Overflow crowd on Key Peninsula hears candidates’ take on traffic, drugs and bonds

Midterm election candidates face a large crowd of Key Peninsula residents during a candidate forum on Oct. 9.
Midterm election candidates face a large crowd of Key Peninsula residents during a candidate forum on Oct. 9. Contributing writer

Residents filled the Key Peninsula Civic Center on Oct. 9, finding seats on the floor and even listening from outside as candidates in the Nov. 6 election answered questions about traffic and growth, the opiate crisis and the vote needed to pass a bond issue.

The two-hour public forum was held by the Key Peninsula Community Council.

Taking part were:

Emily Randall, Democrat; and Marty McClendon, Republican; candidates for state Senate, District 26.

Incumbent Michelle Caldier, Republican; and Joy Stanford, Democrat; candidates for for state House, District 26B.

Incumbent Jesse L. Young, Republican; and Connie Fitzpatrick, Democrat; candidates for state House, District 26A.

Incumbent Mark Lindquist, Democrat; and Mary Robnett, no party affiliation; candidates for Pierce County prosecutor.

Incumbent Derek Young, Democrat; and David Olson, Republican; candidates for Pierce County Council District 7.

Douglas Dightman, Republican, candidate for U.S. House, District 6. His Democratic opponent, incumbent Derek Kilmer, did not attend the forum.

Traffic and growth

The candidates were asked how they would improve the State Route 302 corridor if Key Peninsula keeps growing as expected.

Derek Young said county officials don’t want to see the Peninsula’s population double and is working to make sure an alternative to the Purdy Bridge is on the county’s next project cycle.

Olson said the state should pay to replace the bridge, because it is owned and operated by the state Department of Transportation.

Stanford said she wanted to bring the county and state “to the table” to find the best solution to the bridge.

“We are not getting any money,” she said. “We pay for the (Seattle) tunnel and the (eastbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge). We need to make sure we get those gas tax dollars to help us in the 26th.”

Caldier said she voted against the most recent gas tax bill, because virtually no money was being spent in her legislative district.

“They said, ‘What is the Purdy Spit?’” Caldier said. “The history of the Key Peninsula not being represented is the problem. I am fighting with (Transportation Department) to relieve congestion.”

Jesse Young restated his idea of extending Pine Street near Peninsula High School to help ease congestion.

McClendon said he wants a new roadway that would account for drivers and pedestrians.

How prosecutor candidates differ

Lindquist and Robnett were asked to explain how they differ, personality-wise, from their opponent.

Robnett said she regarded herself as a non-partisan choice and faulted Lindquist for “mistakes and violations” that have cost taxpayers money.

“I think people are ready for a non-political prosecutor who puts you first,” she said.

Lindquist said his style of politics sets him apart from Robnett.

“I am tired of misinformation and nastiness,” he said. “My opponent filed a lot of complaints against good people. I think one of the many things is I want to be above politics. We want a safe community.”

Confronting the opiate crisis

The moderator gave each candidate a chance to answer an open-ended question about the opiate crisis, which has led to an increase in addictions and homelessness in the Puget Sound.

Dightman suggested a national border wall to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into the country.

McClendon said he opposed safe injection sites and wanted “comprehensive reform.”

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Randall said she wanted more crisis centers in Gig Harbor and more beds for addicts in hospitals.

Jesse Young said “standing up to big pharma” and taking a stance against bureaucracy was the best solution to the current drug crisis.

Fitzpatrick placed some blame on the health-care system, saying opioid drugs should be the last-resort prescription.

Prescribing painkillers “needs to be carefully balanced,” Caldier said, adding, ‘We need to make sure people are out of pain but not at risk.”

Saying “everything is integrated,” Stanford said she would help create affordable housing and comprehensive health care, and asked, “Why are we criminalizing those who use pain meds correctly?”

Lindquist said he was looking to expand a lawsuit he filed on behalf of Pierce County against “big pharma.” “It’s not just treatment,” he said. “It’s housing and other issues.”

Robnett said the drug crisis is not just a crime problem but is societal problem. “The revolving door of people being busted for small amounts and being release still addicted is expensive for taxpayers,” she said.

Olson said that as a member of the Peninsula School District Board of Directors, he has overseen new programs to keep students from becoming addicted to prescription pills, which can lead to heroin addiction.

Derek Young said he helped create the county’s opioid task force, adding, “We need to make sure we have informed children and a better health-care system.”

The supermajority rule for bond issues

The last question regarded the state’s constitutional requirement that a supermajority, or 60 percent vote, was needed to pass a bond issue.

Derek Young called the supermajority rule “archaic,” and said, “We need to get this issue in the ballot.”

Olson supported keeping the supermajority rule, calling it a safeguard to keep taxes from continually increasing.

Stanford said she would support removing the supermajority rule, but was more interested in passing a bond sooner to help the district repair its schools.

Caldier said school districts needed to be “more honest” with taxpayers about the costs of bonds and wants to lower the cost of school construction.

Fitzpatrick said education funding is her top priority and she would support amending the constitution.

Jesse Young supported the idea of keeping the supermajority rule, because it “protects low-income, rural communities from being taxed to death.”

Randall said the supermajority needed to be lowered “so every student can learn. We shouldn’t let 40 percent veto their future.”

McClendon believes the state needs to do more to fund education. He said he supported removing sales tax from school building construction.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie