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Governor hopefuls pay call on Kitsap

Four of the six announced gubernatorial candidates visited Bremerton this week to address an educational funding forum, and during the visit they took the time to discuss their specific concerns with regard to Kitsap County.

“Kitsap used to be a hidden secret,” said Christine Gregoire, currently the state’s attorney general. “People didn’t know what a wonderful area this is. Now we need to work with the local economic development council to see how we can build up the area.”

Gregoire said the state does not create jobs; rather, it breaks down the barriers to job creation within the individual region.

Gregoire attended with fellow Democratic hopefuls Ron Sims and Phil Talmadge. They were joined by Independent candidate Don Hansler, who, until that day, was also running as a Democrat.

“I just became an Independent today because my friends were telling me that my ideas were more like an Independent than a Democrat,” he said.

The Republican party was not represented. Javier Lopez said he would attend until the last minute, while frontrunner Dino Rossi declined due to a conflicting engagement.

“Kitsap County is a critical component of the central Puget Sound region,” said Sims, who is King County Executive. “I’d like to see it woven more extensively into the economic fabric. People who talk about King and Snohomish counties don’t always include Kitsap. But it is a critical part of the central Sound’s economic engine.”

Sims promised state support for the ferry system, putting it on the same level as roads and bridges. Ferries are a transportation system like a highway or a light rail, he said, and their financing should not be “on the backs” of the riders themselves.

“The governor needs to be able to make decisions,” he said. “And while many of them are local decisions, they will affect the economic growth of the state.”

Hansler and Talmadge were less specific about Kitsap, saying it faces many of the same concerns as the rest of the state.

“I don’t know that much about Kitsap yet,” Hansler said. “The governor has to be concerned about the whole state.”

And the whole state’s economy, he said, will benefit from an income tax tied to a limit on the spending rate. “Nothing jumps out right now about Kitsap County,” Talmadge said. “Like the rest of the state, it is dependent on the military, concerned with the funding of education and health care. And students at Olympic College are facing a tuition increase, which will make it unaffordable for a lot of people.”

Sims also places a premium on affordable, thorough education. “The only way you can expand an area is to have smart, skilled people who live there,” he said.

Talmadge said governors often get involved in minutiae, such as improving specific highway interchanges.

“When I was in the Legislature, the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 16 was a real problem,” he said. “It looks like they’re fixing it now. But sometimes a small problem is a reflection of a larger issue, like transportation.”

“I’m going to use the governor’s table to ask grownups to act like adults,” Sims said. “A good governor hires strong people and holds them accountable for their work.”

This philosophy is echoed by Talmadge, who said, “As governor I would appoint a secretary of transportation, and I’d have someone to hold accountable if the food service on the ferry goes away.”

Gregoire cites a personal reason for seeking the office.

“I have two daughters,” she said. “They’re now away at college, but I want them to come back to Washington, find employment and raise their families. The governor will have to take on some tough issues in order to make it possible, like economy, education and health care. As governor, I am going to do my best to help the state reach its potential.”

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