Convicted felon running for school board seat

ELLENSBURG, Wash.-- Felons are generally banned from voting. One ex-con turned candidate has every right to have his name on the ballot. In fact, he's been there several times before.

Gene Camarata hopes to guide the futures of Ellensburg students. He's running for a director position on the Ellensburg school board. Camarata is also a convicted felon. He may have paid his debt to society, but he hasn't kept his nose clean.

"He does have numerous restraining orders against him by individuals in the community," Superintendent Paul Farris said.

The head of Ellensburg Schools isn't comfortable with Camarata running unopposed for the school board position. The state says he has every right to.

KIMA combed through the paperwork and found despite dozens of protection orders, both recent and expired, it's legal for Camarata to be on the ballot. According to Washington State's Elections Division, a convicted felon can run in a local election if the county allows it.

"He will most likely be elected unless there's a write-in," Farris said.

Camarata's conviction was for felony witness tampering. The protection orders came out of harassing emails; many sexual in nature. Camarata's name is a mainstay on Kittitas County ballots. This is the seventh time he's run for an elected position since 2001. He's never been elected before. This is his first attempt at the school board.

A group of community members are hoping to keep Camarata from being elected , challenging his residency.

"They feel that he does not live in Ellensburg," Farris said.

If those challenges do fail, it'll be up to the people of Ellensburg to cast their ballots and make a decision: Gene Camarata or a write-in.

To get all sides, KIMA tried to reach Camarata. We were given several old numbers and none of them worked. People at other city offices wouldn't talk on camera because they too, feared harrassment by the ex-con that could see a future on the Ellensbug school board.

Without a need for a primary election, Camarata automatically advances to the general election in November. So far, there hasn't been any declared interest from potential write-in candidates.