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More on Candidates’ Debate

A couple of people commenting on my story about Monday’s candidate forum complained that it was lacking in depth.

I understand that trying to give 12 candidates in six races a say in a single story can seem superficial. Even before I read those comments, I had planned to do a follow-up blog post. Today, I’ll give a little more on what I heard from 35th District candidates. Tomorrow, I’ll give 26th District Candidates their turn.

I thought the format of the forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap County, was good, in that they separated the races, giving candidates in each race a chance to address the questions one-on-one, instead of using a panel format. Questions were submitted by members of the audience. Because of time constraints, not all candidates got to answer all the same questions.

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.

No surprise, many of the questions at the forum related to the state budget, specifically:
* Gov. Chris Gregoire’s order for across the board cuts to the state budget
* contract talks between the governor’s office and the state’s largest union representing government workers.
* Fully-funded basic education.
* along with other issues

35th District Rep. Position 2
Incumbent Fred Finn, D-rural Thurston County, said he generally supports across the board cuts, given the current realities of the state budget. In theory, targeted cuts would be better, “but this is the real world,” he said.
Republican Linda Simpson of Bremerton also said she would prefer to selectively trim the budget based on priorities, but “at some point, across the board cuts seem the way to go.”

On education funding, Simpson said the amount allocated to K-12 education actually should be adequate, as long as the allocation remains dedicated specifically to education. “I honestly don’t believe it’s underfunded,” she said. “It has enough money, but it should be the number one thing that’s funded.”
Finn named education among his top three priorities, along with job growth and transportation (specifically with an eye on the yet-to-be-built Belfair Bypass). He noted his involvement in passage of a bill that revised the way school transportation is funded. Implementing fully funded education will require strong bipartisan cooperation, he said.

35th District Rep. Position 1
Candidates in this race got a question asking for “specific solutions to the budget crisis.”
Republican Dan Griffey of Allyn called for “zero-based” budgeting and a six-year budget cycle, instead of two. Like many, he talked about setting priorities, “instead of the shotgun approach.”
Incumbent Kathy Haigh said of the budget process, “It’s hard work. It’s hard and long and tedious, and I plan on being there.”

Haigh, who has chaired the Education Appropriations Committees, said education has been and remains her number one priority. In the last session, faced with the need to make cuts, she reluctantly voted to eliminate money set aside under Initiative-728 funding, for example, because it was not mandated by state law.
Griffey supports a “segregated” fund for education, and he suggested separating the job of funding education from the job of setting education policy. Fund it first, then talk policy, he said.

35th District Senate
Incumbent Tim Seldon, D-Potlatch, and challenger Nancy “Grandma” Williams, a member of Washington’s Tea Party, talked about how to help small business.
Williams, who with her husband has owned a mini-storage and cab company, said she would “get rid of B&O taxes for two years” to give businesses a chance to stabilize. She also favors deregulation and allowing “free market principals” to drive the economy. “Life is simple,” she said. “We make it difficult by putting laws and regulations on people.”
Sheldon’s family has been in the timber and oyster business, and he has a bachelor’s degree in economics and an MBA in business administration. Out of the discussion of the proposed Adage biomass project – to involve energy generation through burning of timber slash – and a question on the future of the timber industry, Sheldon gave a fairly rosy projection. While “on the ground” timber jobs have been lost to technology, the industry actually is thriving. “I see a good future for the timber industry in our area if we continue to invest in new technologies like biomass.”
Sheldon was in the minority on the biomass plant, as other candidates raised concerns about air pollution and whether the plant would be sustainable.

The candidates also talked about the importance of ferries to the 35th District, which represents Mason and portions of Grays Harbor, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties.
Williams favors privatizing the ferries. She said she recognizes the importance of ferries to commuters in the 35th.
Sheldon said Kitsap and Mason counties respectively have the number one and two longest commutes in terms of time in the state. Passenger only ferries have not proven profitable, he said, but Western Washington needs to keep up the pressure on Washington State Ferries for more regular service.
“We don’t take a backseat to anyone,” he said. “We need to start acting a little bit like the boss and tell the state ferries that they’ve got to listen.”
Sheldon favors opening ferry construction contracts to out-of-state companies.