Thurston County Board of Commissioner candidates vying for the new District 4 and District 5 seats gathered last week for a candidate forum hosted by the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce.
The District 4 candidates are former longtime county employee Vivian Eason, who also is a former county commission candidate, and Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier. Running in the District 5 race is state worker and nonprofit founder Emily Clouse and retired Army veteran Terry Ballard. The general election is Nov. 7.
The forum was moderated by former Olympia Mayor Doug Mah, who often hosts such events and has a reputation for throwing curve balls at those running for elected office. He asks quick-fire questions demanding quick responses and allows candidates to pose questions to each other.
Here are the questions the candidates asked of their opponents.
Eason to Fournier: How would you work toward inclusiveness for those unincorporated county folks impacted by decisions made by the county commission?
Fournier: "The first step is having a representative that lives in the district, holding town halls, being available, going to various community events and representing the people with boots on the ground."
Fournier to Eason: Before he asked his question, Fournier claimed that Eason had endorsed far-right 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent. Then he asked: Do you plan on endorsing and supporting him again?
Eason: "Honestly, I didn't endorse anyone last year. I may have been in a lot of places with him (Kent), such as a parade, but as a candidate I didn't endorse anyone, and I don't plan to endorse anyone this year. ... I don't know what that question is about, thanks."
They were followed by questions from Clouse and Ballard.
Clouse to Ballard: How would you promote the health and safety of our unhoused neighbors?
Ballard: "The homeless is a problem. Drug addiction is a major problem," Ballard said, adding that he believes a majority of the homeless are dealing with drug addiction and mental illness. "We need to combat those problems with viable programs that work. As far as something being said, being planned, we need to get off that plan, we need to implement everything."
Ballard to Clouse: In the lead up to his question, he claimed that the county commission had canceled 119 outstanding criminal warrants, although he didn't provide any further explanation. However, he may have been referring to the possible dismissal of warrants tied to the reopening of the jail. His question: Would you continue to cancel 119 outstanding warrants?
Clouse, confused by the question, asked moderator Mah if she could ask a clarifying question. He suggested she just respond to what he said. She took it as an opportunity to share one of her beliefs.
Clouse: "I do not believe in mass incarceration as a solution to handling human behavior. The people who are affected the most by incarceration are those closest to poverty. We need to address the root causes of crime. We need to address possible workforce development opportunities for those who are under-served in our community. We need to promote adequate mental health and substance abuse services. I work with youth in the justice system. I see it every day. They need consistency. They need us to show up and provide opportunities for re-integration into our community that does not involve mass incarceration."
Mah also asked his rapid-fire questions. He asked for their choice of beverage (coffee, tea or neither), social media, favorite county location and favorite spirit animal. But under spirit animal, he only gave them two to choose from: The invasive New Zealand Mud Snail, known for inhabiting Capitol Lake, and the endangered Mazama Pocket Gopher, blamed by some for blocking development in the county.
Eason: Coffee, Facebook, the forest on my horse, and the "cute little Pocket gopher."
Fournier: All of the above, Facebook, Tenino and the Pocket gopher.
Clouse: Coffee, LinkedIn, the pump track on the isthmus in downtown Olympia. She didn't pick either the snail or the gopher. "I like bulldogs," she said.
Ballard: Coffee, Facebook, Lawrence Lake and the Mud Snail.
One of Mah's final questions was a yes or no answer to whether they would vote to support the proposed two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase for public safety.
The only person to say "no" was Clouse. After the forum, The Olympian asked her about her answer.
She said she understands that the Thurston County Sheriff's Office is stretched thin, but she would rather see investments in community programs, education and health to address crime.
"We can take another angle to approach public safety," she said.