Republican and conservative Independent candidates gathered in Chinook last week to meet with residents.
More than 150 people attended Pacific County Republican Party’s fall potluck. The night was filled with candidate presentations, one-on-one time with candidates, a generous potluck and a sense of excitement among attendees.
Candidates in attendance included U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler; 19th Legislative District State Rep. (No. 1) Jim Walsh; Joel McEntire, candidate for 19th Legislative District state representative, No. 2; Pacific County Prosecutor Mark McClain; Michael “Hawk” Runyon, candidate for Pacific County commissioner No. 3; Chief of Shoalwater Bay Police Robin Souvenir running for sheriff; and Debbie Oakes, candidate for Public Utility District 2 commissioner.
Susan Hutchinson, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s opponent, was unable to attend the event due to a debate, Party chair Nansen Malin said.
Malin enthusiastically hosted the event, often drawing laughs and cheers from attendees.
“If you only believe what you see on the news or read in the paper, you would think we have record-high unemployment, that wages have just dropped, that businesses are shutting their doors, that the debt is the worst it’s ever been, that we have no plan for economic prosperity and growth,” Herrera Beutler said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Herrera Beutler’s speech focused primarily on the economy and the country having “the best jobs market we’ve had in a decade.” She said the economy has improved significantly since 2016, benefiting small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs.
“The debt is a big deal to me. I don’t want to pass it on to our kids and grandkids,” Herrera Beutler said. “But with an economy at 4 percent, we’re paying that back and then some. That’s what happens when you unleash a free market and it’s working. It’s driving liberals absolutely nuts.”
Herrera Beutler also discussed her opponent Carolyn Long. She said Long wants to repeal the tax bill and commit to Medicare for all, which Herrera Beutler doesn’t agree with doing.
Walsh focused much of his speech on the reasons why he believes Republicans better serve constituents.
“The other guys talk a lot about common sense. They have common-sense gun control. They have common-sense tax function,” Walsh said. “We’ve got common sense, too, but the difference between our common sense and theirs is that ours brings things to you. It creates power, freedom of opportunity.”
Walsh said Republicans aren’t going to accept new taxes, and instead are going to focus on growing the economy so the existing tax structure generates more money. He also voiced support for Initiative 1634, but urged attendees to vote no on initiatives 1631 and 1639.
“I’m in this so my life and my kids’ lives and their kids’ lives will be better,” Walsh said. “All we have to do to provide is get back to our core values, that’s what we’re for. It’s not rocket science, it’s trusting people to provide for themselves.”
McEntire, a science teacher at John C. Thompson Middle School and with the Marine Reserve, is running against incumbent state Rep. Brian Blake. McEntire was campaigning while on deployment in Kuwait until about a month ago.
“I’ve been a lot of places, seen a lot of things and there’s no place quite like what we have in the 19th District. It really is like a Garden of Eden situation that we have if it can be preserved,” McEntire said.
McEntire said he previously voted for Blake, but no longer will because Blake “ends up voting in a way that’s no different than anyone in downtown Seattle” and doesn’t vote for what’s best for the district.
“If there’s anything I’ve been fighting against, it’s the fingers of Seattle that have stretched across the whole state and tried to bring their communist utopia to us out here,” McEntire said. “If you want to create a communist utopia, keep it in your city limits. Don’t bring it out here; we don’t want it.”
McClain is a one-term incumbent who has 18 years of legal experience. He says he’s created the state’s first mental health diversion program, founded the team responsible for ensuring the county had a children’s advocacy center, and hired a full-time civil attorney. During his speech, McClain said the prosecutor’s office used to file 150 felonies a year but filed 300 felonies in 2017.
“Really what makes your lives better is getting rid of these criminals in our community,” McClain said. “Before I got here, that just didn’t happen.”
McClain focused on some of the biggest cases that occurred during his tenure. He said his opponent, attorney Pam Nogueira-Maneman, wants to focus on defendants.
“That’s not us,” McClain said. “Our guiding principle in our office is first protecting our community and then changing someone’s behavior, so if we can’t change their behavior, we’re going to try to get them out of circulation for as long as we possibly can.”
Michael ‘Hawk’ Runyon
Runyon is running for county commissioner against Todd Stephens, assistant supervisor for the city of Westport. Runyon has owned and operated Hawk’s Rocks in Raymond for 31 years. He served as Raymond mayor and city councilor in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Since April, Runyon has been looking at improving communication between Public Works management, employees and the public; high turnover rates which have resulted in losing 20 employees within the last four years; and lack of training of hired employees.
“People do not even want to apply for jobs in the Department of Public Works. That is an issue, and we need to find out what the issue is and try to solve it,” Runyon said.
He focused on maintenance issues in the county, such as roads with chuckholes and drainage problems. He also said the upper Naselle slide area is an issue that needs addressing.
Runyon said if elected, he will work with the sheriff’s office to get more deputy coverage in the county. Other issues he acknowledged include abandoned vehicles, squatters and the “ever-present drug issue.”
Souvenir, Shoalwater Bay Police Department chief, has about 20 years of law enforcement experience. His experience comes from working for the Shoalwater Bay PD, Pacific County Sheriff’s Office and Bay Center Fire Department. He’s been the Shoalwater Bay chief for the last eight years. He also does motorcycle and firearms instruction.
Souvenir is running against Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson, a two-term incumbent.
Malin noted that Souvenir, who is running as an Independent, is fiscally conservative, which is why he was invited to the event.
Souvenir stressed the importance of the Sheriff’s Office’s reserve program. He said one of Johnson’s original campaign goals was to increase the reserve program, which had about 20 reserves at the time. The Sheriff’s Office only has two reserves now, Souvenir said.
“That hasn’t happened so that’s one of my priorities,” Souvenir said. “The reserve program is huge. It allowed community members to integrate with law enforcement and gave some of the younger folks the ability to test out law enforcement to see if it’s something they’re interested in. I have a burning desire to increase that because it’s important to me.”
Souvenir wants to set up a citizen advisory board so the Sheriff’s Office could get input from volunteers, which would help address issues such as abandoned vehicles, he said.
Oakes is running for PUD Commissioner Position No. 2 against Don Pape. Oakes is a longtime resident of the Peninsula. She and her husband, John, recently sold their commercial fishing business of 40 years. Oakes previously served as a school board member for the Ocean Beach School District in the 1990s. Her two adult children live on the Peninsula, as well.
Oakes is running as an Independent, but is active within the county’s GOP Party, Malin said.
“I’m fiscally conservative. That’s important to me and it should be important to you with your PUD because they have a multimillion dollar budget that the commissioners are supposed to be taking care of,” Oakes said.
Oakes said she hopes to work on creating a long-term strategic plan as PUD commissioner.
Oakes criticized Pape’s 42 years of electrical utility experience, 34 of which were with Idaho Power. She said the two utility districts are different, as Idaho Power’s “mission is to make a profit,” and serves a large metropolitan area.
Ballots should be received by mail by Oct. 25 for the Nov. 6 election.