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Port outsiders beat incumbents in contested races; Nancy Ward and Chip Bubl elected

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Nancy Ward, center, won the race for Port of Columbia County commissioner against Stephen Hanson, right, and incumbent Patrick Trapp, left.The Port of Columbia County board of directors is going to have two new faces in July.

In the race for Position 1, Nancy Ward of Scappoose beat former Port of Columbia County executive director and current commissioner, Columbia City's Patrick Trapp, by just 89 votes, according to unofficial results from the May 21 special election.

"It feels humbling and surprising because it was not something I actually expected could happen," Ward said. "I'm elated and I'm exhausted and I'm glad I don't have to spend more hours out there on Highway 30 waving my sign."

"I think the fact that I didn't have a lot of money forced me to go out and meet with people and talk to them on their ground ... It seemed to me that that's what made the difference," Ward added.

Chip Bubl, agent for the Oregon State University Extension Service who lives in Warren, beat 16-year incumbent Mike Avent of Rainier by 20 percentage points for Position 2, a difference of 51.16% to 31.15%, respectively, out of a total 7,357 votes cast in the race.

Amie Jo Kopecky, despite being ineligible for the position, received 1,213 votes, or 16.5%. Although the county elections supervisor determined Kopecky lived outside the port district boundary near Clatskanie more than a month before the election, state law meant that her name still appeared on the ballot for Position 2.

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Chip Bubl speaks with community members at a candidate forum in April. Bubl beat incumbent Mike Avent for a seat on the Port of Columbia County Board of Commissioners."You never know how these things are going to turn out," Bubl said, adding that he was glad his campaign messaging resonated with voters. "I look forward to serving and learning in this new role."

Bubl said he was appreciative of the campaign conduct.

"I think this was a really civil campaign. I don't think I ever heard anyone say a bad word about any of the other candidates, and for me that is so refreshing," he said.

Both Ward and Bubl campaigned on platforms advocating for environmentally-sound decision-making on the Port Commission.

Scappoose's Larry Ericksen, who ran unopposed for Position 3, will remain on the commission alongside incumbents Chris Iverson of St. Helens and Robert Keyser of Clatskanie. The commissioners will assume their roles starting July 1. At their first meeting, the commissioners will vote to determine who will serve as president and other officer roles.

Ward said that though she anticipated low voter turnout, she had hoped it would be slightly higher than the overall 25% election turnout in the county. Of 33,728 registered voters in the port district, 6,995 voted in the Position 1 race and 7,357 voted in the Position 2 race.

"People do feel disillusioned about the direction the country is going. No matter what side of the fence you're on, you're not happy about how things are going," Ward said. "But the spoils went to those who participated. ... I think it says to us, again, voting matters. It matters a lot."

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