SPECIAL REPORT: Greg Kimsey and the Art of the (backroom) Deal
18TH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT VOTERS SHOULD CHOOSE THEIR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES, NOT POLITICAL PARTY ELITES.
by Mark Moore, Vancouver WA.
In late June 2021, the complex process of constitutionally prescribed redistricting began following the 2020 census. With the background of pandemic restrictions, Clark County Republican Party (CCRP) Chairman Joel Mattila
attempts three separate times to appoint himself and two associates to the redistricting commission. As members of the Clark County Republican Central Committee (CCRCC), the only body vested with the authority to make these appointments became aware of Chair Mattila’s efforts, they intervened calling a special meeting and appropriately appointed an excellent slate of representatives. At approximately the same time, four state legislators in Olympia began the redistricting process for state legislative districts (and Congressional districts). Redistricting is a complex and tedious process, many voters do not pay attention because of this.
The Clark County Council chose republicans Cemal Richards and Juan Gamboa, from the list of five Republican nominees, to be on the county redistricting commission along with democrats Janet Landesburg and Morgan Holmgren. Those four redistricting commissioners in turn
selected Clark County Auditor Kimsey to act as chairman of the committee. This is relevant because as county auditor, Kimsey is responsible to deliver secure, fair elections to the citizens of Clark county. As Chairman of the redistricting commission he was in a position of authority in the county redistricting process and as such was now responsible to oversee that process in a fair and unbiased manner.
On October 4, 2021 Senator Ann Rivers announced she would be resigning her position before the start of the 2022 legislature as she had accepted a job with a six figure salary working for the city of Longview. Consensus was at the time, Rivers had inside information that she would be redistricted out of the 18th District and into the 20th District represented by Senator John Braun. That became a reality when the final state redistricting maps were adopted.
A few weeks later, rumors began circulating among Clark County Republicans that Ann Rivers was going to reverse her decision, as it became apparent Precinct Committee Officers (PCO’s) were actively discussing John Ley as the best choice to replace Senator Rivers. Ley had mounted a strong challenge to Rivers in the 2020 election cycle. Outspending Ley 10-1, Rivers won by just 2000 votes in the August 2020 primary, spending over $260,000 on her reelection campaign according to the Public Disclosure Commission.
In late October 2021, 18th district PCOs voted to move forward with a process to nominate and then select three 18th district republicans to fill the coming senate vacancy. These nominees would be the pool from which the Clark County Council would choose a replacement for Rivers. There was immediate, and forceful, pushback from CCRP leadership. A planned November meeting was delayed until December 11th, where ultimately John Ley, Peter Silliman and Brett Simpson were selected by the body of the 18th LD to advance as preferred candidates to fill the soon to be vacant senate seat. Three days later Rivers announced she was rescinding her decision to resign.
All of this points to Senator Ann Rivers displeasure that John Ley stood a very strong chance of replacing her in the Washington State Senate. It also points to the likelihood she was participating in a coordinated effort positioning herself to choose her own replacement, denying the duly elected Precinct Committee Officers of the 18th Legislative District their rightful role in choosing a replacement for their constituents.
CCRP VICE CHAIR KATHY MCDONALD AND GREG KIMSEY….
Kathy McDonald was until recently, Vice Chairman of the CCRP and as such is vested with the duty of fairly administering party business as delegated by the voting body of the CCRCC. In her role as Vice Chair she is expressly prohibited, in the bylaws of the CCRP, from certain activities that might advantage one republican Candidate over another. The role of the party is to promote all Republicans, not just certain Republicans which party officers favor.
On July 29, Kathy McDonald, Vice Chairman of the CCCRP, texted county auditor Greg Kimsey, telling him “there is a Colossal mess regarding this Redistricting.” (Attachment #1)
Ensuing communication between McDonald and Kimsey included discussions about vacancies in office in October. October 4th is when Ann Rivers announced her resignation. In one text, McDonald asks: “Should we do a call with Ann and Greg Cheney too?” McDonald and Cheney sit on the Executive Board of the Clark County Republican Party, where Cheney serves as treasurer. She implies she is in communication with Rivers. (Attachment #2) (Attachment #3)
On Dec. 6, McDonald asks Kimsey the following in a text message.
“As the auditor do you have the authority to change PCO lines? The question is coming from Greg Cheney precinct 607 there is one street it happens to be his street that will end up in the 20th legislative district when the rest of the precinct will be in the 18th. He wants to run for a seat and if the line stays as it is he will be in the 20th and not the 18th is there a way to adjust the line 1 street so that the whole precinct is together and not divided?” (Attachment #4 & #5)
At the moment, we don’t know the details regarding the adjustment of precinct boundary lines. But we do know Greg Cheney ended up in a precinct that was included in the 18th District. As County Auditor, Kimsey is allowed to make adjustments to precinct boundaries supposedly to balance population numbers, (subject to county council approval). The legislature was allowed to make small changes regarding which precincts were in each legislative district.
