Sen. Ann Rivers, the Republican incumbent, and Democratic challenger Rick Bell will likely advance to the general election in the race to represent Washington’s 18th Legislative District.
Rivers, who’s seeking a fifth term, won 31.6 percent of the vote, according to the first ballot return on Tuesday night. Bell earned 41.13 percent.
Not every ballot has been counted. According to the Clark County Elections Office, 94,291 ballots have been tallied, with an estimated 30,000 left to go. Total voter turnout for the primary was 31.05 percent, slightly higher than in 2016 when primary election turnout was 30.6 percent.
Barring any major shifts among the remaining ballots, Tuesday night marked the end of the road for the third candidate in the primary race, Republican John Ley. Ley gained the support of 27.1 percent of voters, just shy of the amount he would need to carry him through to the general election.
Rivers could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Bell, a first-time candidate, said the primary election results reflect voters “teeing up what their decisions are going to be.”
“Looks like I’ve got to do the work to win in a largely conservative district, but as an underdog, I think I’ve got the right message for the times,” Bell said.
The next ballot count update is expected to be posted to the county elections office website at 4 p.m. today.
The 18th District encompasses east Vancouver, Camas, Battle Ground, Ridgefield and the rural unincorporated areas in north Clark County. It’s a reliably Republican district; it hasn’t sent a Democrat to Olympia in this millennium.
Rivers, an incumbent GOP lawmaker, was not endorsed by the Clark County Republican Party, who went for the more right-leaning Ley.
In an interview with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, Rivers said she would prioritize spending cuts at the state level to dig Washington out of its COVID-19 budget deficit, and that she wouldn’t support an income or capital gains tax. She’s also a proponent of the latest push to rebuild the Interstate 5 Bridge, and she said she doesn’t oppose tolling as a means of paying for the project.
Bell, who’s been endorsed by the Clark County Democratic Party, said in the editorial board meeting that he would prioritize the needs of individuals during COVID-19 recovery. Cutting spending on social services would be inhumane and ultimately more costly to the state in the long run, he said. He also supports rebuilding the I-5 Bridge, though he said he’s wary of tolls.
Rivers and Bell will appear on the general election ballot on Nov. 3. They’ll join Rep. Brandon Vick and Rep. Larry Hoff, both Republican incumbents, as well as their challengers for each seat — Democrats Kassandra Bessert (running against Vick) and Donna Sinclair (running against Hoff).