PACIFIC COUNTY — Campaign season is officially underway, with several first-time candidates and a few important local races that are likely to be hotly contested.
During the May 14 to 18 filing period, a total of 18 candidates filed in county and regional races.
Pacific County Auditor Joyce Kidd, Assessor Bruce Walker, Superior Court Clerk Virginia Leach and Treasurer Renee Goodin, all incumbents, are running unopposed.
Under Washington’s top-two system, the two leading vote-getters in each race in the Aug. 7 primary election advance to the Nov. 6 election.
Two-term County Commissioner Lisa Ayers has decided not to run again. Three newcomers are vying for her seat: Michael “Hawk” Runyon, Todd Stephens and Pebbles Williams. All three are from Raymond. Williams is a Democrat. Stephens and Runyon are running as Independents.
Runyon, 63, has owned Hawk’s Superior Rocks for about 30 years. He is a married father of four adult children. From 1996 to 2006, he served six years as a Raymond city councilman, and four years as mayor.
Runyon said that if elected, he would focus on infrastructure projects such as slowing erosion in the northern part of the county, improving communications and morale in the Department of Public Works, and ensuring that county officials are hiring people and buying products locally whenever possible.
“I want to hit the ground running,” Runyon said. “I like to get things done.” He said that to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, he would sell his quarry if elected.
Stephens, 52, works for the City of Westport’s water department. He has about 25 years of experience working in wastewater treatment and other public works roles in the region. A married father of two high-school aged boys, Stephens is a former Raymond city councilman, and current Port of Willapa Harbor commissioner.
“I’ve been involved in the whole process in various roles,” Stephens said. “I’d like someone in there who has experience in the arena, can make informed decisions, and doesn’t have an agenda.”
Hairdresser Pebbles Williams, 53, has owned a salon in Raymond for about 30 years. A married mother of two adult children, Williams previously served in a Parents and Teachers Association, helping to bring a new $100,000 playground to a Raymond school. She has been a Raymond School District director for 10 years.
If elected, Williams says she would put her leadership and business experience to work for the county.
“I know how to run a budget. I’ve been with the school board and running my own business,” Williams said. She plans to spend much of her time over the coming weeks learning about the duties and needs of the county’s various departments.
“I will be doing a lot of learning, which I love,” Williams said.
One-term incumbent Prosecutor Mark McClain will face two challengers, including one of his own employees: attorney Pamella Nogueira Maneman, 27, of Raymond, and Deputy Prosecutor Eric Weston, 61, of Menlo. All three are running as Independents.
Originally from Brazil, Nogueira Maneman emigrated to the U.S. after doing a foreign exchange program in Pacific County. She married a Pacific County native, Todd Maneman. She earned her law degree from University of Washington, and clerked for former Pacific County Superior Court Judge Michael Sullivan. As a criminal defense, family law and personal injury attorney for the Aberdeen firm Ingram Zelasko, she is a regular presence in Pacific County Superior Court.
Nogueira Maneman, who sits on the county’s drug court board, promises a more progressive approach to dealing with offenders through programs like the drug and mental health courts — and tougher sentences when rehabilitation isn’t a realistic option.
“If someone comes through and we believe that the goal with this person is to rehabilitate, we need to make sure we have programs that are up-to-date and that comply with evidence-based rules,” Nogueira Maneman said. “We can’t just put people through to give them more rope for a later date.”
Weston is the father of one adult daughter. His long-time partner is the director of Special Education for Raymond schools. Weston earned his law degree from University of Oregon. He served as a public defender and prosecutor in a variety of public agencies in the Northwest before going to work for the state of Washington’s Office of Public Defense, where he trained public defenders. After being laid off in 2009, he ran a low-cost family law clinic in King County. He joined the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office as a deputy prosecutor about four years ago. He has handled felony criminal and civil law cases for the county.
Weston said that if elected, he would provide a more collaborative, more effective approach to reducing local crime rates. He has given notice at the prosecutor’s office.
“The current prosecutor has a one-note theme to his work — put as many people in prison for as long as possible,” Weston said. “He claims that this will make us safer, but the crime rate keeps going up. Addiction is getting worse. Mass incarceration will not solve our problems.”
