Primary elections are not known for their tremendous turnouts. Now that the Washington state primary date has moved from September to August, it falls squarely in the middle of prime vacation time. Though the forecast for this election is a 38 percent voter turnout – which is on par with other “even year primary elections,” according to Clark County Elections Supervisor Tim Likness – we believe this primary includes races that demand a stronger than average turn out. Particularly with regards to the potential long-term effect on how we are going to do business in the region for years to come.
I can’t think of a more important local election in recent years, especially for business. Two of the three Clark County Commissioners are up for re-election, and one of the three Clark Public Utility Commissioners’ seats is open. State representative and state senate seats in a number of our districts are also open or hotly contested and will result potentially in a variety of new faces representing us in Olympia.
Focusing just on the county commissioner seats and the public utility commission position, let’s consider why the primary is so important this time.
In most years there might be three candidates for a position in the primary, but in most races there are only two candidates who could reasonably garner enough votes to make the general election. The current three positions total 16 primary candidates between them.
We should be ecstatic to think we have so many people interested in serving their community, especially in such “dubious” political and economic times. As with so many situations, interest alone doesn’t equate to quality or ability.
Each of these positions can have significant consequences for business given the scope of issues and policy the winners will face. For example, the utility commission will be considering what will happen with electric rates particularly as consumption is influenced by new, large power consumers. Should the cost of this power be born solely by the new user or should it be distributed over all the rate payers as has been the practice? How does the utility balance the mandate for “renewable” energy with the demand for power from the existing base of rate payers, let alone the growth that will inevitably come to the county?
The county commission will be dealing with issues highlighted in the Clark County Economic Strategic Plan, including infrastructure improvements that are critical to successfully recruiting new companies to fill up land already zoned for development. However, even well-planned growth comes at a cost. The cost will be either lost opportunity for jobs that would contribute to community-wide economic vitality, or the actual investment cost of advancing those infrastructure components under the belief that “if we build it they will come.”
These are only a few factors that point to the very present and urgent need from our political leadership for strong business acumen and decisiveness. We must also consider the fact that these primary races will be decided solely within the representing district, even though the candidates will be elected by a county-wide vote in the November general election. So for those of you who live in those districts and have historically waited for the general election to cast your ballot, reconsider. Failing to vote in this year’s primary may mean that the choice in the general election is between two candidates without the business skills or perspective to understand and decide on issues in a manner that best serves the community.