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House hopefuls square off over breakfast

Two challengers and two incumbents vying for the 26th Legislative District’s two seats fielded questions Thursday morning for the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce’s final “Eggs and Issues” candidate forum at the downtown restaurant City Limits.

The four included Position 1 Rep. Pat Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, and her challenger, Republican Ed Mitchell of Port Orchard, along with Position 2 Rep. Brock Jackley, D-Manchester, and his Republican challenger Lois McMahan of Olalla.

Independent candidate Ted Haley, another Lantz challenger, was not present at the debate. Staff members at the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce said several attempts were made to contact Haley, but none were successful.

After their opening statements, the candidates were asked if the 9-cent-gas-tax Referendum 51 fails, what did they have planned to replace it?

McMahan and Mitchell both said they had strong reservations about the bill, and Jackley said the answer would be found back at the capital.

“We need to solve that back in Olympia,” Jackley said. “If it fails, we need to find out exactly what the public wants, come up with a smaller package and then try and pass it.”

Lantz said she would work hard to salvage some parts of the bill, especially the SR-16 and Southworth ferry terminal improvements, but said at any rate we will “have to raise that gas tax.

“Luckily,” Lantz said, “it happens to be a time where the gas tax will be relatively painless.”

Tensions between Jackley and McMahan became apparent when Jackley was asked about a mailer he published that led to McMahan filing a complaint against him with the Public Disclosure Commission. In the flyer, he claimed McMahan’s legislative voting record included supporting bills to weaken laws protecting women from stalkers and changing the definition of child abuse.

Manchester resident Neils Neilsen addressed both candidates, asking Jackley why he “ran a smear campaign with dishonest, unethical and mean comments,” and asking McMahan why she voted ‘no’ on bills “that were very good legislation.”

“I was attempting to remind voters of what (McMahan) did in office,” Jackley said. “I was not attempting to get personal.”

McMahan responded by defending her voting record and declaring it was “irresponsible to suggest that I would want any child hurt or any woman stalked.”

The candidates were in near complete agreement on instituting a state income tax, however.

“There’s absolutely no question that we’re not voting for it,” Lantz said. “It’s not going to happen. Period. The end.”

Jackley and Mitchell both said ‘no’ for the near future, but left the door ajar for consideration at a later date. Mitchell said only a “restructuring of the Constitution” would lead him to support a statewide income tax, and Jackley’s response was even more open to the idea.

“To say I would never do something, I’m not going to say that,” Jackley said. “I might do something down the road.”

The candidates were also in seeming agreement when asked if they supported running fast ferries on Puget Sound routes, including the run between Seattle and Bremerton through Sinclair Inlet.

“I believe they are necessary for Kitsap County and its economic vitality,” said Mitchell, while Lantz said that was just one more reason that R-51 must pass, and Jackley said he has always been a strong advocate for the ferries.

Finally, the candidates were asked how they would address the apparent dueling purposes of most voters, as the “will of the people oftentimes is revealed as ‘spend more money, but cut tax revenue.’”

Jackley said the best solution was to educate voters.

“We need to make the public aware of both sides of the referendum process,” Jackley said. “That there is a cost associated with the improvements.”

Mitchell said the initiative process is what he sees as a “safety valve” for voters who don’t feel they are being represented and “want to take matters into their own hands.”

“People want to lower taxes and support education needs, and they don’t see those as opposing views,” Mitchell said.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5. All absentee ballots postmarked by midnight on Nov. 5 will be accepted.

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