Two state House races in the Federal Way area feature four sales pitches based on experience, amplified by an influx of political-party money.
Résumés have come under scrutiny in one race, while the other has been more low-key. Both campaigns pit Republican women against Democratic men.
Democrats are targeting freshman Rep. Katrina Asay, one of the few South Sound legislative incumbents who fell short of winning a majority of votes in the August primary. Her two Democratic rivals split 51.5 percent of the vote, with lawyer Roger Freeman emerging as her challenger.
But Republicans hope to defend Asay and pick up the other 30th District House seat, where the incumbent, Democrat Mark Miloscia, isn’t running for re-election. GOP Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar faces Roger Flygare, a Democrat who owns a court-reporting business.
“We think we have two competitive races in the 30th, in a nominally Democratic district,” said Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia, who leads Democrats’ campaign efforts.
The South King County district has elected members of both parties but leans to the Democrats. That didn’t change much with post-census redistricting, but the district now stretches into Pierce County to take in all of Pacific and Milton, where Asay was formerly the mayor. It also contains Federal Way, Algona and a bit of southern Des Moines.
“They are both going to be really hard-fought campaigns that ultimately could determine control of the Legislature,” said Kevin Carns, House Republicans’ political director. Carns stopped short of predicting his party would pick up eight seats to take over the House, but he predicted Republicans would make gains that would put them in a better negotiating position.
Hunt praised Freeman and Flygare as hard-working and strong candidates. Carns said Kochmar and Asay have proven track records that would appeal to voters.
FLYGARE VS. KOCHMAR
“The difference between my opponent and I is my experience,” said Kochmar, a risk manager for Lakehaven Utility District.
Kochmar touts what she has learned and the connections she has made in 14 years on the City Council. She said she worked on a $41 million city budget and helped with building a city hall and community center, securing funding for road projects at the triangle connecting Interstate 5 and state routes 161 and 18, and improving the climate for business.
“We’ve improved our permit system, and when the economy improves, we are ready to go,” she said in a debate Tuesday.
Flygare countered in the debate that the council has raised property taxes with Kochmar’s support.
The council did raise the property tax rate for 2010 and 2011, reversing a trend over the previous decade of falling rates. State law limits annual increases to no more than 1 percent of the past year’s tax revenue, and a city spokesman said the rates reflected that 1 percent increase and didn’t even keep up with inflation.
Kochmar said taxes in Federal Way are low compared with other cities. A comparison of property taxes put out by the city indicates several other suburban South King County cities have higher rates.
Flygare touts his work in Olympia pushing legislation dealing with the court-reporting industry and to crack down on prostitution.
He says he will bring a business perspective to the Legislature. That experience would inform what he says is his first priority: canceling lawmakers’ pay during special sessions, when they are forced to take extra time to finish their work. Legislators have held six special sessions since 2010.
“If I don’t get my work done on time, I don’t get paid for it,” Flygare said.
Both Flygare and Kochmar say they oppose increasing taxes. That would leave the state dependent on major cuts or far better-than-expected economic growth to comply with a state Supreme Court mandate to fully fund public schools.
Flygare was more specific in singling out some areas for potential savings, including middle management, tax exemptions, a quilt museum and a program to preserve historic barns. The latter two are small relative to the tens of billions of dollars in the state’s budgets; the museum received a $25,000 grant in the current budget cycle.
Each candidate received 26 percent of the vote in the primary, but Republicans collectively received nearly 55 percent.
Flygare leads campaign fundraising with $114,000, including more than $36,000 from House Democrats. House Republicans have contributed at least $25,000 of Kochmar’s $70,000.
Flygare’s military record has come under scrutiny in the campaign. He acknowledged misstating his Army service on his résumé and website and in a questionnaire and taped speech, by referring to two tours of Vietnam. He says he did one tour of Vietnam and was also stationed in Germany.
But he has strongly objected to questions that some have raised about a Purple Heart he was awarded for injury in Vietnam. He recently posted a letter on his campaign website from Royce X. Owens Sr., a Texas man who says he oversaw Flygare’s unit at Camp Holloway near Pleiku.
Owens, 77, who was a sergeant first class, described Flygare in a phone interview as an “outstanding” clerk who managed paperwork for soldiers leaving Vietnam for the United States. He said by telephone he remembers submitting paperwork for Flygare to receive a Purple Heart.
A mortar explosion hit while Flygare was on guard duty inside the base, Owens said, leaving him with a cut on his arm. While he didn’t recall details, he said the enemy fire probably came from outside the base.
Owens has sought political office himself in the past, as a Republican also-ran against Ann Richards for Texas governor. He said attacks on Flygare are a shame. “He’s still fighting the war from 40 years ago,” he said.
Military service isn’t the only area on Flygare’s résumé that’s drawn attention.
When he applied this year for a city commission in Federal Way, the résumé he submitted said he had been a member of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce since January 2010. The council flagged it, and Flygare ended up correcting his résumé to say he joined in May 2011.
Jim Ferrell, a member of the council, said the résumé question was the reason the council turned him down for an appointment on the city’s Independent Salary Commission, deciding not to fill an open spot. Kochmar recused herself from the council’s decision.
Flygare said an employee who handled marketing had given him the inaccurate date. “I called the chamber, and I verified the date with them, so I changed it,” he said. “ I don’t see that as some big issue. People are really grasping at little things here, I guess.”
ASAY VS. FREEMAN
Freeman and Asay present a contrast in styles. Asay told the debate audience of about 80 people she prefers to talk one-on-one and is nervous about speaking in public. Freeman, a lawyer used to a courtroom setting, made his pitch directly in front of the audience, stepping out from behind a table where candidates were seated.
Asay highlights her work as mayor of Milton and in her first term in the Legislature, where, she says in a television ad: “I worked to get tough on car theft and property crimes, making our neighborhoods safer.”
She sponsored a law tightening regulations on secondhand dealers who offer “cash for gold.” Supporters said requiring dealers to keep better records would help curb an increase in home burglaries involving jewelry thefts. And she worked on a measure that gave police more time to investigate stolen cars.
Freeman was elected to the Federal Way City Council in 2009. In his day job, he defends parents whose kids have been taken away by social workers.
“I’ve always been the guy who stood up for those who have no voice,” he said.
His work informs his goals in state government, which he says can save money by placing more children with relatives instead of foster parents.
He said the state can raise needed revenue by prodding the job market through measures such as incentives for business.
Asay said the court mandate for more education spending can be fulfilled over time by devoting a majority of expected increases in revenue to schools. That would require tamping down growth in human-services spending, which she said can be done by making sure services go only to the most vulnerable.
Right now, she said at the debate, “You can be four times the poverty level and still get help from the state government in all kinds of different areas, and yet there’s others who are 41/2 times who are paying for that help.”
She later offered the example of subsidized health insurance for children, but the state caps that eligibility at three times the poverty level; she said she had remembered the figure incorrectly. Regardless, Asay said families making more than $70,000 can receive subsidies for their kids’ health insurance, which is true for families of five or larger.
Neither candidate is calling for increased taxes, but both say tax breaks should be examined. Asay said some breaks might be ripe for elimination, like those that help renewable energy companies.
Freeman said he would have voted differently from Asay by supporting a measure to fund all-day kindergarten. It would have found the money by eliminating the sales tax exemption for shoppers coming into Washington from out-of-state, which is intended to lure shoppers from Oregon and other sales tax-free states.
“Repealing that sales tax exemption would make our border cities so vulnerable, and they’re already hurting,” Asay said.
Asay leads in fundraising, with her party kicking in more than $26,000 of her $111,000 total. Freeman has about $35,000 including more than $24,000 in party funding.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826
30TH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT CANDIDATES
Residence: Federal Way.
Occupation: Risk manager for Lakehaven Utility District.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Marylhurst University.
Civic experience: Federal Way City Council member.
Amount raised, spent*: $70,311 (including $700 loan), $18,522.
Top donors include: House Republican Organizational Committee, $25,000; Farmers Insurance PAC, $1,800; Associated General Contractors and its associated PAC, $1,800.
Residence: Federal Way.
Occupation: CEO and president of Flygare & Associate Inc.
Education: Associate of Arts, Green River Community College.
Civic experience: Board member, Federal Way Community Action Team; former advisory board member, Green River Community College and Bates Vocational Technical School.
Amount raised, spent*: $114,086 (including $10,000 loan), $47,821
Top donors include: House Democratic Campaign Committee, $35,000; Justice for All PAC, $1,800; Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, $1,800; Washington Federation of State Employees, $1,800; Washington State Troopers PAC, $1,800.
Occupation: Real estate agent.
Education: Classes in public administration, real estate and tax preparation.
Civic experience: 30th District representative; past Milton mayor and councilwoman.
Amount raised, spent*: $110,977, $33,380.
Top donors include: House Republican Organizational Committee, $25,000; Farmers Employees and Agents, $1,800; Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, $1,800; National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, $1,800; Pierce County Affordable Housing Council, $1,800.
Residence: Federal Way.
Education: Law degree from Washburn University; bachelor’s degree in political science from Iowa State University.
Civic experience: Federal Way City Council member.
Amount raised, spent*: $34,928 (including $496 loan and $825 in personal funds), $19,469.
Top donors include: House Democratic Campaign Committee, $12,500; the Truman Fund, $1,800; Justice for All PAC, $1,800; Linnea Peterson of Auburn, $1,800.
* As of Oct. 12; Source: Washington Public Disclosure Commission