The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

Candidates mostly cordial in Q&A meeting Friday

 

Nancy Kusky/Goldendale TV

THE ONE HOT SPOT: While most of Friday"s Sentinel editorial board meeting with candidates in contested races was pleasant as cordial, there were heated moments when Dan Christopher (right) challenged statements by incumbent Jim Sizemore (center) . Miland Walling (left) asserted the top priority for the county longterm is economic development.

Friday night's Goldendale Sentinel editorial board meeting with the seven candidates in contested races ran a gamut of emotions from friendly cooperation to sharp contention. (This article can only cover brief highlights of the two-hour meeting, and voters are urged to view the complete video of the meeting to see and hear more comments. At the end of this article are the video website URL and minute markers of when each group of candidates appear in the video for quicker access to their answers.)

The meeting was held at the Goldendale Grange but was not open to the public, for health safety reasons. While an editorial board meeting typically is held at a newspaper or media facility with just editors and a candidate or two, this year The Sentinel offered to host something of a hybrid meeting, a cross between standard editorial board and a community candidates night meeting, the kind that is usually held every election cycle in town. In order to get it close to a common candidates night, The Sentinel solicited and received a lot of questions from the community, ending up with far more than could be accommodated in the two-hour meeting. Community questions were incorporated with questions from the newspaper, with each question's source identified as it was asked.

A highlight of the evening was the remarkable attitude of cooperation demonstrated between the candidates for County Commissioner Position 1, Jacob Anderson and Joanna Turner.

"Joanna and I have agreed to run only a clean campaign," Anderson said. "We rode up here together. We talk together, and we both care about our community. I'm so happy that she's running. She has a completely different background, and I respect that background." He went on to point out that when his son broke his arm a couple of months ago, it was Tracy Rushing, Democratic candidate for the 14th Legislative District seat currently held by Rep. Chris Corry, who set it.

"I think Democrats and Republicans in Klickitat County are more likely to agree than not," Anderson said. "But I think a Republican from King County and a Republican from Klickitat County would be more likely to disagree."

Turner spoke of the need for change in the trend of county leadership over the years. "In this county we have had a political machine that has been training its replacements for a long time. The machine is training and continuing making the same 'products' that it's been making for a long time. It doesn't give us the opportunity to have a diverse perspective, to have diverse voices. You lose a lot of creativity in that process. That's something that I could bring to the table. My voice is something that's needed at the table. I want to make the work of the commission more accessible to all residents of the county."

Cordiality was in fact the hallmark of most of the evening until close to the end. Candidates Corry and Rushing traded comments that reflected significant agreement on most issues, though differing distinctly on a question about Black Lives Matter (BLM). A question from the community asked if the candidates would go on the record as saying that the BLM body was a violent Communist organization. Rushing responded, "I absolutely will go on the record as saying I do not believe Black Lives Matter is a violent Communist organization. I believe they have very legitimate grievances." Corry said, "I believe what he's asking is about the Black Lives Matter political organization, which has stated goals of tearing down our political institutions. And it's run by people who claim they are actual Marxists."

Rushing was asked if her primary reason for joining the race was for public health concerns; Rushing is a medical doctor. "I would say that was my primary reason for joining," she responded. "That being said, there are a myriad of other issues that the pandemic has emphasized. Housing, education, food security, voting rights-all of that is lumped into how we respond to this pandemic. But big-picture wise, yes, health and health care is a big priority."

Corry spoke of his lawsuit against Gov. Jay Inslee over the governor's mandates for health procedures. "I don't believe I've ever downplayed this virus," he said. "There is no doubt we're in a crisis. I stand by my lawsuit; I believe it's as valid today as it was two months ago." Corry said there were laws that gave the governor broad powers to deal with emergencies, but that RCWs gave most power for response to local health districts. "The basis of my lawsuit isn't that there isn't an emergency; we are in a crisis." Proper handling of the crisis, though, Corry said, belongs in local hands.

The last candidates to be addressed were those running for County Commissioner Position 3, incumbent Jim Sizemore, Miland Walling, and Dan Christopher. Heated comments arose almost immediately, when Sizemore was asked how much money was in the county's reserve fund.

"It's about $6 million," Sizemore responded. Christopher turned to Sizemore and asked, "Has the fund gone up or down in the last few years?"

"Probably down," Sizemore answered, "because we spend that down as we accumulate."

"So if it's down, when you use the term 'we build up cash reserves,' you would be wrong?"

"No," Sizemore said. That precipitated a discussion of how the reserves function, leading into a broader conversation about whether or not the county's budget is balanced. Sizemore maintained the way cash flow works in the county shows the economic health of the county has been balanced, while Christopher contended the same figures demonstrate the budget is not balanced. Christopher interrupted Sizemore a number of times.

Christopher's three-page campaign letter sent to most District 3 residents was brought up; the letter is a running diatribe against Sizemore and his policies, often turning darkly personal in its accusations. The Sentinel is completing a fact checking of all of Christopher's claims and raised up one that was particularly conspicuous: Christopher stated in his letter that Sizemore had executed eminent domain to seize someone's property in order to make his friends rich. But a check with county records revealed that no eminent domain procedure had been done in the county in the last 14 years. Asked about that discrepancy, Christopher maintained it had been done just two months ago. Further questioning brought out that Christopher had not realized what the term 'eminent domain' actually meant. After the meeting he was also advised that no property had actually been taken.

The Sentinel received an email from Christopher Monday morning apologizing to Sizemore (he said he also called Sizemore to apologize) and his supporters for misusing the term and making an incorrect accusation. "I believe myself a man of honor," Christopher wrote in his apology. "It has come to my attention that I was mistaken on an issue that was discussed at the candidate forum last night... I can assure you that I did not intentionally accuse Mr. Sizemore of something that I knew was false, as I would not do that. I also still stand behind all of Mr. Sizemore's quotes I use in our campaign... In the end I was mistaken, and that is on me. No excuses."

Walling was asked his stand on Black Lives Matter. "Black lives matter, and all lives matter," he said. As to whether or not the organization was violent and Communist, he responded, "I don't have any confirmation on that, so I won't make any comment on that. I'll just say that all lives matter."

Asked what his first priority would be as a commissioner, Walling answered, "I really feel that Economic Development is the top priority. I know the people in Olympia, the Washington state delegation. I could definitely pass on a good word from the county... I've been working in the past on the pump storage and the data center. I helped put together some of the big meetings for the pumped storage project... The data center's going to be one of the biggest ones in the United States... It's going to be a big benefit for Goldendale and for Klickitat County."

The nature and scope of the conversation between Sizemore and Christopher made it necessary to accommodate Walling special additional time to make his case for his candidacy, which he did at the end of the meeting. He cited his long involvement with county projects and his close connections with key political figures whose cooperation with the county would be essential.

The video can be seen on The Sentinel's YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_HSarpUVGM&feature=youtu.be. Here are the minute markers in the video:

Corry and Rushing – 4:09 to 40:12

Anderson and Turner – 40:54 to 1:11:50

Sizemore, Walling, and Christopher – 1:12:05 to end

 

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