Allan Erickson easily fended off a challenge from former Longview Mayor George Raiter to retain the Longview Port Commission seat that he was appointed to a year ago.
Wednesday night’s election return shows Erickson leading with 58.8% of the vote, leading Raiter 8,492-5,802.
“I really look forward to being more deeply involved with what we’ve been doing,” Erickson said Tuesday night. “I’ve kind of been a step-child over the last year, and now that I have assumed to be the elected commissioner, I look forward to being more aggressive in terms of my positions ... and looking at long-range planning.”
Raiter said the early count was “clearly a very convincing victory for Allan.”
“The port’s been doing a good job. They’ve had good publicity. The commission is pretty solid. They have a great staff,” Raiter said. “I think this is people saying, “Leave it like it is.’ “
Erickson, 71, and Raiter, 77, were the finalists among five applicants to fill a vacancy on the port’s governing board last December. Commissioner Doug Averett initially moved to appoint Raiter to the position, but Commissioner Jeff Wilson declined to second the motion. Then, Averett moved to appoint Erickson, and Wilson agreed.
Shortly after joining the commission, Erickson indicated his desire to run for a full six-year term. The role is the retired Printing Arts Center owner’s first position as a public official.
Erickson said he wants to “minimize” the port’s annual levy, either by reducing it or eliminating it. The port has decreased its levy rate every year since 2014, and the current rate is 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $60 annually on a $250,000 home.
Erickson initially ran on a platform of eliminating the tax altogether, but he changed that promise because the port might need a small tax to continue financing infrastructure improvements for growth.
Most recently, he’s indicated his support of dropping the tax rate 11% in 2020. That’s compared to a second proposal by Commissioner Jeff Wilson to cut the rate in half.
Raiter said the commission should consider a rate drop in between those two proposals, suggesting a 25% reduction for 2020.
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Erickson called the difference in opinion about taxes a “secondary issue.”
“The reality is that the differences in philosophy in George and I were really minimal. We both want to see the port continue to grow and prosper. The path to make that happen is similar for both of us,” he said.
Erickson said he is excited to help the port create a new, long-term strategic business plan, and he’s “pressing staff” to find new clients and a potential tenant for Berth 4, the old Continental Grain Terminal that’s sat vacant since the 1980s when its tenants left.
During the campaign, Raiter touted his extensive history of public and private leadership roles, including positions as a Washington State legislator, a former Longview mayor and city councilman, a Cowlitz County commissioner and a manager at Weyerhaeuser Co. and the former Reynolds Cable Plant.
Raiter’s “name familiarity” was Erickson’s “biggest obstacle to overcome,” Erickson said.
“George had much better name familiarity than I did, but I have deep roots in the community as well, and lots of contacts. ... I would say if there’s something that made a difference in the outcome of this, I think it was that we (my campaign team and I) worked harder than they did,” Erickson said.
He added that he had “a lot of people that went out and sign waved for me in the evenings.”
During the campaign, Raiter was critical of the current commission’s relationship with port staff. He said the commissioners were directing staff when they should be directing the port CEO — the only port employee the commissioners directly hire and manage.
On Tuesday night, he said he would be interested in sitting as a citizen representative on an advisory committee at the port so he could “support the commissioners” in their decisions.
“I don’t think this was an election where the port was going to sink or fly based on either Allan or I being elected,” Raiter said. “I happen to think I was a better candidate and more qualified, but I don’t think (Erickson) is a weak commissioner. I think the community can look at the port’s future with optimism.”