News Column

14th District race could see non-candidate advance to general election

July 20, 2014

By Mike Faulk, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

July 20--YAKIMA, Wash. -- Campaigns for the 14th Legislative District seat have historically been ho-hum affairs, with strong Republican incumbents such as the late Mary Skinner and former representative and state senator Jim Clements commanding substantial majority votes over the years.

And that looked to be the established pattern for some time to come when Charles Ross, the former Naches mayor, succeeded Clements in 2007 for the Position 2 seat.

But Ross announced this spring that he would run for Yakima County auditor, a job that would allow him to end the long trips over to the Legislature in Olympia and spend more time with his family.

That threw the seat open, and then the free-for-all began. Yakima real estate developer and former New York City hedge fund manager Ben Shoval, who earned his Republican credentials by helping lead a local anti-tax measure last year, said in April he was running, and a host of Republican Party activists and financial backers fell in line to support him.

Yakima Republican Adam Yoest, a sergeant first-class in the state Army National Guard, announced for the office that same month as a political newcomer with little fanfare.

But things began to change in May, when a third Republican, Goldendale hotel owner Gina McCabe, threw her hat into the ring. McCabe was eligible because legislative redistricting two years ago drew Goldendale into the same district as Yakima, a change that still may throw some voters for a loop. Goldendale had been in the 15th District, which has been served by Lower Yakima Valley politicians for decades.

McCabe picked up steam when Yakima City Councilwomen Maureen Adkison and Kathy Coffey threw their support to her. She also began to rival Shoval in fundraising.

In late June, Shoval's campaign conducted an internal scientific poll that showed him running third in the race behind former Yakima City Councilman Paul George, a Democrat who declared during the May filing period, and McCabe. On June 30, the same day he learned the results of the poll, Shoval pulled out of the race.

But Shoval, who spent thousands on advertising before pulling his candidacy, will still appear on the ballot. He has publicly endorsed McCabe.

Edited polling documents supplied to the Yakima Herald-Republic by Shoval's campaign reveal George, the only Democrat in the race, got 29 percent of the 500 respondents; 21 percent said they would vote for McCabe; 13 percent for Shoval; and 7 percent for Yoest.

Twenty-six percent of respondents were unsure.

It would be a historic coup in regional politics if George were to come out on top in both the primary and the general election. The 14th District hasn't elected a Democrat to the Legislature since Dave Lemmon served in the House from 1993 to 1995.

But if George and McCabe are the final two candidates, it's safe to say that the Republican base, which well outnumbers Democrats, will begin to rally around their party's remaining candidate.

That may already be happening. McCabe recently received the endorsement of state Rep. Norm Johnson, and Sen. Curtis King, Yakima Republicans who had laid low in the early months of the campaign.

Yoest, a more conservative candidate who has the endorsement of the local Republican Liberty Caucus, could theoretically gain some support from voters who planned to support Shoval. Yoest and Shoval had similar anti-tax, small government platforms.

Yoest's military experience and work for the state Military Department at the Yakima Firing Center could win him votes in a district with a high number of veterans. It may also help Yoest that he's now the only Yakima Republican in the race.

In the event Shoval is voted into the Top Two, Yakima County Auditor Corky Holloway said state law requires his name to appear on the general election ballot. In the even more unlikely event voters elect someone who isn't running, Holloway says that vote would also stand unless Shoval declines the office.

In fundraising as of Friday, Shoval leads with $51,914 raised and $20,508 spent, according to the state's Public Disclosure Commission. McCabe has spent $41,062 of the $48,762 she has raised. Yoest and George are far below: with $3,225 raised and $3,158 spent by the Yoest campaign; and $2,642 raised and $1,727 spent by George.

The 14th Legislative District includes the western half of Yakima County, all of Klickitat and Skamania counties, and an eastern portion of Clark County. If McCabe is elected, she would be the first from Klickitat County to represent the district.


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Source: Yakima Herald-Republic (WA)

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