he said. “I plan on keeping taxes at a minimum to handle the necessary county services.”

Fox talked up his service history, stating he’s worked with all tiers of the socio-economic ladder.

“From a zoning change to whether or not to allow a new big box store, my decisions will consider a balance of issues and will consider effects to all people no matter the demographic,” he said.

Chapman stood by his record on the board of commissioners, citing an increase in budget reserves and a net decrease in county employees while finishing a jail expansion, hiring a new judge and prosecuting attorney.

“Clallam County has no debt,” he said. “Yet we are increasing our ability to handle services.”

Growth Hearings Board

Rotary members asked for the candidates’ reactions to a recent Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board decision to label some county zoning noncompliant with the Growth Management Act.

“The board’s decision shows a disconnect between what people want to do with their land and what the law dictates,” Fox said. “We must work within those rules, even if we don’t like them, while we work on changing them to suit our area.”

Roth indicated the decision left the county lame in regard to land use.

“By a stroke of the pen this board wiped out billions (of dollars) in potential revenue and land use,” he said. “The only way to respond is with good legal advice and by rallying legislators.”

Chapman discussed the county’s reaction to the decision, a two-tiered route that both seeks compliance while challenging the decision in court.

“We have spent a lot of tax dollars defending property rights in this county,” Chapman said. “We created a new civil prosecuting attorney position and have Douglas Jensen, one of the best land use attorneys in the state.”

What to change, stay the same?

Rotarians asked if the candidates were going to ride the national wave of change or if things should remain the same in Clallam County.

Chapman said one thing that should stay the same is his spot on the board.

“I chair a four-county transportation group and I’m seeing funding go to traffic infrastructure, more than $40 million overall,” Chapman said. “You can see passing lanes going onto the (U.S. Highway) 101 and in a couple years you’ll see parts become four lanes.”

Fox indicated more could be done for marketing the community and suggested taking advantage of the 2010 Olympic Games.

“We have unprecedented opportunities to use for our local economy,” he said. “Like the 2010 Olympics or the Rayonier site.”

In respect to change, Roth said it was time to have a new commissioner for Port Angeles.

“We’ve had eight years of a commissioner that considers the spot to be part-time,” he said. “This position will not be a hobby to me.”

What qualifies a candidate?

Chapman said a candidate should be judged by his or her experience with government and a commitment to the community.

“This person needs to be imbedded in the community and it’s imperative to partake in activities, service groups, faith organizations and the business community to gauge constituents and bring that back to the board,” he said, indicating he is not part-time. Chapman is a pastor at Olympic Vineyard Christian Fellowship.

Fox said dedication to public service is a top qualifier.

“Look at Patty Murray, who has done a great job, she was a mother in tennis shoes but she held that commitment to public service,” he said.

Fox is an attorney in Port Angeles and has an extensive background in legal, government and volunteer work across the nation.

Roth said a commissioner needs to be someone involved in local government and who can run a business.

“The commissioner needs to be someone used to signing paychecks,” he said. “Not everything comes from Olympia, so the ability to make good decisions is important as well.”

Roth is president of the Port Angeles Downtown Business Association, a retired law enforcement professional and was twice on the Clallam County Charter Review Commission.

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