28th District hopefuls agree traffic is bad, but that’s it
CHRISTIAN HILL AND ZACH SMITH
The candidates for both state House seats in Legislative District 28, which includes Lakewood and a portion of Tacoma, agree on little – except that more needs to be done to relieve congestion on Interstate 5 through Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
It’s an area of common ground for Ken Campbell, Eric Choiniere and Steve O’Ban in their race to succeed Democratic Rep. Troy Kelley, who now holds the district’s House Position 1 and is running for state auditor.
Candidates for the district’s Position 2, Democratic incumbent Tami Green and Republican challengers Paul Wagemann and Malcolm Russell, also see traffic as a top priority.
Redistricting – prompted by new census population numbers – expanded the district’s boundaries to include more of the Army-Air Force base as well as the area south of South Hill. The district also includes Lakewood, University Place, DuPont and Fircrest.
On other issues – such as balancing the state budget and jump-starting the state economy – the candidates take widely different positions.
Of the three candidates vying to replace Kelley, only one – Choiniere – has held elected office, but none is a stranger to campaigning.
O’Ban, an attorney who has taken some high-profile cases arguing in support of the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and for an Olympia pharmacy’s decision to not stock an emergency contraceptive, lost his bid against Kelley in 2010. Campbell, a real estate broker, ran unsuccessfully for University Place City Council last year.
Campbell said he would use the House seat to work on strengthening families. In his view, a base of strong families means better education, a better job market and less spending on social-safety nets.
“For me, it all goes back to the family,” he said.
Choiniere said he can be a voice for the everyman in Olympia because he understands where everyone is coming from.
Asked whether he would support raising taxes or cutting spending to close a budget shortfall, Choiniere said he would make those decisions on a case-by-case basis. But he did say deep spending cuts aren’t the answer.
“Slash-and-burns, I’ve never seen a time where that’s worked,” he said.
O’Ban favors spending cuts over raising taxes and fees to close a potential shortfall in the state budget. He supports shoring up funding to education, but he sees a need to cut down the state’s labor force.
“It can be done in a merciful fashion,” he said.
Campbell said making programs and services more efficient is a better alternative to tax increases, which he generally opposes. He said government can’t spend its way to creating new jobs.
“If there’s a need, the free market will respond to deal with that need,” he said.
Rather, Campbell supports giving small businesses relief from government regulation that is curbing their ability to hire new employees.
“I think small businesses truly feel they need an accountant and lawyer on staff to exist at all,” he said. “We shouldn’t be that complicated.”
O’Ban also says it’s imperative to remove regulation that hurts the growth of small business and supports a periodic review of rules that affect them.
“It really does hamper their ability to make a living, and they have to make a living to create jobs,” he said.
O’Ban supports giving those businesses a temporary reprieve from business-and-occupation taxes for each new worker they hire.
Choiniere favors closing some tax loopholes to bring in more money for the state but also supports creating temporary ones to help boost the state economy. He criticized, for instance, a sales tax exemption for country club memberships.
Choiniere said determining which credits to oppose and which to create requires a “delicate balance,” but he is not interested in “giving away the farm just to get a business.” Another way to grow the state economy, he offered, was to “double down on tourism.”
Choiniere said he would serve out his last year on the City Council if elected as state representative but wouldn’t seek re-election to the city seat.
Public records show Choiniere twice filed for bankruptcy protection because of medical expenses. Choiniere said his family has been on solid financial ground since and that he expects voters won’t hold it against him because there’s a better understanding of those challenges in the poor economy.
All three candidates for Position 1 said they oppose Initiative 502, which would legalize sales and possession of marijuana. Campbell and O’Ban oppose Referendum 74, the measure on the November ballot that would uphold the state’s new same-sex-marriage law. Choiniere said he supports it.
In the 2010 election, Democrat Tami Green of Lakewood defeated Republican Paul Wagemann of Lakewood by a narrow margin. This year, Wagemann and fellow Republican Malcolm Russell of Lakewood are looking to end Green’s run in the Legislature.
“I just get the sense that (Green’s) not representing the entire demographic of the 28th,” Russell said. “To keep sending the exact same personalities down there and expecting different results defies logic.”
Both Russell and Wagemann oppose raising taxes, even in the event of a budget shortfall. Green is not opposed to raising taxes.
Russell said the key to dealing with a budget crisis is increasing revenue, which means encouraging economic growth rather than raising taxes.
As a former small-business owner, Russell said the state could stimulate the economy by modifying the B&O tax, streamlining regulation procedures and improving higher education.
“I understand businesses and the frustrations they have,” Russell said. “If we want more revenue, we need to encourage economic growth.”