Kimsey acknowledges this in his response to McDonald. “We (actually the councilors) adjust precincts to fit Legislative district boundaries. We will probably have to split many precincts. During the first 30 days of the session the Legislature can make minor adjustments to the plan the state committee approved”. (Attachment #5)
I received these texts as part of a public records request made earlier in the year. They raise multiple questions about the nature of Kimsey and McDonald’s relationship, and McDonald seeking to benefit a potential candidate for the state legislature.
Redistricting has been particularly messy this cycle, Clark County has grown substantially in 10 years and there have been key demographic changes. As a consequence both main political parties want to position themselves as well as possible.
McDonald next texts Kimsey on Dec. 14, blaming outgoing county council Chair Eileen Quiring for the “mess”.
“Carolyn Crain spent 40+ hours on a solution for Cemal he didn’t even open the map she gave him. He only followed marching orders from Karen”.
Then in May of 2022, McDonald texts Kimsey asking-
“Good afternoon, hey can you check and see if John Ley has changed his voter registration to a Battle Ground address?”
“Yes, he has moved to Battle Ground.”
McDonald then states-
“So he is supposedly listing his address as 2628 N.E. 7th Dr. in Battle Ground which is owned by Phil Haggerty. No he has not, he is just listing his buddies house as his address. Liz Cline, he’s longtime girlfriend is now running for his PCO seat at their old address.”
Kimsey the responds with-
“Someone could file a voter registration challenge”
“That’s what we’re trying to do, but we have to have some proof and we didn’t know if he changed his voter registration yet. His drivers license would be another avenue or any electric bills.”
McDonald then asks if Kimsey-
“OK Thanks, any other ideas for us to look at.”
Kimsey then coaches-
“multiple photos of him arriving in the evening and leaving in the morning to and from Liz Cline’s home - time and date stamped. Best definition of residence is where you lay your head at night. He will say he’s temporarily sleeping over at Liz Cline’s house. Driver’s license is good supporting evidence, and where does he get his mail delivered.”
Kimsey closes with-
“Residency can be hard to disprove.”
(Attachment #7, 8, 9)
On the day Greg Cheney announced his candidacy, his press release included endorsements from Ann Rivers, Brandon Vick, Larry Hoff, the three current representatives in the 18th District. Separately, a day after Vick announced he would not be seeking reelection, Stephanie McClintock announced her candidacy, with endorsements from Rivers, Lynda Wilson, Paul Harris, Vick and Hoff. It appears a power play is in motion to choose 18th district replacements. This is a direct assault on the voter’s of the 18th Legislative District sovereign prerogative to change policy direction in the legislature. It might be profitable to note here, John Ley is by far the most informed person in Southwest Washington on the subject of the I-5 bridge replacement project, a potential $5 Billion boondoggle.
Long term Clark County residents may recall that Rivers played a similar game to get her seat in the senate. She was first elected as a representative in 2010. In May 2012, she waited until Friday of filing week to announce that instead of running for reelection as a representative, she filed to run for Senator Joe Zarelli’s seat. Zarelli appears to have quietly communicated to Rivers he would not be running for reelection. The Friday filing by Rivers gave republicans no time to seek other potential candidates to run for the position. This is important because running as an incumbent substantially improves the chances of re-election.
On May 31st, Zarelli resigned his seat. Rivers was subsequently appointed, allowing her to run as an “incumbent” in both the primary and general election.
There is speculation that Rivers has no intention of serving her full elected term. At the Dec.11, 2021 18th Legislative District PCO meeting, Rivers said the most important thing was to keep the senate seat in republican hands. Ley noted her remark, saying the best way to ensure that was for her to serve her full term until the end of 2024. He asked if she would do that. Rivers refused to make that commitment publicly, instead offering a political statement not believed by many PCOs in attendance.
This sets up a potential scenario many PCOs are discussing behind the scenes. They expect Rivers will resign following the November election results being certified by Kimsey. That would open the door for Cheney or McClintock to be the front runners to fill the vacancy. It appears Rivers wants to hand-pick her successor, just as Joe Zarelli did.
BACK TO MCDONALD, CRAIN AND KIMSEY
During candidate filing week in May, there was discussion on social media about Ley’s candidacy. McDonald responds to a comment by Chuck Green talking about Ley’s Battle Ground address. Fran Hammond responds: “Get Ms. Crain on it stat! She will follow his every move! (Of course she may be one of his biggest supporters, so there is that.)” McDonald responds with an emoticon and saying “and NO she’s not a fan” Hammond later responds by mentioning the Port of Vancouver Commissioner race (Don Orange) and the fact that Carolyn Crain had filed a complaint in that election.
