Tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge top the list of priorities for the three candidates running for the 26th Legislative District on the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas.
Incumbent Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, and her two Democratic challengers, Karin Ashabraner and Stephen Greer, say they want to find ways to keep tolls as low as possible. That’s a difficult proposition given debt payments on the bridge continue to increase, and traffic hasn’t grown as fast as initially projected.
Angel has suggested selling the naming rights to the bridge as one way to raise money. Her challengers say the idea has merit but also are interested in identifying other ways to raise cash.
It’s an area of common ground for candidates who otherwise point to individual strengths and different approaches to mending the state budget.
Angel touts her experience as a two-term state representative and a prior eight-year stint as a Kitsap County commissioner.
“With the tough times we’re having right now, experience really matters,” she said.
Democratic challenger Karin Ashabraner notes her breadth of experience as a former city worker, teacher, retired Army Reserve soldier and union representative.
“I think that balance is something that my opponents don’t have,” she said.
Stephen Greer, a lawyer, notes he’s the only true moderate in the race. Greer said he’s an independent but aligned with the Democratic Party in this race because he favors its stances on social issues.
“We need to listen to everybody,” he said. “No party owns the right idea.”
Two of the candidates will move on to the November general election to vie to represent a district whose boundaries saw little change during the redistricting process earlier this year. The district grew by more than 3,500 residents, but the only change was unifying Port Orchard within its boundary.
The candidates differ on how to jump-start the state economy and balance the state’s budget if another projected shortfall emerges.
Greer, 53, of Wauna favors a sales tax holiday to assist working families and a temporary break on the business and occupation tax as an incentive to expand existing employers and recruit new ones. Ashabraner, 57, of Gig Harbor supports looking at closing some tax loopholes to bring in additional revenue and drafting a statewide stimulus package to pay for transportation projects to put people back to work. Angel, 65, wants to reduce the cost of doing business in the state through reforms to the state’s workers’ compensation system and with a freeze on the minimum wage.
Neither Ashabraner nor Angel would say whether they would vote to raise taxes and fees to close a budget shortfall; Angel said it would depend on the circumstances, and Ashabraner said she wanted to do additional research. Greer expressed a willingness but only as a “last resort.”
Asked whether and where they’d cut spending, all three candidates mentioned doing a through review to determine what is expendable. Greer said middle management is a likely place, while Angel favored a review of entitlement programs to ensure the money is going to people who can’t care for themselves. Ashabraner agreed spending cuts are an option but raised concerns that needed programs already have had their budgets slashed.
Both Angel and Ashabraner said improvements need to be funded to improve safety on state Route 302, which links Purdy and Allyn. Greer, an advisory board member at Olympic College, a two-year school in Bremerton, said he wants to ensure tight budgets don’t prevent people from continuing their education there.
At least two of the three candidates oppose Initiative 502, a measure on the November ballot that would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and tax it.
Angel and Greer both said they support medicinal use of cannabis but opposed this measure for different reasons. Angel said she strongly believe marijuana is a “gateway drug” and can’t support decriminalizing recreational use. Greer said there are problems with the state’s law on medicinal pot and he can’t support broadening its use without addressing those issues first.
Ashabraner said she was hesitant to offer an opinion without having initiative’s language in front of her.
The candidates also had differing views on the referendum facing voters in November to uphold the state’s new same-sex marriage law. Angel won’t say specifically that she opposes the measure.
“This bill was a bill changing the definition of traditional marriage, and I support traditional marriage,” she said.
The two Democratic candidates support the referendum.
“One marriage doesn’t detract from another, so I’m fully in favor of same-sex marriage,” Ashabraner said
The Democratic challengers have something else in common: They both have faced bankruptcy in years past.
The Kitsap Sun reported earlier this month that Ashabraner filed for protection from creditors in 1986 following a business failure and again a decade later after an out-of-control home remodel. Ashabraner said in her interview with The News Tribune that both decisions were heavily influenced by her two former husbands, although all of the blame doesn’t rest with them.
“I still have the ability and the care to represent the citizens of this district,” she said.
Greer filed for Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy in 2000. Greer told The News Tribune it was because of medical bills. His wife required physical and mental care after being the victim of a crime, and he required treatment for cancer, which has been in remission for seven years.
“We didn’t really have any control over it,” he said. “Insurance doesn’t cover most of the things that crime victims need. I had to pay for my own private insurance (being self-employed) and it only covered 80 percent.”
26TH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT CANDIDATES
City of residence: Port Orchard
Occupation: State representative
Education: Attended University of Alaska-Anchorage and Colorado State University, studying banking and business administration.
Community and political experience: Kitsap County commissioner, 2000-08; state representative, 2009 to present; board member for Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce
Total raised, spent*: $30,479.00, $5,305.98
Top five donors:
• Gig Harbor Republican Women, $900
• Anna Meyer, Renton, homemaker, $900
• Bruce Meyer, Renton, manager Michels Management Services, $900
• Premera Blue Cross, $900
• Washington State Dental PAC, $900
City of residence: Wauna
Occupation: Private attorney
Education: Bachelor’s degree, criminal justice/police science, Seattle University; master’s degree, criminal justice, Boston University; doctorate, law, Seattle University School of Law
Community and political experience: Youth mentor, Kitsap County Youth Services Center; advisory board member, Olympic Community College
Total raised, spent: So far none raised or spent. Greer said he expects in-kind donations this week for campaign brochures and signs.
City of residence: Gig Harbor
Occupation: Eighth-grade U.S. history teacher, Goodman Middle School, Gig Harbor; retired Army Reserve veteran with 22 years of service.
Education: master’s degree, teaching, University of Puget Sound; bachelor’s degree, global studies, University of Washington
Community and political experience: President, Peninsula Education Association, 2007-2011; current union treasurer
Total raised, spent*: $11,499.00, $6,919.17
Top five donors:
• Gerald Baldwin, Gig Harbor, United Airlines pilot, $900
• Joan Baldwin, Gig Harbor, retired, $900
• Washington Teamsters Legislative League, $900
• 26th Legislative District Democrats, $500
• ILWU Local 23 PAC, a longshore union at Port of Tacoma, $500
* as of June 21
Source: Washington Public Disclosure Commission