The Daily News editorial board endorses Dennis Weber and Jack Hansen in the primary race for Cowlitz County commissioner.
If you were to design a political platform for Cowlitz County, it might not look too different from Weber’s stance. He’s a Republican who backs gun rights. He also has a teaching background, a strong history of supporting unions and favors the Kalama methanol project. It’s an unusual combination that makes him a good match for our community. Add in his political experience as Longview mayor and two terms as commissioner, and we think there’s a strong case to return him for a third term.
Weber proved himself a voice of reason during the debate about privatizing the Headquarters Landfill. Someday there may indeed be convincing reasons to turn over control to a private operator, but the bid the county received in 2018 didn’t pass muster, and Weber proved to be a steady hand. After a great deal of conflict, the county retained ownership of the landfill, but it improved the goals and standards for its staff. This outcome came as a relief to the cities and other landfill users, and the landfill generated a $6 million profit for the county in 2019. The part Weber played is a demonstration of his value.
We also value his perspective on the homeless problem. Much energy has gone into debates about sanctioned campsites, where they should go and what kind of rules should apply to them. Those questions are important, but others also need answers. Weber has consistently argued that it is cruel to simply corral people in one spot to consolidate the problem. We’re glad he’s asking “Why?” while so many others are asking “Where?”
Kurt Anagnostou is challenging Weber as an independent. Under other circumstances, we could have seen ourselves endorsing him as well. He too supports the methanol plant. He too wants the county to keep the landfill. He, too, has served as mayor of Longview.
Our concern is that voters have already shown they blamed him over the rift at the Cowlitz PUD sparked by his push to fire the general manager. In 2018, Anagnostou, then the incumbent PUD commissioner, was voted out of office in a 3-way primary — a ringing denouncement, considering all the things that weigh in the incumbent’s favor.
We’re not interested in rehashing those wars. What concerns us, though, is that voters made clear they didn’t like the way he handled the public’s business, and we question whether he could lead with credibility even if elected.
Instead, our second endorsement in this race is for Weber’s Republican challenger, Jack Hansen. Hansen had a career in the trades and places a high value on apprenticeship programs as a way to improve the county’s economic picture and provide blue-collar work that endures even in the downturns. When speaking with us, he even called out the performance of our local schools as something that makes Cowlitz County a tough place to recruit — a statement Weber challenged.
Between the state’s new court-mandated school funding rules and the coronavirus outbreak, it seems clear that education will remain on the front burner for the near future. Weber has a strong background in local schools, so we like a general-election matchup against an outsider candidate with such a different take on a high-priority issue of the moment.
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