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No Dems emerge yet in county commissioner election

Hoquiam City Councilwoman Jasmine Dickhoff says she’s not going to run for county commissioner, leaving the prospects of a Democratic candidate for the position dim. The situation paints a pretty dire picture for the local Democrats, who have complained about the Republican majority on the county commission for more than a year now, but can’t seem to field any candidates for the position.

That leaves Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines as the only for-sure candidate for the seat currently held by Commissioner Herb Welch, the first Republican to win the seat in more than a generation. Welch, who has been battling health issues, says he won’t file for re-election. Raines says she intends to file for the seat as a third party candidate and says she’ll list on the ballot she prefers the “Nonpartisan Party,” a political affiliation she has created, noting during her 14 years in Cosmopolis government she’s never been elected anything other than non-partisan.

Dickhoff would have run as a Democrat, she says. At this point, the only other potential candidate who has publicly said he has an eye on the seat is Al Smith. Smith, who lives about eight miles up the Wishkah, owns an alternative energy company and has been critical of the oil export projects coming to the Port of Grays Harbor. Smith says he’s attended a few Democratic meetings, but wouldn’t say what his party affiliation is at this point.

“Both parties in this county and this state and nation aren’t representing the electorate lately,” Smith said in an interview with The Vidette. “I will have a more definitive answer down the road. … I’ve been considering this a few years. This didn’t just happen yesterday. I am considering it and it’s being reviewed right now and when I make up my mind, I’ll make an announcement.”

Smith says he’s concerned with issues in the Assessor’s Office, with the prosecutor vacancy, staffing issues at the Sheriff’s Office and communication issues at the county. He says he’ll go into more details if he decides to file for office.

Smith was last on the ballot in the 2010 primary election, when he ran for PUD commissioner. He came in fourth out of four candidates, finishing with 15.4 percent of the vote. Dave Timmons ultimately won the election.

That PUD election was for the District 2 commission seat, representing the Aberdeen area. Smith says his house was re-districted into the new District 3 area — just like Raines was. District 3 now includes Cosmopolis, Hoquiam, Ocean Shores, Quinault and more of the Wishkah area than was there previously.

Filing week for public office isn’t until May 12. Among other county spots on the ballot are treasurer, auditor, assessor, clerk and prosecutor.

Dickhoff said she had been seriously considering running for months, but after talking with business leaders and friends and colleagues in local government, she decided to throw in the towel. She says at 27 years old, too many people thought she was just too young to win a county elected post.

“If your age comes up as a concern more often than your position or your hopes, that’s very telling,” Dickhoff said. “I’d love to say I could just go in and do it, and I’m sure I could have, but I’ll re-consider again in four years. The truth is it doesn’t matter when you run, you’re going to run against somebody.”

She says her fellow members of the Hoquiam City Council recently appointed her as council president, which she sees as a bit of a consolation prize.

Dickhoff says she’s not sure what the Grays Harbor Democrats will do to field a candidate this year.

“I’m a big believer in having people who want to run because they’re passionate about the job,” Dickhoff said. “I also don’t think you want people who aren’t public servants in these positions.”

For years, Welch was a precinct committee officer for the Democrats, but shocked his party in 2010 when he cast them aside, declared himself a Republican, and ultimately went on to defeat Democratic incumbent commissioner Al Carter by just 71 votes. He’s the first Republican in more than 50 years to hold the office of county commissioner. Now, joined by fellow Republican Wes Cormier on the Board of County Commissioners, it’s the first time since the 1930s that the Republicans have held the majority. Democrat Frank Gordon is also on the board.

Carter has said he’s not interested in running for office again. He had hoped Dickhoff would run.

Hoquiamite Jim Eddy said he was a big fan of Dickhoff’s too. For the record, Eddy, a former PUD commissioner, isn’t interested in running, either.

“I would like to see someone calling themselves a Democrat step up and run,” Eddy said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Taking a shot at Raines, who has attended Democratic meetings, Eddy says, “You know, we have a Democrat running. She just doesn’t want to call herself a Democrat.”

Raines is the only candidate to file campaign paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission to raise funds. She says she intends to represent everyone.