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County commissioner candidates, grocery tax opponents spend thousands in primary election

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Political mailers from county commissioner candidates account for some of the spending in the 2018 Primary race.The May primary election drew four candidates for the Columbia County commissioner race. As Election Day draws near, candidates have racked up thousands in campaign spending for Position 2 — the only open seat on the three-person board.

Don Campbell

Rainier resident Don Campbell has led the most modest campaign among the four candidates. Campbell has filed no expenditures, but instead filed a PC-7 form, which exempts candidates from filing contributions and expenses until they receive $3,500 or more.Campbell

The campaign did receive a $3,000 contribution from Campbell's wife, Dawn Campbell. She confirmed Thursday that her husband's campaign contributions currently total roughly $3,200 and most of that has been spent on signs, printed material and a booth at a recent garden show.

Henry Heimuller

Heimuller, the incumbent in the Position 2 race, has amassed roughly $26,000 in contributions and loans as of Thursday, according to campaign finance records on file with the state. Heimuller

Heimul- ler's most notable contributions have come from Pacific Stainless Products Inc., and Fuiten West LP, which each gave $2,500, and a $1,000 donations each from Teevin Bros., Scappoose Sand and Gravel, CalPortland, and Sen. Betsy Johnson. Heimuller also received a $600 donation from his campaign treasurer, Diane Dillard and and a $500 donation each from Scott and Gail Parker. Heimuller also received $500 donations from a Natural Gas PAC and a Seafood Workers PAC.

Campaign statements: True or false?

In a video posted to Heimuller's campaign Facebook page, the candidate touts the promise of higher education opportunities coming to the county, thanks to the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center. A description accompanying the video states he was "at the table to make this happen."

While Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, along with Scappoose city officials and the Columbia County Economic Team were the most key figures in the start-up phase, there were regular meetings in which county commissioners were present.

Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge notes that initially, former commissioner Tony Hyde was the county representative at the OMIC meetings, but that was taken over by Heimuller when Hyde left office. Additionally, the county did play a key role in the initial stages of the new research and development center, Burge says.

"Without the county's resources they put into CCET, we couldn't have gotten some of those projects done," Burge notes.

Kimberly Johns

Johns, who runs a military-grade wetsuit and tactical gear manufacturing company in St. Helens, shows contributions of nearly $16,000, including loans, as of this week, and roughly the same amount in expenditures. That includes personal loans to his own campaign, which is common for candidates. Personal loans, as well as contributions from USIA — the candidate's personal business — make up the majority of Johns' campaign money. Johns

Johns also received $1,000 donations each from Kaylin and Drew Burford, and additional $1,000 contributions from Rachel Bruce, Bill Bruce, and Danny Hernandez.

Campaign statements: True or false?

In a campaign mailer, Johns claims he "brought over 100 jobs to Columbia County."

Johns clarified via email that his business, USIA, employed "over 100 people from 65 onsite/45 off site during Iraq war to our current staffing level of 20," from 2000 to 2016. "During that time frame USIA brought 56 contracts to the Columbia County worth $8,635,463.00," Johns stated.

Paulette Lichatowich

Lichatowich, who currently serves as a commissioner on the Port of St. Helens as well as a Columbia County Planning Commissioner, has received nearly $18,500 in cash contributions for her 2018 primary campaign. Records show she's spent about $16,340 to date.Lichatowich

The most notable contribution to Lichatowich's campaign is a $3,500 donation from Robert Campbell. Others, like William McNae, Thaddeus Sweet, James Hoffmann and the Jackson Family Trust, also made $1,000 donations.

Lichatowich also received a $500 donation from River PAC — a political action committee formed to "support candidates in Oregon who advocate for ecologically sound public policies to protect and restore Oregon's rivers."

Backers all in for ban on grocery tax

In St. Helens, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a measure that proposes to change the city's charter to prohibit taxes on groceries. SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Political signs advocating a Yes vote on a ballot measure to prevent any taxes on consumable goods can be spotted throughout St. Helens.

The initiative, filed with the Columbia County Elections Office in December, will appear on May ballots with the title 5-266.

If approved by voters, the initiative would amend the city charter to prohibit taxes on groceries for licensed grocers, farm stand operators or food banks. The initiative would also retroactively prohibit the imposition or collection of taxes after Sept. 1, 2017.

A political action committee in support of the initiative, called YES! Keep St. Helens Groceries Tax Free, has been the biggest financial backer of the initiative. The committee has garnered $26,000 in campaign contributions, primarily from the Northwest Grocery Association.

Campaign spending records show the majority of donations have been used for producing printed materials, paying for postage, community canvasing work and advertising.

Signature-gatherers and petitioners homed in on the efforts in St. Helens last fall to collect signatures to get the measure on the ballot, after the city briefly considered proposing a local tax on sugar-

sweetened beverages to generate revenue for the city's parks department and promote healthier drink choices.

At the time, Doug Stokes, owner of the St. Helens Liquor Store, and Josh Poling, a manager at St. Helens Market Fresh, promoted a petition opposing the tax locally and backed the tax-free initiative now on the May 15 ballot.

At the state level, supporters are advocating for a constitutional amendment to prohibit taxes on consumable grocery products throughout the state.That measure will appear on the November general election ballots.

Supporters of the YES! Keep Our Groceries Tax Free! initiative have garnered support from three different grocery store companies — Kroger, Costco and Albertsons Safeway — including $1.2 million in campaign contributions this year.

Campaign finance records show a total $1.85 million in contributions as of May 3, including $97,000 worth of loan from the Northwest Grocery Association and $3,800 of in-kind work. The campaign has spent $1.39 million so far on marketing and advertising efforts.

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