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26th District hopefuls square off

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The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce attempted a unique strategy for its candidate forum on Thursday by asking each contender for a seat in the state House of Representatives from the 26th District to pose a question to his or her opponent.

This worked, but only to a degree, since several of the answers came directly out of the standard campaign playbook.

Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) asked his Position 2 opponent, Republican Marlyn Jensen, whether she favored vouchers to pay for private school, and what programs she would cut in order to make school budgeting more efficient.

“The money that is allocated for education is not getting to the classroom,” she said. “If we can make some cuts and conduct performance audits, we can run more efficiently. We don’t know where the money is going. It ends up in the general fund where it is never seen again. We should create an education legacy fund. When Larry was in the Legislature he voted along with the Democrats to put us $678 million in the hole, and a lot of that could have gone to education.”

Jensen was interrupted by a bell that indicated the end of her comment period. When a member of the audience shouted the word “vouchers” she responded with, “My time is up.”

Jensen then asked Seaquist why he voted for the budget when he knew that it would create a tremendous deficit.

Seaquist answered that the percentage of money earned that goes to the state, 6.1 percent, has fluctuated slightly in 13 years but is now at the same level as in 1995.

Meanwhile, South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel asked former Port Orchard Mayor Abel — her opponent for the Position 1 seat — if she supported the personal income tax, and what specific actions Abel would take to cut expenses.

Abel suggested a hiring freeze in government agencies, and that vacant positions should not be filled.

She added that the $800 million reserve would provide a buffer for expenses, taking a shot at Angel by saying “unlike the county, the state has not used reserves to balance budgets.”

Abel then asked Angel whether she supported the estate tax, or “death tax,” which takes a substantial amount of estates valued above $2 million.

Angel answered that people who work hard to leave a legacy should be able to pass this on to her families.

Angel characterized the tax as “punishment for working hard.”

The questions then originated from the attendees, mostly about education, finance and business.

When asked how voters can get answers to questions that fall outside of the standard campaign issues all of the candidates pledged they would personally answer any questions posed to them by voters, and noted their e-mail address and phone numbers are featured in their campaign literature and Web sites.

“You can leave me a voice mail or send an e-mail and I will get back to you right away,” Seaquist said.

Added Jensen, “I put my personal phone number on my brochure. You can call me any time of the day or night and I will answer any question you ask.”

At that point a member of the audience shouted “vouchers” and the bell went off again.

Angel addressed that question when she said “People should have choices. If they choose to not send their kids to public schools, they can home-school or use private school. But the public school system needs support.”

Seaquist was more definitive, saying “I am totally and unequivocally opposed to vouchers. The Constitution was founded on the principle that everyone receives a common education. So the government needs to continue to support education.”

For coverage of Seaquist and Jensen’s Eggs and Issues Debate go to www.portorchardindependent.com.

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