Following a series of sexual misconduct allegations ranging from unwanted staring to statutory rape, embattled Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Cle Elum, has promised to resign from the legislature if he is reelected this November. County Republican parties in Grant, Kittitas, Yakima and Lincoln counties are currently vetting candidates as potential replacements for Manweller if he wins reelection.
If Manweller wins reelection and resigns, Precinct Committee Officers from the four county Republican parties will choose three finalists to potentially replace the Republican legislator, according to state elections guidelines. County commissioners from the four counties will choose one person among the three candidates to fill the open position in the state legislature.
As an initial step, the Republican parties of the four counties, which each have some amount of territory in the 13th Legislative District that Manweller represents, are individually interviewing potential candidates. The Kittitas County Republicans held a public meeting Friday to vet the potential candidates. The Grant County Republicans held a similar meeting Monday, but it was closed to both the media and the public.
Six candidates had thrown their hat into the ring as of Friday, said Kittitas County Republican Chair Marlene Pfeifer, including Alex Ybarra, Rich Coleman, Ian Elliot, Obie O’Brien, Danny Stone and Brandon Rendon. Rendon withdrew his candidacy Monday evening, leaving five candidates.
Ybarra has served for seven years as the Quincy School Board Director and was recently elected vice president of the Washington State School Board Association. Ybarra has also worked for the Grant County Public Utility District since 2003 and is currently employed as a reliability and compliance auditor. During his time with the PUD, Ybarra worked as an analyst representing the county’s interests in ongoing negotiations on the Columbia River Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. Ybarra has also been employed as a reliability engineer at the Rocket Research Company working on the back end with cruise missiles, space shuttle hardware and Mars landers.
Coleman has served on the Kittitas City Council for four months and has worked as a manager at the Kittitas County Trading Co., a gun store in Ellensburg, for eight years. Coleman said that although he received a liberal education, a decade in business in Central Washington has led him to be frustrated with overbearing regulations and Democrats in Olympia. Coleman said that with his experience both left and right of center, he believes he can bridge the gap between the two parties.
Elliot served as a state legislator from the Puget Sound area from 1995-96 and has been a resident of Kittitas County since 2004. He has previously ran unsuccessfully for election to the state Senate. He has served on a number of state and county agencies.
O’Brien has served as a Kittitas County commissioner since January 2011 and previously served seven years on the Ellensburg City Council and two years as mayor of Ellensburg. O’Brien also spent 10 years on the board of directors for HopeSource, a private human services non-profit.
Stone served until recently as the chair of the Grant County Republicans, to which position he was elected by the county party in 2016. Stone, a wheat farmer whose family has farmed for four generations, has also spent decades coaching high school softball and cross country teams.
Only Ybarra, Rendon and Coleman immediately responded to requests for comment.