Politics & Government

Michelle Caldier unseats Rep. Larry Seaquist

Four-term Gig Harbor Rep. Larry Seaquist conceded Monday to a political newcomer.

Michelle Caldier said she will bring unique perspectives to the Legislature as a dentist who treats nursing-home patients and as a former foster child and foster parent.

Port Orchard Republican Caldier’s lead grew to 605 votes Monday, giving the GOP a sweep of the three legislative positions in the suburban 26th District that runs from the Tacoma Narrows to Bremerton.

Seaquist is among several House Democrats ousted by voters last week. Reps. Dawn Morrell of Puyallup and Monica Stonier of Vancouver also lost. Another Democrat, Shelton Rep. Kathy Haigh, trailed Republican Dan Griffey by 546 votes Monday.

If Haigh loses and Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, hangs on to her 289-vote lead over Paul Wagemann, R-Lakewood, Democrats’ majority in the House will slip to 51-47.

Those slim margins were blowouts compared to the one in a race for the Pierce County Council. Democrat Derek Young’s lead over Republican Stan Flemming tightened Monday to just 87 votes, keeping it on track for a hand recount.

Seaquist chaired the House Higher Education Committee and was vocal — and often critical of Democratic administrations — on issues related to state ferries and and Tacoma Narrows bridge tolls.

He and Caldier both complained about negative advertising after a bitter campaign.

Seaquist criticized Caldier for ads suggesting he secretly photographed her, and says he will continue a lawsuit for libel over the claims. Caldier complained that Seaquist’s backers edited court documents in their ads to make her look like a criminal.

“I think the people of our district are sick and tired of it,” Caldier said.

In a statement, Seaquist called out his own independent supporters for “nasty” ads and said he understands why many voters didn’t participate and why those who did were closely divided.

“I, too, am angry about the dysfunctional politics that have begun to infect our state and our legislature. I, too, am disappointed that party leaders on both sides have been offering empty slogans instead of concrete proposals for practical action,” he said in a statement.

“I am not going away. I am already organizing a Citizens’ Committee for Clean Politics.”