A critical care nurse looking to make a political comeback is among the six candidates vying for a state House seat representing the Puyallup-centered 25th Legislative District.
Dawn Morrell, a Democrat, spent eight years in Olympia before losing her seat by a razor-thin margin in 2010.
Among her competitors in the crowded August primary: a former legislative assistant who’s run for office before, and four newcomers to state politics, including a Chamber of Commerce leader and a Washington State University student.
The WSU student, Republican Zac Nix, didn’t respond to interview requests from The News Tribune. In the state’s primary voters guide, he said his focus would include job creation and building a strong economy.
His five rivals listed similar goals in interviews and campaign literature.
The top two vote-getters will advance to November’s general election.
The 25th District, which covers territory from Fife south to unincorporated land near Orting, saw its geographic layout change somewhat with this year’s post-census redistricting, including losing Edgewood and Milton. But that hasn’t changed its reputation as a swing district; it’s sent both Republicans and Democrats to the Legislature over the last decade.
Rep. Bruce Dammeier, a Puyallup Republican, holds the House Position 1 seat today; he’s running for state Senate.
Morrell, 62, has perhaps the most name recognition in the race and certainly the biggest campaign war chest.
She had raised more than $40,000 as of last week, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. The Democrat held the district’s other House seat from 2003 to 2010 before losing by 30 votes to Republican challenger Hans Zeiger.
On her website, Morrell touts her record in education, budget reform, tax relief and veterans support. She said she’d work to bring funding for transportation projects back to Pierce County and close corporate tax loopholes that aren’t creating jobs.
Morrell said she’d look to cut state spending before considering tax hikes should another budget shortfall emerge. She pointed to tech spending and purchasing as possible places for savings.
She said her work as a nurse drove her back into politics. She called health care “a passion of mine” and said her expertise in the area especially will be important now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the federal Affordable Care Act.
“I’m in a position to be able to help wisely implement (it),” she said.
Schlumpf, 51, a Republican, is making her first bid for Legislature, but she’s known in the Puyallup Valley for her job running the local Chamber of Commerce.
She said she’d continue as a jobs advocate in Olympia, working to strike a balance between the need for some business regulation and the ability of businesses to expand and grow. She also wants to break the “transportation chokehold” that hurts local industry and commuters, she said.
She said she’d push for completion of the long-sought state Route 167 extension. The roadway originally was supposed to run from Renton to Tacoma, but construction stalled near Puyallup.
Schlumpf said she sees business development, not higher taxes, as the way to more solid economic footing in the state. Her goal is to “grow our way out of the situation we’re in economically, not tax our way out,” she said.
She said she wants a state budget that’s “honest and straight-forward,” without “creative gimmicks,” and will work for education reforms that narrow the gap between the skills students have upon graduation and what they’ll need in the work force.
Hingsberger, 33, acknowledges he doesn’t have the financial backing of Morrell, the other Democrat on the ballot.
But “I’m not a party candidate. I want to represent the people, not parties,” he said.
While he said he’d look to cut state spending, he singled out education as an area he’d leave alone. He said he’d introduce a proclamation declaring the 2013 Legislature will “focus on education, fund it and deal with the issues the McCleary decision brought up.”
He was referring to the state Supreme Court’s determination earlier this year that the state isn’t fulfilling its duty to adequately fund basic education.
Hingsberger said he wants the Legislature to be “very supportive of small businesses” and would work on legislation to simplify and cut small-business taxes. “We want people to be innovative and create small businesses and services,” he said. “We don’t want to burden them with all this bureaucracy, paperwork” and too-high taxes.
Hingsberger, who has a background in criminal justice, said he’d also push to toughen penalties for people who commit home invasions, which he said seem to be on the rise.
CAROLE SUE BRAATEN
Braaten, 56, says she’s deeply familiar with the issues in her district, which range from flooding to economic worries, because of years of community involvement that includes attending Fife City Council meetings and public sessions about flooding issues.
