Curtis Hart pulling out of Kelso City Council race
Brennen Kauffman Jul 14, 2021 2
Curtis Hart will appear on the ballot for the Kelso City Council primary, but he is working to suspend his campaign.
Hart said Wednesday that he was no longer planning to move forward due to concerns with years of financial disclosures, for himself and his wife, that are required by the Public Disclosure Commission for political candidates and office holders.
“I’m a public records hound, so I know what can happen once you have those records open to the public, especially if there are people that don’t like you,” Hart said.
His decision to suspend the campaign came after the drop-out deadline for the Aug. 3 primary election. Cowlitz County’s ballots were in the process of being shipped out Wednesday and will list Hart as a candidate for position 1 on the Kelso City Council.
Hart gained notoriety over the last four years for his aggressive vigilante work against sexual offenders in Kelso, often through public records. A record request he made to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office for details of every low-level sex offender turned into a three-year lawsuit after a group of “John Doe” offenders sued to stop their release.
The “John Does” argued they would suffer severe harassment and harm if Hart went through with plans to publicly release their information. In March, the Washington State Court of Appeals issued a decision in favor of Hart obtaining the full list of records.
Hart said he had initially entered the City Council race because of discussions around limiting the number of sexual offenders who can live in one residence in Kelso. The city staff began drafting an ordinance to establish limits for registered sex offenders in May and Hart said that progress was another reason he was happy to exit the race.
Cowlitz County Auditor Carolyn Fundingsland said if candidates miss the initial withdrawal deadline, there was no process for them to be removed from the ballot any other time before the November general election.
“There is no leeway in state law,” Fundingsland said. “Those candidates, if voted for they will advance to the general election and can be elected to office.”
Hart said Wednesday that he would refuse the position if he did end up winning the race in November.
The other two candidates on the ballot for position 1 in Kelso are incumbent Jeffrey McAllister and Brian Wood. The two candidates with the most votes in the August primary will go on to the general election in November.