Crain filed her voter registration challenge on May 26th. She is outside the legal window to challenge Ley’s candidate filing, which the law says is two days after the close of filing week. Following a June 28 hearing, Kimsey ruled on July 8th that Ley was not a resident in Battle Ground on May 26. He said nothing about Ley’s residency in April or mid-May. Kimsey did say that his ruling would not impact Ley’s candidacy, in part because Ley had changed his voter registration to a Hazel Dell apartment which is in the 18th District.
One press report quoted the Washington Secretary of State’s office as saying Kimsey had made the correct decision, presumably including leaving Ley on the ballot.
But was Kimsey tainted by his earlier communications with McDonald? As Clark County Auditor should he have recused himself, since he was suggesting ways for McDonald to find evidence for her challenge that Crain would ultimately file on Cheney’s behalf? Was he tainted by requests to alter precinct boundaries to benefit Cheney?
Following Kimsey’s July 8 ruling, Crain claimed she couldn’t afford an attorney to appeal the ruling in press statements. Yet some unknown benefactor is paying for Republican representative Drew Stokesbary to represent Crain and fellow Republican Penny Ross in an appeal. Who is footing the bill?
The July 14 appeal was briefly heard without Ley’s presence or knowledge. In it, the judge declined the motion by Crain’s attorney to remove Ley’s name from the ballot. Presumably this should have ended the matter, letting the voters of the 18th decide who would represent them.
Inexplicably, less than 24 hours later on July 15th, the parties were back in court. Candidate Cheney was in attendance according to Recorder notes. Again, inexplicably, Ley had no knowledge of the hearing. Crain’s attorney had presented a motion, but ultimately it was Kimsey’s attorney (from the county prosecutor's office) who offered a substitute motion for “Alternative relief”. Why was Kimsey offering alternative relief? Why was candidate Cheney informed of the hearing, but not candidate Ley?
The judge approved that motion. Kimsey appears to have submitted the final “solution” eliminating Ley from consideration when counting ballots for the Aug. 2nd primary.
Where is the due process for Ley? Why does Ley represent such a threat to fellow republicans? Why would Kimsey change his mind, contradicting the Secretary of State’s office that had said he made the correct decision? Who is paying the bill for Crain and Ross? Yes, follow the money!
This hearing ended around 10:30 am Friday the 15th, but the county waited until 4:59 pm to issue the press release thereby precluding John Ley any opportunity whatsoever to act in response. The Judge ordered that on Monday July 18th, over 54,000 letters were to be mailed to 18th District voters from Kimsey’s office, explaining that votes for John Ley will not be counted. He has contradicted his earlier ruling that Ley should remain on the ballot. Crain did not file a challenge to Ley’s candidate filing. If she had done so, she was outside the legal window to challenge it.
Was it against the law for McDonald to seek precinct boundary changes, to benefit Cheney? It was certainly inappropriate for her to do so in her role as CCRP Vice Chair, and the party has an absolute responsibility to enforce discipline in this situation. Did Kimsey ultimately make the precinct boundary adjustments she requested? Candidate Cheney did end up in a precinct that was located in the 18th District.
There are more questions than answers. But we know there was an attempt to modify precinct boundaries to benefit one candidate. It is fair to surmise the judge knew nothing about Kimsey and McDonald’s six months of discussions, nor of McDonald’s requests that Kimsey effect changes to benefit Cheney. The judge likely did not know of Crain’s ties to McDonald.
It’s a mess. But the attempted manipulation by McDonald and Mattila go back to the beginning of when they gained control of the Republican party leadership. That “mess” resulted in PCOs circulating a petition to recall Mattila and McDonald last fall. It strains credulity to suggest any of this is happening outside CCRP Chairman Joel Mattila’s consent.
The average voter will be left in a quandary. Who to believe? Who to trust? Who to vote for? But the possible illegal manipulation by McDonald and her friends raises a multitude of questions. How much was Cheney involved? At a minimum we know he was present at the hearing where a Judge ruled in his favor. What did he know and when did he know it? How thoroughly was Rivers involved? Did she violate senate ethics rules? Were Vick and Hoff involved? There certainly appears to be coordination between Rivers, Vick, Hoff, Cheney, McClintock and McDonald.
Did Kimsey violate county ethics rules? Did Kimsey violate the law?
So many unanswered questions.
This is what we do know. Voters across America are confronted with the belief the sacred social contract of representative government, our elections, are being manipulated by corrupt political actors.
When political party officers violate the sacred duty of being fair arbiters of process, they are unethical but it is an intramural exercise.
When an elected official puts his hand on the scale in coordination those corrupt party apparatchiks, we are left to ask….are there other scales he has helped tip?