Election 2016: Decision time for Stevens County and Washington State

By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff

Americans across the country will be making their vote on Nov. 8 and Stevens County is no exception to the rule. From the federal down to the local levels, several races will affect how people’s lives are governed.

“This election is going to affect the very future of America,” Stevens County Republican Party Chairman Grant Peterson said.

Peterson added that the Republican headquarters, located in Chewelah, has been consistenly busy during its four-month operation with people asking about how to get registered. He said that he’s seen an influx of people who haven’t voted or voted only a few times in previous elections now wanting to get a ballot in their hands.
Getting out and voting isn’t a partisan thing either.

“You can vote from the kitchen counter, it is free, it is easy and it’s important,” Karden Hardy, Communications Director for the Stevens County Democrats, said. “We have an elected democracy, we don’t have a king, queen and the only people that can fix things they see are wrong are everyday Americans voting.”

Here are some races to watch with input from both local Stevens County Republican and Democratic parties.

STEVENS COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Two of the three county commissioners are up for re-election. Republican Wes McCart – who has been a commissioner since 2012 – is unopposed in the District No. 1 race. Incumbent Republican Steve Parker and Democrat Matt Wolohan are vying for the District No. 3 spot.

“Matt has been very interested long-term in local politics,” Hardy said. “He wants to steer Stevens County into a more progressive and positive direction while understanding that we are living in a conservative rural county.”

Hardy cited his work in working for clean water and clean air, and his ability to work with corporations to find a solution that works for everybody.

“Our current crop of commissioners is considering shutting down Tri County Health, and then where do we go?” Wolohan wrote in the voters’ pamphlet. “There has also been a local push by our commissioners to take back federal land. Nearly everybody in the country will be impacted by these plans. It’s time to stand up to radical plans that will not only change our way of life but go a long way to take away the things that make living here the special place that Stevens County is.”

Wolohan is running against incumbent Steve Parker. Parker stated in the Stevens County voters pamphlet that he has worked diligently to bring improvements to county governance through budget reforms and bring stability and security in county finances.

Peterson of the Stevens County Republicans feels that Parker has been a team player with the other commissioners along with state legislators and constituent groups to address and find solutions to the county’s needs. Peterson said Parker has a track record of making sure the county works within its revenue and maintains critical services while living within a balanced budget while being responsive to citizen’s needs and requests

He added that Wolohan is more of a political unknown compared to Parker’s business and commissioner experience and record of working with other elected officials. He also contended that the county commissioners, through committees and the inclusion of other elected officials, are not shutting down Tri County Health but trying to update and modernize the Tri County health structure, which is badly needed and is something being led by Wes McCart.

Parker stated in the voters pamphlet that he has worked consistently to resist government regulation, and spent countless hours meeting with state and federal agencies to make our county desires heard.

Both Parker and Wolohan are from Northport.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 5
US State Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the incumbent running against Democrat Joe Pakootas. Peterson said that Rodgers has a strong track record voting conservative in constitutional issues such as the second amendment and budgeting issues.

Peterson added that McMorris Rodgers has an A+ rating from the NRA, while her opponent has a D rating. Cathy, he said, also favors the balanced budget amendment, cost-benefit analysis for rule making, the replacement of the failing Obama Care and a focus on strong defense and national security. As the fourth-ranking Republican member of Congress, she was able to lead the development of a new House leadership plan which identifies specific plans for a healthy economy, creating jobs, leading on health care, security for our nation and the development of a new tax structure. The development of this house plan could not have been developed by a junior member of congress. Peterson contends.

“She was also a critical player in ensuring the new refueling wing was based at Fairchild Air Force base because McMorris Rodgers is respected and is so high-ranked in the federal government,” Peterson said.

“Cathy is responsive and has been in the district time after time even when she is not running for election,” Peterson said. “She is very accessible and present in this area. In contrast, we haven’t seen our governor here or our two senators.”

Peterson also contends that Pakootas originally supported Sanders and now Hillary Clinton, a ban on assault weapons, Obama Care and single payer systems along with the removal of Columbia River Dams. Peterson also said that Pakootas supports free college and a $15 statewide minimum wage.

Hardy of the Stevens County Democrats said that Pakootas would be a very important change in Congress that would break the current deadlock on obstruction and stagnation. She highlights the work that Pakootas has done for the Colville and Spokane tribes and said he has the skill set to represent the county and state well. She added that he doesn’t have corporate or Wall Street ties.

“Joe has been very proactive working on the environment,” Hardy said. “He understands that you have to develop businesses and the economy around here but that you don’t have to sacrifice our natural treasures.”

In the voters pamphlet, Pakootas highlighted a $10 million dollar economic turnaround with the Colville tribe and his landmark lawsuit against Teck Cominco to force them to stop polluting the Columbia River. Pakootas said in a campaign visit in Chewelah that he is a gun owner and would support common-sense legislation that requires criminal background checks, bans military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

PUBLIC LANDS COMMISSIONER
Republican and former U.S. Navy Commander Steve McLaughlin is running against Democrat Hilary Franz.

McLaughlin contends that careful management of Washington’s three million acres of trust lands to provide for school construction is a constitutional mandate.

The Stevens County Republicans’ Peterson contends that McLaughlin’s opponent Franz is a west-side based and funded environmental attorney and green activist that was the executive director of Futurewise.

“More than half of DNR land is permanently conserved for protecting endangered species,” McLaughlin stated in the voter’s pamphlet. “The remaining working forests must provide a steady stream of revenue for our schools and protect jobs in rural communities.”

Peterson said that to ensure this, McLaughlin’s priority is to ensure healthy and safe forest lands that minimize fire hazards while maximizing timber, mining and grazing products.

In the voters pamphlet, Franz said that she will work to restore healthy forests and implement wildlife prevention while ending dangerous steep slope logging. She also added that she will protest working farmlands and forests from development pressures to enhance opportunities for farmers, forestry and recreation.

“Hilary Franz has been working for twenty years protecting Washington’s public lands while finding solutions for sustainable businesses,” Hardy said. “She has worked closely with many of the people and groups that are necessary to form a working solution to improve our wildfire prevention plans, protect our wildlife, protect the quality of our water and ensure we have sustainable plans in place for all our natural resources.”

Franz stated in the voters pamphlet that she wants to promote clean energy jobs, implementing a renewable energy plan on public lands that creates job growth, curbs carbon pollution and reduces impacts on vulnerable communities.

Peterson said a fear is that Franz’s past affiliations with conservation and environmental activist groups and actions will lead to attempts to find alternative ways to fund schools other than through forest revenues. This action would lead to further reduction of timber harvest and further negatively impact the county’s economy and the health of its forests.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a two-part “Races to Watch” so pick up next week’s paper as well. You can still register at the Stevens County Courthouse in Colville until Oct. 31, and your mail-in ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 8.