Political newcomers one a Democrat, the other a Republican are looking to unseat the state House members representing the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas this year.
Incumbent Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, is trying to fend off another challenge from Republican Doug Richards, a battalion chief for South Kitsap Fire & Rescue, in the decidedly testier of the two races for the 26th Legislative District.
Both candidates for the Position 2 seat share backgrounds as former Navy sailors, and Richards military backgrounds briefly become a point of contention earlier in the campaign. In 2010, Seaquist won re-election by 4 percentage points over Richards.
The quieter contest is for Position 1, where Republican incumbent Jan Angel hopes to win a third term against Democrat Karin Ashabraner, a middle school teacher and union officer.
Getting people back to work is the central issue for the second go-around between Richards and Seaquist.
Seaquist sees promise in investment in education, while Richards sees relief for small business as a solution.
Seaquist, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, wants to expand higher education, saying the state needs to groom a highly educated work force to meet the demands of its most prominent employees, including Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft.
Its my view that the only way to dig out of recession is to educate ourselves, he said.
But Richards said its more important to shore up K-12 education, saying Washington is better off improving math skills at the grade school level than investing in remedial math classes at community colleges.
Until we fix that system, we cant be focused on everything else, he said.
Seaquist has accused Richards of opposing more funding for K-12 education. Richards said he would support additional funding if its connected to reforms, including tying teacher job evaluations to student test scores. He also supports charter schools, which Seaquist opposes and says takes attention away from improving public education.
Both candidates agree, however, on the increased use of the Internet as a tool to educate students in a era of tight budgets.
Also, they both say that state government needs to rein in spending, and neither man would support tax or fee increases without proof that the extra money will get results. Richards said he supports the concepts of a baseline budget, where built-in increases arent calculated into the spending plan from one year to the next.
Seaquist favors downsizing and realigning state government to recognize the fiscal reality of an extended period of low growth. One proposal he has is to reduce the states role in operating social service programs, encouraging community organizations to take up more of that work with state oversight and assistance.
Richards said state government needs to scrutinize agency rules that are hindering commerce by piling fees onto businesses. He also supports privatizing the state workers compensation system to relieve business from regulation and expenses.
The race has turned heated at times.
Seaquist raised questions about Richards military service earlier in the campaign. The Kitsap Sun reported that Seaquist claimed at an Aug. 28 candidate forum that Richards hadnt shown his military discharge papers, prompting Richards to hold up a copy of the document at the event.
Richards later emailed a copy to The News Tribune, showing he was honorably discharged due to a hardship in September 1989. Richards said the hardship dealt with a family issue that he didnt want to talk about. He charged that Seaquist broached the issue to distract attention from his record of increasing taxes and state spending. Seaquist said he raised a legitimate question but has closed the door on that issue.
The focus for Ashabraner in the coming weeks is to close the gap between her and Angel. Angel, a former Kitsap County commissioner, received nearly twice as many votes as Ashabraner did in the August primary, with Stephen Greer a distant third.
One lesson Ashabraner took away from the primary election is the importance of raising money earlier. Heading into the general election, Ashabraners campaign has significantly ratcheted up its spending, and Ashabraner has committed to meeting as many voters as possible to counter Angels strong name recognition in the district.
Its imperative that I get out and meet people, she said.
One emphasis for Ashabraner is courting voters in swing precincts including those in Bremerton, Gig Harbor and Port Orchard, which saw the entire city brought into the 26th through redistricting earlier this year. The district grew by more than 3,500 residents through that process.
Having advanced after her first primary election facing two opponents, Angel isnt resting on her laurels. Shes not putting too much faith in the primary results given the light turnout that she attributes to an early primary in which voters attention was diverted to back-to-school preparations and making the most of the end of summer.
I think the early primary threw a lot of people off guard here, she said.
Still, she remains confident about her re-election chances.
You can never say never, she said, but Ill tell you what: Its very positive at the door.
Both candidates say the biggest priority for the state is getting people back to work, but they offer different ideas to accomplish that. 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 states workers compensation system and with a freeze on the minimum wage.
As in the other race, both Angel and Ashabraner say an important priority is funding safety improvements to state Route 302, which links Purdy and Allyn.
After job and economy worries, candidates say the biggest thing on voters minds is frustration over negative campaigning.
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.
Civic experience: Kitsap County commissioner, 2000-08; state representative, 2009-present; board member for Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
Total raised, spent*: $63,565, $25,761.
Top five donors: Farmers Employees and Agents Political Action Committee, $1,800; National Rifle Association Victory Fund, $1,800; Washington Affordable Housing Council, $1,800; Washington Restaurant Association, $1,700; Washington Dental Service, $1,700.
City of residence: Gig Harbor.
Occupation: Eighth-grade U.S. history teacher, Goodman Middle School, Gig Harbor; retired Army Reserve veteran.
Education: Master’s degree in teaching, University of Puget Sound; bachelor’s degree in global studies, University of Washington.
Civic experience: President, Peninsula Education Association, 2007-2011, current union treasurer.
Total raised, spent*: $24,373, $22,875.
Top five donors: Gerald Baldwin, Gig Harbor, United Airlines pilot, $1,800; Joan Baldwin, Gig Harbor, retired, $1,800; Washington Education Association Political Action Committee, $900; Washington Teamsters Legislative League, $900; Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund, $500.
City of residence: Ollala.
Occupation: Battalion chief, South Kitsap Fire & Rescue, former Navy aviation boatswain’s mate.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in fire service administration, Eastern Oregon University.
Civic experience: Member of Port Orchard Morning Rotary.
Total raised, spent*: $64,459; $40,201.
Top five donors: Kitsap County Republican Party, $3,000; Washington State Republican Party, $3,000; Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $1,800; Retail Action Council, $1,800; Washington Bankers Association, $1,800.
City of residence: Gig Harbor.
Occupation: State representative since 2007, retired naval officer and former senior security strategist in the Pentagon.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in general science, Oregon State University.
Civic experience: Co-founder of “Refreshing Democracy” focused on civic engagement.
Total raised, spent*: $86,867; $77,206.
Top five donors: Harry Truman Fund, $1,800; Justice for All Political Action Committee, $1,800; Credit Union Legislative Action Fund, $1,800; Pierce County Affordable Housing Council, $1,800; WA Hospital Political Action Committee, $1,800.
Source: Washington Public Disclosure Commission; * as of Sept. 21