Voters re-elect two Kelso council incumbents, turnout Jim Hill in Tuesday election

Voters re-elect two Kelso council incumbents, turnout Jim Hill in Tuesday election

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Two Kelso City Council incumbents glided to easy victories Tuesday night, but Councilman Jim Hill lost his bid for a second term.

Lisa Alexander easily won the seat her husband, Larry, will vacate. She earned nearly 63% of the vote with 837 ballots. Her opponent, Washington State University political science student Thomas Loren, received 475 ballots.

“I am very proud of the campaign I ran. I worked really hard, and it paid off. I am truly thankful for my friends and family, who supported me through it all. I want to thank the citizens of Kelso for their votes. I am ready to hit the ground running,” Alexander said in a statement Wednesday.

Keenan Harvey, former executive director of the Cowlitz County Humane Society, unseated Jim Hill. Harvey won nearly 58% of the vote Wednesday night, outpolling Hill 775-548.

Harvey said Wednesday that he was surprised with the results because he “wasn’t overly confident going into the race.” Hill has a lot of support from older voters, which tend to turn out to vote better than younger citizens, Harvey said.

He was ultimately successful because he had a strong “ground game” of door knocking, sign waving and social media posts, Harvey said.

“Early on in my race, I ran on the fact that it’s important to flip at least one seat (on the council) because traditionally there’s a 4-3 majority voting one way on the council,” Harvey said. “We were able to flip the one seat with my race and I think it will change the political dynamic in Kelso.”

Hill did not return requests for comment Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Harvey said he gets along with everyone on the council and was pleased with the results in the other races.

“I have a lot of respect for Mr. Hill. I got some flak from some people for running an aggressive campaign, but it wasn’t personal at all. I disagreed with him on policy and management style, but I respect a lot of the good work he’s done and wish him the best in his future political career if he decides to continue.”

Incumbent David Futcher, who has been on the council for 15 years, defeated challenger Kelburn Koontz, earning 54% of the vote Wednesday with a 725-597 lead.

Koontz previously unsuccessfully ran against Futcher, who served as mayor for a decade before the council gave the title in 2018 to Nancy Malone.

Futcher said Wednesday that Koontz “wasn’t a horrible option,” but Kelso voters recognized that the council needed some continuity and experience.

“I try to work with everybody. I try to be a decent human being and one of the things I take from this election is that’s what the people in the community were looking for,” Futcher said.

Mayor Nancy Malone easily was re-elected over opponent Chris Jenkins, who had little to critique about her performance. Malone earned about 61% of the vote, outpolling Jenkins 805-508 .

“I sold myself well because I have done a good job and I know that I am approachable by the public, so I think that makes a big difference,” Malone said Wednesday. “And I stand up for what I believe in and I think the citizens know that. Even when I’m wrong, I have no problem admitting I’m wrong.”

She said she thanked Jenkins during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting for running a “nice campaign.”

“I would enjoy getting to know him better,” she said. “It sounds like he’s someone we could talk to in the future about homelessness and mental health.”

Malone, who has served as mayor for two years, said she isn’t sure if she would like to be re-elected to the leadership position.

“I don’t know if I want to sit back and be part of group discussion more so than running the meetings. I can’t say one way or the other,” she said. “If the council members want me to be mayor and vote for me, I will accept it and do my best.”


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