The Republican is the only one in the race from outside Puyallup; she’s from Fife. She narrowly lost a Fife City Council race in 2009.
Braaten said she saw the state’s economic problems coming years ago because of the hyperinflation of the housing market. She wouldn’t support raising taxes, and wants a review of state departments to find savings on the expenditure side, she said. That could include dividing the state Department of Social and Health Services and cutting pay for the governor and legislators, she said.
Among her ideas to help boost the state’s economy: legislation to stem the outsourcing of jobs.
“I understand that the priority has to be a balanced budget,” she said. “I’m willing to work with all the groups and all the people on both sides, because I represent the people of my district.”
Smith, 61, a Republican, touts her nearly 10 years of experience as a state legislative assistant. She’s sought state office a few times before unsuccessfully, including a 2004 run for the state House in which she lost to Morrell with 46 percent of the vote.
“When I’ve run before it was because I felt there were issues I could address,” Smith said.
This time, those issues include transportation, Smith said, adding she’d push for completion of SR 167 as well as the cross-base highway, which would provide a link between Interstate 5 and state Route 7. She also said she’d work to ease some business regulations, with a focus on reducing costs for small start-ups.
The election will come down to which candidate shares voters’ views on the role of government, Smith said. “You elect a person’s philosophy,” she said, describing hers this way: “Every piece of legislation that comes before you, you ask, ‘Is that the role of government? Is the money being spent efficiently and do we have the money for it? And is this the best thing for my district?’”
Occupation: Critical care nurse at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital.
Education: Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Washington Tacoma.
Community and political experience: State representative, 25th District, 2003-2010; Washington State Nurses Association legislative and policy council; Pierce County Nurses Association board.
Total raised, spent*: $40,334, $15,317.
Top donors include: The Roy-based Citizens for Better Government, the Harry Truman Fund in Seattle, Washington State Nurses Association and SEIU all gave $1,800. Top individual donors include Becky Johnson and Nelson Galeos, both Good Samaritan employees, $900 each.
Occupation: President and chief executive officer of the Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce.
Education: Orting High School graduate and certified paralegal.
Community and political experience: Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitor Bureau board, Puyallup High School booster club, and band parents and cheer parents groups.
Total raised, spent*: $16,363, $8,021
Top donors include: Premera Blue Cross, $1,800; Betty Yoder and Erwin G. Yoder, owners of Sunset Chevrolet, $900 each; Madeline K. Jones of M. Jones Enterprises, $900. Several donors gave $500, including Jerry Korum, owner of Korum Automotive Group.
Age: Not available.
Occupation/education: Washington State University student.
Community and political experience: Serves on a church worship team, teaches vacation Bible school, serves meals to the homeless and has taken mission trips to Mexico through Amor Ministries.
Total raised, spent*: No fundraising activity reported.
Occupation: Full-time Tacoma Community College student studying health information management. Former juvenile justice worker.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice from Washington State University.
Community and political experience: Good Samaritan Hospital volunteer.
Total raised, spent*: $2,215, $1,347.
Top donors include: Denise Lumlung of Puyallup, $20.
Carole Sue Braaten
Occupation: In-home care provider and seasonal parks maintenance worker.
Education: Associate of Arts and Science from Tacoma Community College; studied agricultural science at Washington State University.
Community and political experience: Puget Sound Pigeon Club secretary, union shop steward and negotiator.
Total raised, spent*: No fundraising activity reported.
Occupation: Former state legislative aide.
Education: Associate of Arts in underseas technical engineering from Highline Community College; studied at Boston State College.
Community and political experience: Vice president of the Argus Manor board, precinct committee officer, Puyallup Valley Republican Women’s Club, YMCA volunteer.
Total raised, spent*: $2,987, $457.
Top donors: Sandy Schulz of Edgewood, $200; John Ahern of Spokane, $75; Milton Hilmer of Edgewood, $50; Michael J. Morehart of Lakewood, $50; Janice Shabro of Edgewood, $35.
*Fundraising information is as of June 29.
Sources: Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, interviews and election literature.