One is quiet and the other has grown testy. But both races for state House seats representing the 31st Legislative District feature well-funded incumbents looking to hold on to their comfortable primary leads heading into the general election.
Republican Rep. Cathy Dahlquist is looking to fend off Democrat Brian L. Gunn for Position 1.
In the Position 2 race, Rep. Christopher Hurst, who calls himself an independent Democrat, faces Republican Lisa Connors.
The 31st District straddles Pierce and King counties and includes voters from Auburn, Edgewood, Enumclaw, Bonney Lake and Buckley.
DAHLQUIST VS. GUNN
In the more subdued of the two races, Dahlquist says job creation is a top priority. The Enumclaw co-owner of an architecture firm pledges to work to ease regulations on small businesses, pointing to the permitting process as an area that could be streamlined.
She called education “my passion” and said it’s the reason she first ran for state office. The state should budget separately for education – as it does for capital projects – and fund those needs first, she said.
Dahlquist, 51, points to successes during her term, including a bill she sponsored that increases harassment protections for criminal justice workers. She said she works “in a very bipartisan way” and described herself as an advocate for citizens who isn’t “swayed by outside forces.”
Gunn, meanwhile, said his campaign financing sets him apart. The software testing engineer is taking money only from individuals, not corporations, political parties or unions, he said.
“We really need to break that connection (of) large amounts of money influencing our legislators,” said Gunn, 50, of Auburn. He has raised roughly $6,400.
Dahlquist, who has amassed more than $100,000, has received contributions from companies and unions but says her “vote has never been bought. … My vote is not for sale.”
Dahlquist said she wouldn’t support raising taxes to balance the budget. “It’s, again, (about) prioritizing – prioritizing education, doing that first, and going from there,” she said.
Gunn said he wouldn’t support a sales tax increase, but “we could look at a capital gains type of tax,” with small gains exempted. He said he’d push to close corporate tax loopholes and replace the state business and occupation tax with a value-added tax, which would “create an environment where it would be less onerous to start up a new business.”
He also favors a state-run bank, like one that operates in North Dakota. It’s reportedly generated millions for the state’s coffers.
Dahlquist doesn’t view a state bank as a viable option, pointing to issues such as start-up costs. Also, “I don’t want to, as a taxpayer, be liable for people who can’t get a loan at another bank,” she said.
Dahlquist and Gunn are similarly split on some high-profile issues on the November ballot.
Dahlquist said she supports charter schools but doesn’t support legalizing marijuana and will vote against same-sex marriage.
Gunn said he isn’t convinced charter schools change education outcomes, but he does support same-sex marriage. He said the marijuana measure, Initiative 502, has some flaws, but that he generally supports the concept of legalization.
HURST VS. CONNORS
Hurst, 57, of Enumclaw, is part of the loose-knit “Roadkill Caucus” of centrist Democrats who helped push through changes to workers’ compensation, among other legislation.
“I’m an independent more than anything else,” he said. “Party politics and the polarization of politics is as annoying to me as it is to (voters).”
He described himself as a fiscal conservative and said his top priority is helping the state continue to emerge from the recession.
He supports having a separate education budget and said he’s passionate about public safety. In his next term, he’d work to pass legislation requiring DNA testing for people arrested for felonies, he said.
Hurst has raised $233,000 to fund his re-election bid. He lists as achievements his sponsorship of bills that stiffen penalties for drunken driving and that make it easier for deployed military service members to vote.
He said Connors criticizes him for wasteful spending, while she has racked up bills traveling to several in-state and out-of-state conferences and events on the public’s dime in recent years as a member of the Auburn School Board.
Connors said professional development is important for school board members and that her district is cost-conscious and conservative in its spending.
Her work status also has become an issue, with Hurst questioning her campaigning while collecting unemployment. Connors, 44, of Auburn, said she was laid off around March and has been actively seeking a new job. An employer recently offered her a job, but then put the offer on hold after learning she was running for office, she said.
She said she hasn’t used any unemployment money she has collected to help fund her House bid. Of the approximately $34,000 Connors has raised, less than $500 has come from her own pocket, mostly in-kind contributions such as postage and thank-you notes.
Connors criticized Hurst for “petty attacks,” saying “he should be able to run on his own record.”
She said her priority is education and that she’ll work to “stop cuts and start funding.” She said she’s not in favor of raising taxes; instead, the state must set and stick to priorities.
“I think we need (to find savings in) multiple areas,” Connors said.
Connors is opposed to same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana, and she said she supports charter schools but hasn’t yet made up her mind about the initiative on this fall’s ballot.
Hurst said residents have been clear they don’t want charter schools and that he hasn’t seen enough evidence that they work. He said he’s supported domestic partnership laws for gay couples but believes marriage is a religious institution and the government shouldn’t interfere. He voted against same-sex marriage in the Legislature.
He also said it doesn’t make sense to legalize marijuana at the state level when it remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance federally.
City of residence: Enumclaw.
Education: Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama and executive master’s from the University of Idaho.
Occupation: State representative and co-owner of an architecture firm.
Civic experience: State representative from 2010 to present, and former Enumclaw School Board member.
Total raised/spent*: $103,874, $62,597.
Top donors include: Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC, $1,800; Farmers Employee and Agents PAC, $1,800; John McKay of Sammamish, an executive vice president for Costco, $1,800; NRA Political Victory Fund, $1,800.
BRIAN L. GUNN
City of residence: Auburn.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of San Francisco.
Occupation: Software testing engineer for Boeing.
Civic experience: Democratic precinct committee officer, and habitat restoration and school volunteer.
Total raised/spent*: $6,463, $4,407.
Top donors include: Patricia Szot of Auburn, a research scientist for Seattle VA Medical Center, $800; Richard C. Sanders of Auburn, a pharmacist for St. Joseph Medical Center, $700; Mark M. Boswell of Auburn, an engineer at Boeing, $300.
City of residence: Enumclaw.
Education: Associate degree in aviation.
Occupation: State representative and retired police commander.
Civic experience: State representative from 1999-2002 and 2007 to present
Total raised/spent*: $233,763, $96,277.
Top donors include: Avista Corp, $1,800; Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs, $1,800; JP Morgan Chase & Co., $1,800; Rob Hayes of Carlsbad, Calif., owner of Aladdin Bail Bonds, $1,800; Southern Wine & Spirits, $1,800.
City of residence: Auburn.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington Tacoma.
Occupation: Unemployed. Her background is in office management and administrative assistance.
Civic experience: Member of the Auburn School Board for five years, currently serving as president.
Total raised/spent*: $34,304, $28,261.
Top donors include: The Wedge Corp., $1,800; Washington State Republican Party, $1,000; Steven M. Brown of Edgewood, executive president of Village Concepts Inc., $1,000; Charles Bender of Enumclaw, owner of Skynet Broadband, $500.sara.schilling@ thenewstribune.com 253-552-7058 blog.thenewstribune.com/street * according to the state Public Disclosure Commission, as of Thursday