Education, transportation key issues for 26th Legislative District candidates

A Gig Harbor doctor who lost his state Senate seat last year in a costly race against Jan Angel is back, making a bid for her old House position. But standing between Democrat Nathan Schlicher and another stint in elected office is Angel’s replacement, Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor.

Young was appointed in January and is running for his first full term. He and Schlicher are joined in the race by South Kitsap resident Bill Scheidler, a Port Orchard Republican and newcomer to Washington politics who says he is running because his activism as a private citizen is falling on deaf ears.

The two top vote-getters in the Aug. 5 primary will advance to the general election in November. The 26th Legislative District spans from the west side of the Tacoma Narrows bridges to Bremerton.

Other 26th District legislators, Port Orchard Republican Angel and Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, face only one challenger each and automatically advance to the general election.

Young, a technology consultant in the health care industry, said despite being appointed to the Legislature late in this year’s session, he found ways to be effective. He said that if elected, he would continue to work with Democrats to get funding for more passenger-only ferries and to push for tax incentives for information-technology businesses locating in the 26th District.

His challenger, Schlicher, works in the emergency room at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. Schlicher was appointed to the Senate last year to fill the vacancy left by Gig Harbor Democrat Derek Kilmer’s move to Congress. Despite his defeat by Angel last year in one of the state’s most expensive political campaigns, Schlicher said he is running again because nothing has changed.

“I can’t continue to watch Olympia work against the needs of the community because of partisan politics,” he said.

Schlicher is the front-runner in fundraising, with $87,756 collected and $16,031 spent. Young has raised $40,232 and spent $16,599. Scheidler has raised no money, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Scheidler, a chemist who formerly worked on contract for the federal government until disability forced him to retire, said his role as a full-time activist led him to public office. He runs the website www.corruptwa.com and believes lawyers should not be allowed in political office.

“It’s a mingling of the legislative branch with the judicial branch,” he said. “I see that as a breeding ground for a lot of the corruption I am trying to address.”

Education and transportation are among the issues dominating the campaigns.

Young and Schlicher say they’ll work across party lines to find compromises to pay for education as required by the state Supreme Court in the McCleary decision, although they differ on where lawmakers should find the money. Scheidler couldn’t identify potential revenue sources, but said it is important know how past failures resulted in the state’s funding crisis.

Young said the Legislature must make a fundamental shift in identifying new sources of money. He supports shifting some federal lands to state control and possibly using those lands to produce revenue for education. Young wants to see teacher salaries increased and said he voted against the budget this year because it didn’t include those increases.

Schlicher also wants to see a cost-of-living increase for teachers and smaller classroom sizes. He said the Legislature can find more money for education by eliminating tax breaks and finding other savings in the budget.

Taking a different approach, Scheidler said the educational crisis is “manufactured” and “comes from the very corruption I am trying to address.”

Schlicher and Young say they would support a transportation revenue package if it includes South Sound projects. Young said he is tired of seeing King County take the majority of state funding.

“We have to pay for the (Tacoma Narrows) bridge, we have to pay for ferries and we can’t get any relief,” Young said. “If they want to see me vote on some sort of package like that, it has to start with King County paying some of its own bills.”

While in the Senate, Schlicher worked on legislation to stabilize ferry funding and cap Tacoma Narrows tolls. If elected, Schlicher would resume his push to keep tolls from rising as fast as they have in recent years, he said.

Scheidler said he couldn’t say how he would fund transportation because he hasn’t been privy to Olympia’s “backdoor deals.” But he believes “transportation infrastructure is a government responsibility and they should be working to do what’s necessary to keep our infrastructure up to date and accommodate the growth and needs of the private sector.”

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467