LaDon Linde, Autumn Torres and Jim Restucci were the top three candidates chosen Wednesday night by the local Republican Party to replace the late Norm Childress on the Yakima County Board of Commissioners.
Childress died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 15.
State law allows the political party of a departing commissioner to select three candidates to fill the vacancy. Sitting commissioners choose among those three finalists to fill the vacancy.
Under state law, the party and commissioners have 60 days to fill the vacancy. If not, Gov. Jay Inslee would make the selection.
Linde is the director of medical staff services at Astria Sunnyside Hospital. Torres is the human resources director of fertilizing company Husch & Husch in Harrah and Restucci is a Sunnyside City Council member who also serves on the state Transportation Commission.
More than 120 people gathered at the Yakima SunDome to narrow the pool of nominees from 11 to the top three.
Of the 97 precinct officers qualified to vote countywide, 89 participated in the selection process.
“It was very good — I feel good about the process,” said Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Debbi Manjarrez. “It was really important that we could have it here and in person.”
Under committee rules, a nominee must gather a majority of votes before advancing as a candidate. Five rounds of votes were held without any nominee securing a majority of votes, which would have been 45.
Linde, who was the high vote getter each time, captured a majority in the sixth round with 47. Torres became the second candidate in the following round after gathering 33 votes and Restucci collected nine to be named the third and final candidate.
“It seems we had a lot of good candidates,” Linde said.
He said his interest in the commission comes from his work at the hospital, where he sees those working on the front lines battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Linde said while the virus is real, that it’s time to start moving the county’s economy forward in a safe way.
“To get back to work, to get back to church, wherever and however we can do that safely,” he said.
Linde said he doesn’t criticize the initial response, but now it’s time look at the matter holistically.
There are people who are still vulnerable to the virus and others who are resilient. Meanwhile there are many who have lost their jobs and many businesses have been lost.
“We have to take all that into account,” he said.
Torres said she’s concerned about property rights people are facing in the wake of the county’s water utility, which subjects new rural domestic wells to permits and usage fees.
She said she’s heard complaints and worries it may be thwarting development.
“The people I have talked to — it’s very burdensome,” she said.
Restucci said his nonpartisan roles as a City Council member led to him losing touch with his party, though he has always voted Republican.
“The fact that I did make it into the top three, I’m very happy about that,” he said afterward.
He said his work as chairman of the Yakima County Conference of Governments and the Transportation Commission provide him with necessary experience in county budgeting. He said he worked with Childress on just about every county board over the years and has played a key role in bringing state and federal dollars to area transportation and other projects.
“I’ve been involved in the county for years,” he said. “Being a county commissioner, I’m just moving to the seat to the right.”