Port of Kalama commission incumbent Alan Basso easily defeated challenger Gary Wallace Tuesday in a general election race that was a defacto, nonbinding referendum on the proposed $2 billion methanol plant.
Basso, running for his second six year-term, won 65.9% of the vote, besting Wallace 1,149-585.
“We, being the port, we won this one and will keep moving forward on things,” he said Tuesday night.
Wallace is an an outspoken opponent of the methanol project that would be built near the Steelscape plant on port property. A key state decision on the project is expected by December. The plant would convert natural gas to methanol for shipment to China.
The race was a chance for the Kalama area residents to voice their opinion on the project, though even if Wallace had been elected, the two other commissioners are still in support of it.
Basso, 58, supports the project as a way to bring in jobs and revenue. The company said it would create 1,000 construction jobs, 200 permanent positions and generate millions of dollars in local taxes.
“I think the voters spoke,” Basso said. “They like what we’ve been doing here.”
Wallace, 67, argued the plant is not a good fit for the area. He said Tuesday night that he put his hat in the ring to give people the opportunity to make a choice, and thinks that now more community members will pay more attention to the port.
The race focused primarily on the controversial project, but the candidates also highlighted developing the port’s Spencer Creek Business Park and increasing recreation areas as priorities.
Kalama City Council
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Kalama voters also decided on three new members for the five-member City Council.
Wendy Conradi beat out Sara Hutchinson for the seat currently held by Councilman Mike Dennis-Langham, who decided not to run for re-election. Conradi captured 61% of the vote and led 409-263 Wednesday night.
“I think Kalama was ready for a change,” Conradi said. “The council and citizens were not aligning. People were ready for a new perspective and new opportunities.”
Steve Kallio won 63% of the vote in the race for Councilwoman Rosemary Siipola’s seat, defeating John Flynn. Kallio led Wednesday, 425-246.
Kallio said he was nervous at first about the low voter turnout, but he said he is “thrilled” with the results.
For Councilwoman Mary Putka’s position, Matthew Merz led Tanaja Gravina by 58 votes. Merz captured 54.7% of the ballots and led Gravina 367-299.
Merz said Tuesday he is looking forward to “reducing taxes and increasing tourism.”
Putka and Siipola had already been eliminated from contention by the August “top two” primary election, victims of the council’s controversial decision to build the new $2.7 million police station Maruhn Park. The conflict gave rise to complaints that the council didn’t listen to citizens.
With the August appointment of Jon Stanfill to a vacant seat, the five-member council will have four new members.