A self-described “free-market guy,” Wagemann said the state’s focus should be to prioritize spending, given that the amount of taxable revenue in the state increases every year.
“Our spending curve is steeper than our revenue curve,” Wagemann said. “We need to live within our means.”
Wagemann also said a sound infrastructure is imperative to economic success.
“I equate our economy and jobs all to infrastructure,” Wagemann said. “At this point, our whole economy is built on moving people on our roads.”
Wagemann said that improving roads and increasing the presence of rapid transit, such as buses and trains, would not only create jobs but would give small businesses a better opportunity to succeed.
While Green did admit the state’s recovery is still very fragile, she is looking ahead to how the state will handle a budget surplus.
“Once we get a little bit of a surplus, it’s going to be tempting to go on a little bit of a spending spree,” Green said. “We need to be cautious about overspending.”
One place Green would like to see more money go is the state’s education system, which has come under scrutiny in the wake of the McCleary decision. In that decision, the courts announced in early January that the state is not fully funding education. However, she said, the state must do so carefully.
“We have to do it judicially and in a way that won’t threaten our recovery,” Green said.
The three candidates also have different views on social issues. Green supports same-sex marriage and decriminalizing marijuana sales and possession. Wagemann opposes both.
Russell chose not to take a side, saying issues like these should be decided by the people.
“If the people speak, and that’s what they want,
I’m not going to be the one at the front of a room with a banner saying, ‘You’re wrong,’” Russell said.
The candidates have varying levels of political experience.
Green has held the House seat since 2004. She has consistently fought for union rights and has developed a strong connection with various unions and progressive groups. She falls on the more liberal side of the political spectrum and tends to vote with Democratic leadership.
Wagemann has held elected office as a Clover Park School Board member. Russell has never been elected to office but does offer plenty of civic experience, including time as chairman of the Pierce County Planning Commission.
Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, University of Manitoba.
Owner of Ken Campbell Real Estate, small real estate brokerage; worked 40 years in paper mill industry, including variety of management positions.
University Place Shoreline Management Plan Update citizens advisory committee and Green UP Sustainability citizens advisory committee.
Total raised, spent*:
Took some courses at ITT Technical Institute.
Customer service representative at TriWest, the military’s regional health care system.
University Place City Council, University Place Parks & Recreation Commission, Pierce County Citizens Advisory Board for Community Development Block Grants, Rainier Communication Commission & Pierce County Regional Council.
Total raised, spent*:
Harry Truman Fund, $1,800; SEIU Local 925, $1,800; Washington Education Association PAC, $900; International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23, a longshore union at Port of Tacoma, $900; Pierce County Professional Firefighters Local 726, $900.
Bachelor’s degree in history, University of Washington; law degree, Seattle University.
LEOFF Plan I board, board member of the Rescue Mission in Pierce County, board member of Sacred Road (a charitable organization serving the Yakama Nation of Indians), board member of Covenant High School.
Total raised, spent*:
$52,802 (including a $9,500 loan), $25,878.
Joanne O’Ban of Tacoma, $1,800; Jim Price of Tacoma, $1,800; Paige Price of Tacoma, $1,800; Kyle Netterfield of Bothell, $1,600; Premera Blue Cross, $900.
Unincorporated Pierce County (between Lakewood and Steilacoom).
Bachelor’s degree in political science, The Evergreen State College; associate in nursing from South West Illinois College.
Four terms as representative in Legislature.
Total raised, spent:
House Democratic Campaign Caucus, $2,500; Washington Optometric PAC, $1,800; Harry Truman Fund, $1,600; AFT Washington Cope, $900; Justice for All PAC, $900.
Bachelor’s in political science, University of Washington.
Nonprofit executive management.
Pierce County Planning Commission, Lakewood Public Safety Advisory Committee, Tacoma Planning Commission, Keep Lakewood Beautiful, Central Tacoma Neighborhood Council, Metro Parks Strategic Planning Advisory, Tacoma Community Council, Lakewood Farmers Market Advisory Group.
Total raised, spent*:
$4,594 (including $162 in personal funds), $3,384.
John Dimmerof Lakewood, $500; Tiffany Kerr of Lakewood, $500; Bob Werner of Gig Harbor, $500; Cindy Werner of Gig Harbor, $500; Anitha Russell of Lakewood, $300.
Bachelor’s in aeronautics and astronautics, University of Washington.
Volunteer at Bethany Baptist Church, Lakewood YMCA Board, Clover Park School Board director; Lakewood Transportation Committee.
Total raised, spent*:
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, $1,800; Washington Bankers Association, $1,800; ABC of Western Washington, $900; Premera Blue Cross, $900; Trucking Action Committee, $900.
* as of July 20, source: Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.