Fewer than 1 in 3 voters bothered to participate, but one of the most significant local outcomes of the August primary came in a state House race in the 29th District, where one Republican and one Democrat advanced to a faceoff in a heavily Democratic district.
Voters in South End and South Tacoma and parts of Parkland, Lakewood, Spanaway and Frederickson will choose between David Sawyer, the Democrat and a first-time candidate, and Terry Harder, a Republican making his third try but running his campaign on a shoestring.
Rep. Steve Kirby is running unopposed for the other House position.
Since the primary election, Sawyer won endorsements from the Washington State Labor Council and Washington Conservation Voters, which had both backed his Democratic opponent eliminated in the primary, Ben Lawver.
Harder picked up an endorsement from the Association of Washington Business. Less happily for the business consultant, 61, he was laid off and is looking for work.
Sawyer, 29, is a clerk at Ladenburg Law, where he’s training to be a lawyer. He works with former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, whose wife, first-term Rep. Connie Ladenburg, is leaving the House seat in hopes of winning a Pierce County Council position.
Having worked on the firm’s lawsuits involving claims of wrongful foreclosure, Sawyer praises the Legislature for giving homeowners who face foreclosure the right to mediation with their lenders. He said he would try to figure out what more can be done to expand protections.
“It’s good that we’re fixing some of the problem,” he said, “but the reality is a lot of people were taken advantage of and lost a lot of their money, and the banks were profiting off of them.”
It’s one of several areas where Sawyer espouses broad goals while taking a wait-and-see approach about how to accomplish them. He said he would seek efficiencies in state spending to accomplish budget goals, but will have to dig into the budget before he can identify them.
Until then, he’s cautious about making promises, such as committing to an expansion of Medicaid that would allow Washington to draw funds from federal health reform. Sawyer does call for universal preschool, saying it will pay dividends down the road. He wants to expand state business incentives to lure employers to locate or grow their operations in Washington.
Sawyer favors Referendum 74, upholding lawmakers’ recognition of same-sex marriage, and opposes the tax-limiting Initiative 1185, saying its requirements for supermajorities in the Legislature are “patently unconstitutional.” He said he’s “legitimately torn” on two other issues on the ballot this November: allowing charter schools and legalizing marijuana.
Harder, too, is ambivalent about pot-legalizing Initiative 502, but is leaning toward opposing it. He supports charter schools and wants to go further than the initiative, I-1240, by allowing money to follow students to private schools. Harder opposes the same-sex marriage law. He supports the supermajority requirement, and says tax increases aren’t needed if lawmakers properly prioritize state services, dropping any that don’t make the cut based on how much money is available.
“If it’s important enough, maybe private industry can assist in some way,” Harder said. “I‘m just very much against taxing, especially in this tough economy.”
Harder knows first-hand about the tough economy now that he’s job hunting. Besides unemployment benefits, he has saved enough to make ends meet because of frugal ways he said he’d also bring to state government. Still, he’d rather be working.
“I absolutely detest being unemployed,” he said, “from the standpoint not monetarily, but you can only clean the house so many times.”
Harder said businesses are feeling harassed by heavy regulation. He said state government needs to reduce red tape – for example, by establishing a one-stop shop for building permits that satisfies requirements from all levels and agencies of government with a single inspection.
On health care, he’s worried about the federal strings that might be attached to any money the state takes to expand insurance coverage.
Both candidates back construction of a cross-base highway to alleviate traffic on Interstate 5 and other routes, and an extension of state Route 167 to the Port of Tacoma. Both support increasing transportation taxes to fund those and other projects, as long as voters approve the taxes.
29TH DISTRICT CANDIDATES
Occupation: Business consultant.
Education: Associate degree in electronics, Bates Technical College.
Civic experience: Co-founder, Operation Support Our Troops; chairman, Northwest division of the Washington State Army Advisory Board; Republican precinct committee officer.
Total raised/spent*: $1,674/$990.
Top donors: Not reported because fundraising falls below a reporting threshold.
Occupation: Law clerk, Ladenburg Law; co-owner, Ladenburg Law Governmental Affairs.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in political science, Central Washington University. Bachelor of Arts in geography and land studies, Central Washington University. Participating in Washington State Bar Association Admission to Practice Rule 6 Law Clerk Program.
Civic experience: Former board member, Project U; volunteer, Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Total raised/spent*: $56,670/$38,904
Top donors: Justice for All PAC, $1,800; Northwest Credit Union Association, $1,800; Washington Hospital PAC, $1,800; Washington Federation of State Employees, $1,350.*As of Tuesday; source: Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.