Ex-WA lawmaker and Richland mayor squabble over Benton County commission
Tri-City 2022 Election Coverage
The latest news and updates on the 2022 primary and general elections in the Tri-Cities.
A trio of Republicans will face off in next month’s primary election for an open seat on the Benton County Board of Commissioners.
Former Washington State Rep. Bill Jenkin, Richland Mayor Michael Alvarez, and Benton PUD Commissioner Barry Bush showed up to race. The District 2 seat is the only Benton County commission seat up for re-election this year.
Benton County voter ballots will be mailed out on Wednesday, July 13. Election day is August 2.
The two main recipients of the votes will advance to the general election on November 8.
District 2 represents large swaths of unincorporated Benton County, including Prosser, Benton City, parts of Richland, and parts of Kennewick. Shon Small leaves the seat after three terms.
The Columbia Basin Badger Club will host an online forum with the three candidates at noon Thursday, July 21. The event is free for Badger Club members and $5 for non-members.
Marco Monteblanco, the Kennewick detective who announced his candidacy earlier this year as a Republican, appears to have given up.
Alvarez already has the endorsement of Benton County Republicans, but he could still find a close race with Jenkin and Bush.
A US Marine Corps veteran and co-owner of Vision Mortgage, Alvarez ran for and won a seat on Richland City Council in 2017 and was selected this year to serve as the town’s “weak mayor.” As a municipal leader, he helps review and manage the city’s $320 million budget — a role he says sets him apart.
“I am the only candidate who has the education and the broad financial and business experience necessary to ensure that your taxpayers’ money is used in the best possible way and that taxes are not raised unnecessarily,” he said. he writes in the local voters pamphlet.
Alvarez previously told the Tri-City Herald that he supported extending the county’s 0.3% public safety sales tax, which expires in 2024 and will return to the public for a vote. The tax helps fund positions in the police department, the prosecutor’s office, and in drug and health courts.
While on council, he also worked with the City Planning Commission, Economic Development Committee, Code Enforcement Council and the Richland Senior Association.
“I support our police and firefighters, making sure they have the proper tools to provide exceptional public safety,” he wrote. “I built strong relationships with the local business community and supported smart economic development. I will continue to listen to the needs and concerns of our fellow citizens.
In 2020, Alvarez challenged Jerome Delvin for his board seat but failed to make it past the primary. After the county’s redistricting earlier this year turned his home into another commissioners’ district, Alvarez decided to run again.
Alvarez was also endorsed by County Commissioners Benton Small and Will McKay, as well as Treasurer Ken Spencer, State Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, and former Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland.
Bush is currently serving his second 6-year term as Benton County PUD Commissioner. As PUD commissioner and former chairman of the board, he oversaw a budget of more than $170 million, according to his voter guide’s statement.
“We have an exceptional bond rating, low debt ratio and low rates,” he wrote. “I’m pro-nuclear and I think we should build a small modular nuclear project on the site of the Columbia power plant. I think the dams are essential and shouldn’t be removed.
Bush says the biggest challenge for Benton County residents is the Horse Heaven wind farm project, which he strongly opposes.
At full construction, with additional solar power and battery storage, the 244-turbine project would generate up to 1,150 megawatts of power. It would be located on 6,900 acres of leased farmland just south of the Tri-Cities.
The project will help stabilize local and national grids, increase efficiency and reduce electricity costs while using local union jobs. But some are skeptical of what’s on offer, and Bush says he wants to preserve the “ecological treasure”.
“These turbines would not benefit us locally as power will be transmitted out of the county. They will reduce the value of our properties and destroy our view of the Horse Heaven Hills,” wrote Bush, who is also one of the founders of the non-profit organization Save Our Horse Heaven Hills.
Bush served in the United States Marine Corps from 1984 to 1988 and worked in the agricultural industry in transportation and sales management positions and as an energy services representative with Energy Northwest.
He also proposed creating a “Republican utopia” by seceding Eastern Washington from Washington State.
Benton County Commissioner Jerome Delvin, who represents unincorporated areas around Richland and West Richland, endorsed Jenkin for the open seat.
Owner of Prosser Vineyard and Winery, Jenkin was a Washington State Representative for one term that served the 16th Legislative District. He left the seat in 2020 to run for the district’s open seat in the Senate, but lost in the primary.
Jenkin apologized for part of the 2019 legislative session due to a heart attack and related surgery he underwent.
He also served on the Prosser school board and was one of the founding presidents of the local Boys and Girls Club. Jenkin is also involved in leading the Board of Directors for the Prosser Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit Historic Downtown Prosser.
“I have a proven track record of pragmatic solutions based on conservative principles,” he wrote in the voter guide. “The county’s agricultural success is essential and I will continue to support local farms, which are the backbone of the economy. As Commissioner, I will ensure that public safety taxes are spent effectively so law enforcement has the resources they need to deter crime and increase safety in our communities.
Prosser Mayor Randy Taylor; State Representatives Mark Klicker and Skyler Rude, both Walla Walla Republicans; Lampson International CEO Bill Lampson and former state treasurer Duane Davidson all endorsed Jenkin.
Deadlines to vote
Voter registration is available online and at your local county auditor’s office.
Benton County’s new voting center is located at 2618 N. Columbia Center Blvd in Richland.
Online and mail-in voter registration must be received by the end of the business day on July 25. But voters can also register or update their registration in person at their verifier’s office until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Absentee ballots must be postmarked on Election Day or deposited in a county-authorized drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day.