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Candidates make their case at Kelso rally

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Kelso rally

At Saturday's politcal event in Kelso, candidates, inclouding Washington State Supreme Court Justice Charles Johnson, did thei speaking from a flatbed trailer parked in front of the Pacific Barber Shop

About 80 people gathered Saturday in downtown Kelso to hear speeches from nearly a dozen candidates for local, regional and state office in the Nov. 4 election — including some who don’t stop often in Cowlitz County.

Kelso barber Bill Ammons organized the rally, where local candidates for prosecuting attorney, sheriff, county commissioner and PUD comission made speeches along with-out of-town candidates for congress and Washington’s Supreme Court.

Third Congressional District candidates Bob Dingethal, D-Vancouver, and U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, both shared ideas for fostering local economic growth.

“We need to make sure people are getting taken care of, that they get fair wages and fair benefits,” Dingethal said. The longtime winery owner said he believes the working class “holds together” most businesses today. With so many dropouts, “it makes it really hard to build an economy where you have less than 5 percent unemployment,” Dingethal said of the dropout rate.

Dingethal said he’d like to see leaders participate in more town hall forums. They are a critical means of expression for citizens, he said, even if they do allow people to “get in your face” sometimes.

“That’s America,” Dingethal said. “That’s how you learn to think, be involved and make informed decisions.”

Herrera Beutler said radical environmental regulation threatens local jobs. She said the economy doesn’t need to be sacrificed to protect the environment.

“That’s not something Southwest Washington can afford,” Herrera Beutler said, blaming environmental extremism for higher energy rates. “If we pull some of those things back and use science as a basis we’re going to see more job opportunities.”

Supreme Court Judge Charles Johnson touted his endorsements from the Washington State Patrol, Association of Washington Businesses and organizations representing police and firefighters. The wide range of labor endorsements show he’s an impartial and fair judge, he said.

Johnson asked voters not to disregard the Supreme Court race just because it appears toward the bottom of the ballot. His opponent, Eddie Yoon, was not present.

“(Ammons) reminded me that the voters in Cowlitz County are as important as the voters anywhere else, and I agree,” Johnson said. “I’ve always had strong support in this county.”

Ammons organized the rally in front of his Pacific Avenue barber shop to inform the public and encourage voting, he said. He hopes to follow it up with a year-long voter recruitment campaign, he said. “I just think it’s so important that more people get a piece of the action here,” Ammons said.

Justin Pittman covers law enforcement and courts for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-577-2523 or


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About 80 people gathered Saturday in downtown Kelso to hear speeches from nearly a dozen candidates for local, regional and state office.

There’s a glut of money in local races in Cowlitz County this year as newcomers duke it out over a seat on the county commission and the long-time county prosecutor fights for her job.

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