More on Candidates’ Forum: 26th District Races

This is a follow up to a post I made yesterday, giving more details on a candidate forum hosted Monday by the Leagues of Women Voters of Kitsap County. Yesterday, we heard from 35th District candidates. Today, we’ll hear more from contenders for 26th District seats.

Remember, the whole forum will be broadcast on BKAT at 8 p.m. Sept. 16, 10 a.m. Sept. 17, 8 p.m. Sept. 23 and 7 p.m. Oct. 3. You can see video coverage of candidates in most races speaking to the Kitsap Sun’s editorial board at the Kitsap Sun’s Election Guide Web page.

26th District Representative Position 2
Incumbent Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, responded to a question about Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposed across the board cuts by describing a meeting he’d had in Seattle with government and health care representatives. The purpose of the meeting, he said, was to form a network of “hospitals, schools, faith-based organizations” and other community groups to fill in the ranks as the state reduces funding for childrens’ health care. This is the kind of approach that will be needed, Seaquist said, because legislators need to “downsize state government 20 percent.”
Seaquist then blasted fellow legislators for leaving the budget cut question up to the governor to decide. “The legislature should have gone back to work,” Seaquist said. “The legislature should have been down there. Her hands were tied.”
Doug Richards of Olalla, his Republican challenger, was not happy with the proposed across the board cuts. He said the legislature needs to look at “the big picture” and analyze why the state is operating in a deficit. He criticized what he described as Olympia’s dependence on federal stimulus funds and said leadership was lacking in the legislature. “When they were in session, they were basically playing Vegas, hoping the money will come in. … Politics as usual is not working down there. One time money is not sustainable. This has to change.”
On education funding, Seaquist said the state should implement a procedure similar to the BRAC commission, which evaluates Navy bases on their output and makes closures accordingly. Yes, schools need to be amply funded, Seaquist said, “but we’ve got to see output.”
Richards advocates giving local schools more control of state education funds. He advocates increased deregulation of schools.

26th District Representative Position 1
Incumbent Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, decried across the board cuts, saying, “I don’t believe that is the way you balance a budget.”
Angel said the legislature needs to define core services, and to demand more productivity and efficiency, starting with its own offices.
Angel referenced a study of state priorities done under former Gov. Gary Locke, but it’s “still sitting on a shelf in Olympia.”
“Some areas can’t take a massive hit,” said Angel, who is vocally opposed to unfunded mandates.
Sumner Schoenike, a Gig Harbor pediatrician and Democrat, also disagrees with the across-the-board approach, calling it an “abdication of duties.” “We are sent to Olympia to make difficult decisions, and that’s exactly what we must do,” he said. “We did not by chance end up in a budget deficit. This is a national issue, folks.”
Schoenike blamed much of the mess on “the profligate ways on Wall Street.”
He said legislators have to recognize they are dealing with an unprecedented situation and take a whole new approach.
The two candidates did not discuss health care at the forum, but on this topic, they are diametrically opposed. Schoenike is a strong supporter of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. Angel said she is alarmed by the potential for unfunded mandates the act implies. Her quote, from a Kitsap Sun Editorial Board meeting, “Our citizens are totally irate about this. This is a system, which, when citizens say this was shoved down our throat, it is.”

26th District Senate
Incumbent Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and challenger Marty McClendon didn’t find a lot to disagree about at the forum.
On the issue of collective bargaining for state employees, McClendon said that union leaders representing state employees need to recognize the increased burden for health care costs incurred by private sector employees. Union leaders should negotiate in good faith to bring state employee health care contributions more in line with the private sector, McClendon said.
Kilmer said he could see both sides of the issue.
“I do not think we should balance the budget on the backs of our state employees,” he said. “On the flip side, I don’t think our employees should be exempt from budget cuts. … I would rather see a 5 percent pay cut than a 100 percent pay cut.”
Both touted their qualifications for the job.
Kilmer stood on his record of fighting for higher education and ferry service, and keeping tolls down on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, reprising his frequently cited self-assessment in this regard as a “pitbull.” He said he would continue his advocacy on behalf of small business (he opposed a B&O tax increase and helped pass a law reducing regulatory paperwork, he said). “We should reduce the cost of doing business,” said Kilmer, who works with the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.
McClendon is a real estate broker and small business owner with a background in health care. He was able to raise himself up by his bootstraps, but he doesn’t see similar opportunities for his own children, which is why he’s running for office. “I’m not a politician. … I’m a common sense kind of a guy,” he said.

Correction: Derek Kilmer works with the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County. The incorrect board was named in an earlier version of this post.

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