MONTESANO — County Commissioner Herb Welch says he’ll likely bow out of running for re-election next year, which would create the district’s first open seat without even an appointee placeholder in many years.
However, Welch says he has no plans to resign from his seat, despite recent months of ailing health, noting he feels better than he’s felt in a long time.
“I think I can finish up my term,” said Welch, who became the first Republican to win a seat on the Board of County Commissioners in more than a generation. Welch now serves with fellow Republican Wes Cormier and Democrat Frank Gordon.
Welch’s announcement comes as Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines announced her candidacy recently for the seat. The boundaries for Grays Harbor County District No. 3 consists of Cosmopolis, Hoquiam, Ocean Shores, Amanda Park, Taholah and the rest of the North Beach area. Raines declared herself 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.
Raines made her candidacy announcement at a gathering of friends, supporters and the media on Nov. 7.
At least one other candidate is in the wings with the Grays Harbor Democrats. Hoquiam City Councilwoman Jasmine Dickhoff, 27, says she’s considering running for county commissioner as a Democrat. Dickhoff told the Grays Harbor Democrats last week that she wasn’t quite yet prepared to declare her candidacy, but that she’s seriously considering it. Dickhoff has said for months she’s been considering a run for the seat, even talking to people at the Grays Harbor County Fair about the possibility, but says she’s not ready to make a formal announcement for a couple more months.
“I absolutely am considering running,” Dickhoff said. “The reason I’m considering it is in the last six years of being on the Hoquiam City Council, we’ve been able to re-open the jail, make sure we have a quality water system for the next generation, installed miles of new sidewalks and built a new fire station. We’ve done so much that I think if I had been able to help do that with our town and seen this done that we can do this at the county level and help improve the county’s programs.”
Former County Commissioner Al Carter, who lost his seat three years ago to Welch by a razor-thin margin, says he has no desire to run for commissioner again. Today, Carter works full time as the safety and compliance manager for Ocean Gold in Westport.
Carter says he hopes Dickhoff announces for the seat.
“She would do a great job at the position,” he said. “I’ve known her since she was a little girl. She was friends with my son growing up and she’s doing a great job now.”
Welch noted that the last time he ran for office it was a really hard fought victory, winning the election against Carter by just 71 votes. During the campaign, his mother died and the stress of campaigning also took its toll. Stress is not something he wants to deal with as he’s recuperating. He just recently got out of a medical bed and into a wheel chair and started attending county commission meetings in person again.
Welch said he knows some of his supporters are already backing Raines, who had both Republicans and Democrats at her announcement gathering last week.
“My Republicans have a candidate that they want to hang out with, which is Vickie, and if that’s the case I don’t want to interfere with their desire,” Welch said. “I am leaning against running at this point. I know there’s some people who really want me to run but I don’t know how much they want to work at it and I don’t know how much I want to run. At this point, I don’t have the organization or enthusiasm for the candidacy.”
Beth DeVaul, the chairwoman of the Grays Harbor Republicans, attended Raines’ gathering and clapped for her as Raines made her candidacy public.
But DeVaul said she didn’t sign an endorsement for Raines. Other Republicans have endorsed Raines, however, including Republican Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund and the county party’s state committee woman Jaime Walsh and husband Jim Walsh, the county party’s state committee man, who was a recent candidate for the state Republican Party’s chairman.
“I’m the chair of the party,” DeVaul said. “I’m friends with Vickie, but she’s not a Republican. My job is to help field candidates for county commissioner and we are looking for candidates.”
DeVaul said that no clear candidates had emerged for the Republicans yet.
Kristine Lowder, a former chairwoman of the Republicans, told The Vidette on Monday that she had decided against running. Lowder lives in Hoquiam.
“Really, in the end, I’m just not interested,” Lowder said. “I have other irons in the fire.”
Ocean Shores City Councilwoman Jackie Farra, also mentioned as possible candidate, says she’s decided “to pass” on the opportunity and says she’s just been re-elected to her council post and has decided to endorse Raines for her bid for county commissioner.
Raines made her announcement with more than 50 people in attendance at the Luna Rana Cafe in Cosmopolis.
She made it clear that she would be running as her self-created Nonpartisan Party, reflecting the values she says she has represented as the nonpartisan mayor of Cosmopolis.
”As your next county commissioner, it is important for you to know that I will work for all of Grays Harbor and as such, I will be non-partisan in my pursuit to bring jobs and economic opportunities to Grays Harbor County,” Raines said. “I will listen. I will apply common sense. I will implement good ideas and I will work diligently to solve problems and create new opportunities. I will work for you, and I will be a leader for all of us.”
Raines says that her campaign chairs will be co-led by Tami Garrow, the recently retired CEO of Satsop Business Park whom Raines described as a Democrat; and Kellie Daniels, a former staffer for Republican U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton. Daniels has helped on numerous Republican campaigns over the years for those interested in state and federal office, including Dino Rossi and Rob McKenna.
Raines noted, “President John F. Kennedy once said, ‘Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.’ I believe very little work done by the County Commissioners falls along party lines – and in my opinion these positions should all be non-partisan. … As your next County Commissioner, my focus will be on sustaining and creating new jobs in every corner of the County. We need common sense leadership and I am ready to go to work, for you.”
As recently as July, Raines was considering running for county commissioner as a Democrat. But she had a change of heart over the past few months as she was getting a feel for where she wanted the campaign to go.
“I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,” Raines said. “I even went online to take a little littmus test and I actually fall in the middle. I think sometimes when we get old, although I’m not that old, we get more conservative, we become somewhat more conservative. .. I hope that when it comes to the Democrats and the Republicans, I’m going to represent all of them equally.”
Grays Harbor Democratic Chairman George Smylie says he’s disappointed with Raines’ decision.
“Personally, I don’t like that idea,” Smylie said. “They either have to say they’re a Republican or a Democrat because I want to know what their life philosophy is. And if they say they’re a Democrat, and they are and they act like a Democrat, and they stand up with Dems, then they probably are one.”
Raines is not a dues-paying member of the Grays Harbor Democrats, the county party noted. However, she has been at recent meetings, which are open to the public.
Raines’ decision not to run as a Democrat brought some sharp reaction among some Democrats at their regular meeting last week.
As one Democrat stood and said he thought Raines was “electable,” and should be embraced by the local party, several others said that they needed a real Democrat in office.
“She maligned existing Democrats in office, whether you agree with some of the things Terry Willis did or not as well as Mike Wilson, she maligned them publicly on several occasions,” said Judy Carter of the former Democratic county commissioners, who lost their re-election bids. “I heard her on the radio numerous times saying very negative things about both of them, she didn’t help their campaigns. I think that’s something we need to take into consideration.”
“We need a real Democrat in the office,” added Linda Orgel.
“If you’re not a Democrat, then we’re not going to support you,” Smylie said.
Read Raines’ full announcement speech at http://www.facebook.com/TheVidette