Voters on Tuesday turned out two Port of Columbia County commissioners in favor of two candidates who oppose the agency’s industrial development plans at Port Westward.
In a photo finish, challenger Nancy Ward defeated incumbent Patrick Trapp for commissioner position 1 by only 89 votes. Ward took about 40 percent of the vote to Trapp’s 38 percent, and Stephen Hanson took 21 percent of the vote.
The difference between the two would have had to be within a 0.2 percent margin to automatically trigger a recount under Oregon law. The margin between the two was 1.28 percent as of Wednesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon about 9,500 ballots had been counted. Columbia County Elections Clerk Don Clack said a small number of ballots remain to be counted, giving a “wild guess” that 100 or so are untallied.
In the race for port commissioner 2, challenger Chip Bubl won 51 percent of the vote over incumbent Mike Avent of Rainier, who took second place with 31 percent. Amie Jo Kopecy earned 17 percent.
Larry Ericksen, running unopposed, will retain his seat on position 3.
Both Bubl and Ward have raised concerns with the port’s six-year old effort to rezone 837 acres of port-owned farmland in the Port Westward for development. The outcome of the election leaves two of the port commission’s five members potentially opposed to the idea. How that plays out while the appeal process continues is uncertain.
“It isn’t that we’re opposed to the rezone,” Ward said Wednesday. “We’re opposed to a blanket process. I don’t think any of us deny the fact that we need jobs in this county. ... (but) I have great concerns with, one, not following the rules as they were laid out by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, and, two, what is the industry? This matters a lot. I’m very nervous of industry that uses fossil fuels, especially if shipped outside of our country.”
One of the Port’s potential projects for its Port Westward property is to lease space to Northwest Innovation Works to build a methanol refinery at Port Westward, just like the one it is trying to get permitted at the Port of Kalama.
Next Energy has expressed interest in building a renewable diesel facility in the area. And port officials say they’ve had interest in the area from manufacturers of soda ash and solar panels.
In other election results, measure 5-273 to renew funding of the Columbia 911 communications district was passed by a landslide 74 percent vote. But measure 5-274, which would have placed a five-year tax to fund the Rainier Cemetery Maintenance District, fell by 41 votes, or a 2 percent difference.
At the Rainier School District, Elaine Placido retained her seat with 54 percent of the vote. Ralph Brown and Allen Cash took 27 and 19 percent, respectively.
Bruce Holsey took the only contested race for 911 Communications District director, winning 55 percent of the vote. He won by a margin of 98 votes against challenger Barbara Odoms.
Tiffani Penson took Portland Community College District Zone 2 Director with 66 percent of the vote.
Voter turnout sits at about 25 percent for the election, which Clack said is almost exactly where he expected it to fall.