Election night parties carry with them a plethora of possible atmospheres. Some are edged with nervous excitement as a party’s major players take commanding leads. Others become ghastly and silent, as results tell of a crushing loss.
Neither seemed the case Tuesday night at a shindig at the Riverside Golf Club in the hours before and after Lewis County and statewide results came pouring in. The comfortable digs were liberally peppered with uncontested contenders and safe bets. Some officials made brief appearances before high-tailing it to the courthouse for a first-hand telling of their contested race.
The night was hosted by Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, and a banner bearing his reelection campaign logo (Snaza ran unopposed) hung outside. It was a night to express appreciation for community support, said Snaza — not to be confused with his twin brother, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza, who also ran unopposed and was also in attendance. The two represent the only instance in the country of twins simultaneously serving as sheriffs of adjacent counties, said Lewis County’s Snaza.
Entering his second term, Snaza said he hopes to continue the course the office has charted during his first term. He rattled off some of those issues: combating homeless and the opioid crisis, and responding effectively to mental health emergencies in the jail and county.
He put emphasis on upping community involvement, especially with school systems. He said he hopes to see deputies become more of a fixture in county schools.
About an hour before any results — local or state — were available for public consumption, Snaza spoke on a couple initiatives that will have direct results on law enforcement. One, Initiative 940, redefines scenarios where a law enforcement officer would be able to lawfully shoot and kill a person in the line of duty.
It calls for the elimination of the word “malice” in current law as the standard that must be proven to prosecute an officer for a shooting, replacing it with a “good faith” standard and further examination of the shooting. Additionally, all officers would take mental health and de-escalation training and would be required to administer first aid in certain circumstances.
Some opponents have said officers might hesitate to do their jobs in certain dangerous situations with the measure as law.
Snaza said overall, he wasn’t in favor, but also said Lewis County deputies are already adhering to some elements of the measure — mainly, the training aspect. He said Lewis County is among the top tier of Washington state sheriff’s offices when it comes to mental health training hours, and he plans to up the ante more.
“Our goal by the end of the next few years is to have every single deputy and corrections deputy having 40 hours of crisis intervention training,” he said.
An initiative that’s caused perhaps more of a racket among both proponents and opponents is Initiative 1639, a sweeping gun reform measure requiring intensified background checks and waiting periods, mandatory safe-storage techniques and bumping the legal age to own a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.
“It goes way beyond safe gun ownership. I have practiced and preached safe gun ownership,” said Snaza, who said he strongly opposes I-1639 — a sentiment previously expressed by Washington’s 19th and 20th legislative districts’ representatives.
Later that evening, results would show Lewis County voters largely agreed with the sheriff, but not with statewide voters as a whole. Both measures passed.
Among other party-goers were several who tossed their hat into the ring for freeholder positions — those who would be tasked with rewriting the county charter if the home rule measure had passed. The measure was fraught with legal trouble after Lewis County Commissioners voted to divide freeholder elections into 15 sub-districts. That move was contested by political action committee One Lewis County, arguing sub-districts weren’t an option for freeholder elections listed in the state constitution.
Fred Rider, a candidate for freeholder in commissioner district 2, sub-district 4, was among the party-goers, and said he had signed his name on the lawsuit.
“I’m still not happy about the sub-divisions in the election of freeholders, because there’s five of them out of my commissioner district, and I only got to vote for one, and I don’t believe that was right. That’s part of the reason I signed onto the lawsuit,” Rider said.
Ultimately, first returns of results showed the home rule charter process was opposed by 55 percent of voters.
The party began to dwindle as 8 p.m. rolled around and the release of first returns was nigh. Fewer people filled the room, some looking at their phones, waiting for results to populate the election tab of the Lewis County government website.
A large TV on the wall depicted a live broadcast of Fox News — an outlet with commonly-cited political leanings that seemed to adhere with the general population of the party — as the anchors divulged results that would ultimately see Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and Republicans maintain control of the Senate.
State Representative for Washington’s 20th district, Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, moseyed about the party. He called his campaign against challenger John Thompson, D-Silver Lake one based on issues. By night’s end, DeBolt would have a commanding lead — one that uncounted ballots would be unable to undo.
Election results were released at around 8:30 p.m. and proved something like shot of adrenaline into the room, as chatter was filled with the intake of results — results that Snaza earlier that evening called the voice of the community.
“We should all have a pulse on how the community is thinking,” he said. “Am I informed?”