For many aspiring political candidates, whether veteran incumbents or first-time challengers, connecting with constituents is a must to garner support and understand the issues that the community cares about. As Election Day approaches nationwide, one local Grays Harbor County candidate is hoping that listening to the community will equate to a political victory.
Vickie Raines, the incumbent nonpartisan candidate for Grays Harbor County Commissioner District 3, hosted a Meet and Greet on Thursday, Oct. 13, at Grays Harbor Wine Sellars, in Aberdeen. The event saw more than two dozen attendees as well as other notable political figures in the county such as Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel, Grays Harbor District Court 1 candidate Andrea Vingo and former Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross.
A complimentary glass of chardonnay and free snacks were available for guests to indulge in as they mingled in the quaint wine shop with each other for the nearly two-hour occasion.
“If people have questions that they want to come and talk to me about or concerns, a lot of times there’s no forms for just that after business hours,” Raines said. “It’s not just a good opportunity for citizens to be able to come chat with me, but it’s also a good opportunity for me to hear other people’s perspectives on things.”
Raines, who is seeking her third term as County Commissioner, is arguably in the most contested race unique to Grays Harbor County. It was the only race to feature more than two candidates during the primary election and neither Raines nor her opponent, Republican candidate Lisa Zaborac, cracked 50% of the primary. However, Raines gave the notion she likes the challenge heading into the general election, citing her love for campaigning and politics.
“I did get nearly 47% of the vote though,” Raines said.
The race for County Commissioner has also easily been the most heated as Raines and Zaborac have been eager to cast stones at each other ranging from qualifications, values and performance. On Oct. 10, Raines was named in a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint filed by former County Commissioner Wesley Cormier alleging Raines produced “grossly misleading and dishonest” informational flyers during a September candidates forum. Even though the complaint was resolved with no action taken, Raines said the altercation came out of the blue.
“I was pretty surprised by it, to be honest with you. The information I distributed wasn’t me trying to take credit for the senior exemption or the new construction. It was more to say this is what has occurred during this timeframe and to show that my opponent isn’t qualified.” Raines said. “I’m glad, from the PDC standpoint, that it’s done with, and no action needs to be taken. I served with (Cormier) for six years and it’s kind of out of his character. I don’t know if it’s sour grapes, maybe he doesn’t like strong women, I don’t know what his issues are.”
Raines said Cormier never reached out to her to talk about what she previously called a “difference of opinions” regarding the matter and said Cormier knows how to get ahold of her anytime he wants.
As the event settled, Raines took the floor to give a speech in front of most of the attendees who were sitting on furniture near a fireplace. She discussed issues that are facing the community now such as homelessness and drugs, a situation that “has worsened greatly over the last three years.” Raines admitted to taking heat from Zaborac and her supporters for Raines supporting a needle exchange program within Grays Harbor. The program has since been removed from the county’s control almost two years ago.
“I don’t like that we had a needle exchange program, but I supported it because that’s what the experts said we needed. That’s what our health officer, our health director, the University of Washington Director of Communicable Diseases, the secretary of health and the CDC have said that’s what you need to do,” Raines said.
Raines was adamant to talk about how the Harbor is facing a mental health crisis and that more needs to be done to address homelessness. She claims that the other two County Commissioners, Kevin Pine, and Jill Warne, have opposed the creation of a low-barrier shelter, citing the need for a high-barrier shelter instead.
“We need a low barrier shelter, we need a high barrier shelter, we need affordable living and we need a place for families,” Raines said.
Raines continued by claiming that with the standstill in creating a low-barrier shelter, the county has had to return almost $300,000 to the state that was provided to help build the shelter. Following her speech, Raines took time to answer questions from listeners, many of whom thanked Raines for the work she has done in the community and pledged to support her in the upcoming election.
“When we served together as commissioners, we didn’t always agree but we could always be respectful of each other’s opinion, and I appreciate that about her because she’s willing to listen and she’s willing to think about the other side,” Ross said. “She may not change her opinion but she’s always respectful and graceful in the process.”