Sheriff Scott Johnson ran for his second term unopposed in 2014. This time, the Democrat will face two opponents, including one of his own deputies.
Deputy Sean Eastham, 41, of Naselle, began his law enforcement career as a South Bend reserve officer in 1995. He went on to work for the Camas Police Department before joining Pacific County Sheriff’s Office in 2006.
A married father of three school-age kids, Eastham is running as a Republican. In addition to owning a small business that provides burials at sea, Eastham is vice-chair of Coast Pregnancy Clinic, a pro-life nonprofit in Astoria, and serves as the law enforcement liaison to South Pacific County Humane Society. He recently began substitute teaching on his days off.
Eastham promises to do a better job of managing the perpetually broke office’s budget, improve efficiency, and overhaul deputies’ schedules to provide more consistent coverage.
“As a deputy I am very familiar with all of the issues we’re facing. Being in that position, I can also see solutions to those problems,” Eastham said. “I’ve voiced those ideas over the years, and change never happens. It’s about being in a position to make those changes.”
Independent Robin Souvenir, 42, of Bay Center, got his start in emergency services as a Bay Center volunteer EMT and firefighter and Pacific County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy, before getting hired by the small Shoalwater Reservation police force. After about six years, he joined PCSO as a deputy sheriff. He was hired as Chief of the Shoalwater Police Department about eight years ago.
Souvenir has attended a federal Indian Police Academy and Washington state’s police academy. He is also a firearms instructor for several other police agencies in the county, and a ham radio operator who volunteers with emergency preparedness groups. He and his wife have a high-school-aged daughter.
Souvenir says that if elected, he would address public safety issues like drug problems, jail overpopulation, and law enforcement coverage gaps. He promises greater transparency and community involvement.
“I have witnessed a need for positive change and for a clear and common vision in the Sheriff’s Office,” Souvenir said. “… My team-approach leadership style will motivate and help the department and the community work towards a common vision.”
Long-time incumbent Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, faces two Republican challengers to his Position 2 seat: Cathlamet teacher Joel McEntire, and Kelso resident David Parsons.
Parsons could not be reached in time for the Observer’s Tuesday print deadline.
A married father of three school-aged children, McEntire, 30, served a two-year mission for his church and joined the United State Marine Corps before earning a Bachelors in evolutionary biology, and, in 2018, a Masters in Mathematics education.
He currently teaches middle school science and language arts. He is also a Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, and expects to conduct part of his campaign from abroad — he is due to be deployed to the Middle East in the near future. He is the current chair of the Wahkiakum County Republican Party.
If elected, McEntire says he would push for safer schools and a more business-friendly climate, and advocate for the needs of rural communities. “Many policies are drafted in Olympia by people that have never been to the communities in Southwestern Washington, and they don’t know the damage that these policies can do to our communities,” McEntire said. “This campaign is about giving the 19th LD its voice back.”
One-term Republican Jim Walsh also faces a challenger for his Position 1 seat, Democrat Erin Frasier, 39, of Adna.
A married mother of two school-aged girls, Frasier recently earned a Doctorate of Education in organizational leadership. She spent about ten years working in various roles at the Grays Harbor Community College campuses in Ilwaco and Raymond. She now works for the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.
Much of her work has focused on workforce education, youth advocacy and policy development. Frasier oversaw the Pacific County Democrats’ annual crab feed for several years, and now serves as the Democrats’ Washington State Committeewoman for the 19th Legislative District.
Frasier said that if elected, she would use her extensive experience in public service and policy to bring more opportunity to the region.
“My history is here, my roots are here. I want to be able to ensure that we’re getting the resources we need,” Frasier said. “I want to see us moving ahead and not keep standing on the sideline waiting for things to happen to us.”
Three are vying for Pacific County Utility District commissioner No. 2 to replace Diana Thompson, who is retiring.
The candidates are Donald Pape, with 42 years of electric utility experience in Clark County and in Idaho; Debbie Oakes, a former Ocean Beach School District director; and Dan Whealdon, an Ilwaco real estate agent. The Observer will have more on this race in coming weeks.
Four Democrats and three Republicans, including incumbent U.S. Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, filed for Washington’s Third Congressional District seat.
Nearly 30 hopefuls filed for the U.S. Senate seat up for a vote this year, including incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell.