Steven Nielson, a Libertarian from Orting, has filed campaign-finance papers for an election challenge this year against two-term Republican state Rep. J.T. Wilcox of Yelm in the right-leaning 2nd Legislative District.
Nielson, who describes himself as a former longtime Republican political activist, works in aerospace as a quality engineer, according to his campaign announcement. He said he got into politics as a Republican - particularly in Douglas County, Colo., around the 2008 presidential caucuses. He became a Libertarian in 2011 and now wants to challenge “the two-party pendulum in Olympia” and push for economic liberty.
“The rut in which we find ourselves in this state is owed primarily to the complacency of leaders within the two major parties who have literally carved out districts in a compromise to simply share power in Olympia … leaving the people of the state unrepresented on some very basic principles,” Nielson said in a news release announcing his bid.
The 2nd district, which overlaps southeast Thurston and southern Pierce counties is rural with a libertarian flavor that recently favored Republicans. It is represented by Wilcox, Republican Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville, and recently appointed Republican Rep. Graham Hunt of Orting.
Wilcox said during the legislative session that concluded March 13 that he welcomes the challenge. “I’m glad he filed. Every election should be contested. I’m looking forward to meeting him,’’ Wilcox said.
Nielson said in an email he is running against Wilcox instead of Hunt because the battle for the Position 1 seat now held by Hunt “was destined to be a bitterly disputed seat as soon as Hunt was selected. It will divide the GOP establishment and county officials, confusing the voters on inter-party squabbling rather than legitimate issues.”
Nielson added, “Wilcox was backed by the party establishment in 2010, and his support was evidenced (and feared) in 2012, as he drew no contender. This gave him a free pass for every vote, every decision, in his first term.”
Wilcox raised $200,000 and spent $199,277 in 2010 when he ousted Republican maverick Rep. Tom Campbell, and he raised and spent $149,506 running unopposed two years later. This time around, Wilcox already has raised $84,772.
Nielson has a campaign web site and filed for mini-reporting at the state Public Disclosure Commission. That means that he will limit his fundraising and expenditures to not more than $5,000 – in addition to paying his filing fee.
In the other 2nd district House race, Hunt has reported raising $400, while Democrat Gregory Hartman has raised $585 and Republican Matthew Hamilton reported that he raised $35,091 and already spent $14,671. Hunt beat out Hamilton and Andrew Barkis of Thurston County for the appointment.
Candidate filing week for 2014 races is May 12-16.
Democrats control the state House by a 55-to-43 margin, while a Republican-dominated coalition controls the Senate by a 26-to-23 margin. The divided government led to a political stalemate on major issues such as transportation investments in the recent session, although both chambers voted overwhelmingly to approve a bipartisan budget agreement that avoided raising new revenue.