Latino-backed candidates begin to file for Pasco council

After Pasco’s council district system was revamped in the past year to give Latino candidates an equal opportunity, challengers have been slow to file for the seven open seats.
After Pasco’s council district system was revamped in the past year to give Latino candidates an equal opportunity, challengers have been slow to file for the seven open seats. Tri-City Herald

Challengers have been slow to file for seven open Pasco City Council seats, after the district system was revamped in the past year to give Latino candidates an equal opportunity.

Craig Maloney on Wednesday became the second person to announce he will try to unseat one of the incumbents. He will run against Councilman Bob Hoffmann in District 6.

Maloney and Rick Rios — a community activist who filed to oppose District 3 Councilman Saul Martinez — are two of the five Pasco residents whose candidacies are backed by the Tri-City-based Consejo Latino.

The group also supports Councilman Chi Flores in District 4, and has lined up two people who have yet to file for Districts 1 and 2, said Leo Perales, Consejo Latino’s vice chair.

“I’m glad that the system got changed and it’s going to be more equitable, but at the end of the day it is incumbent upon the Latino community to stand up and take responsibility,” Perales said. “This is a watershed moment for them. … It’s really going to change the way the city (is governed) over the next 10-20 years.”

Maloney, a father of two girls ages 6 and 10, said the community is young, diverse and fast-growing and he would like to be part of the leadership that guides the city where it needs to go in the future.

“Pasco has got so much to offer and it’s time to really embrace who we are,” Maloney, 35, told the Herald. “We've got so many opportunities, we are just swimming in them. We need a council that's bold enough to see them.”

So far, six of the incumbents have filed to retain their positions.

Councilman Tom Larsen has not yet formally entered the race. He is representing District 1 through the end of the year, but would have to file in District 5 where he lives or for the at-large seat, currently held by Mayor Matt Watkins.

District 1 does not have any candidates.

Pasco officials came up with a new way of electing council members after a federal lawsuit was filed last summer by longtime resident Bertha Aranda Glatt. She failed in her challenge of Mayor Matt Watkins for a seat in 2015.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which represented Glatt, said that Pasco’s election system with five districts and two at-large seats violated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting Latino votes.

City officials acknowledged the likely violation in their electoral process, but were prohibited under state law from making changes.

Senior Judge Lonny R. Suko agreed in January with Pasco’s proposed plan to form six districts and one at-large seat. The six seats will be voted on by district in both the primary and general elections, while the at-large member is picked by registered voters citywide.

Three of the newly drawn districts — 1, 2, and 6 — have a Hispanic majority.

Suko noted in his ruling that the city had a history of never electing a Latino person in a contested race for the Pasco City Council, even though at least one Latino has run for a position in almost every election since 1990.

Perales said Consejo Latino has spent the last few months trying to find Latinos and people who represent Latino interests to run for the open seats.

However, Perales — who is running for Kennewick City Council — said while they’ve encouraged candidates from multiple ethnic groups, they recognize at the end of the day the public servant needs to represent the interests of the entire community.

“I am quite surprised that there are not a lot of people wanting to run, even in Kennewick,” he said. “It just shows you how systemic it is and the status quo. Things need to change.”

Some candidates may be waiting to file on the last day, Perales acknowledged .

Maloney is a risk analyst working for Corporate Allocation Services and on contract to support the Hanford site. He is the Pasco Taco Crawl’s lead organizer and is on the Pasco Public Facilities District board, the Tri-Cities Legislative Council, Somos Pasco and the Tri-Cities Public Market board.

“I have a very broad view of what the community is and I do have a lot of energy,” Maloney said.

Filings for other races

May 15 to 19 is filing week for more than 100 local offices in Benton and Franklin counties.


City Council

Position 2: Incumbent Gregory A. Jones will face at least two challengers in a race that will now appear on the August primary. Steve Lee, who co-owns a marijuana dispensary in Finley and who announced his candidacy in April, formally filed for election, joining fellow challenger Shane Fast. The top two finishers in the August primary will square off in the November election.

Position 4: The open seat being vacated by Bob Parks has five candidates as of Wednesday. Candidates are Jim Millbauer, a Hanford pipefitter, Bill McKay, a semi-retired banker, Christy Watts, a retired Ben Franklin Transit executive, Ed Pacheco, chair of the city’s planning commission, and Leo Perales, a civic activist.

McKay, whose campaign is being managed by Parks, is a former Idaho dairy farmer-turned-accountant who came to the Tri-Cities to work at the former IBP beef plant at Wallula and then as a commercial loan officer for Sterling Bank. He owns and manages the 27th Avenue self-storage facility, which opened in 2005.

McKay said he would focus his banking and financial skills on the city’s budget. Transparency is a top priority. He said the city’s focus should be primarily on infrastructure, security and managing growth.

“The rest of the things are extras,” he said.

Ed Pacheco, a member of the Hanford Patrol, is a lifelong Kennewick resident who unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2015 and serves as chair of the city’s planning commission.

Pacheco dreams of extending the city’s urban growth boundary across Interstate 82 but said the city needs to first focus on infrastructure in its existing territory — replacing aging water lines, building the Ridgeline overpass across Highway 395 and installing infrastructure at Vista Field.

“We have to take care of home base first,” he said.

Other: Incumbents Don Britain and John Trumbo remain unchallenged in Positions 1 and 3, respectively.


City council

Position 1 Rhoda Williams, who owns a wine bar in the Parkway, filed for the at-large position currently held by Bob Thompson. Kalen Finn filed Monday. Thompson indicated he will seek a new term, but had not decided what position to seek. All seven positions are at-large and elected from throughout the city.

Williams is a native of Alabama who spent 20 years in Seattle before moving to Richland 10 years ago to open Miss Rhoda’s Wine Garden. In her first run for an elected position, Williams said she would be a voice for small business on the seven-member council.

“I want to ensure when the council makes decisions, it considers how its actions will affect small business,” she said.

Other: There were no new filings Wednesday. Incumbent Sandra Kent remained unchallenged in her reelection bid for Position 3.

West Richland

City Council

Mayor: Incumbent Brent Gerry has drawn no challengers in his reelection bid.

Council: Incumbents Rich Buel, Gail Brown and Richard Bloom are unopposed in Positions 2, 3 and 4. Fred Brink is the sole candidate for Position 6.

Specialty districts

Benton County Fire District #1

Position 1: Incumbent Jerry Morris has drawn a challenger in Scott Carpenter, a former commissioner who aims to return to the board after losing his seat two years ago.

Carpenter, a retiree who was first elected to the commission in 1993, said he’s returning because he wants to challenge rising expenses and ensure the small volunteer district makes the best use possible of its resources.

“If you don’t watch after the small stuff, it will eat you alive as far as a small fire district goes,” he said.