Angel eyes less domination, more negotiation
By JEFF RHODES
Port Orchard Independent Editor
October 7, 2010 · Updated 11:15 AM
Anyone who thinks serving in the state Legislature is a part-time job has never done it.
“Don’t believe what the handbook tells you,” said Jan Angel, who’s just finishing up her first term as the 26th District’s Position 1 representative and running for re-election against Democrat challenger Sumner Schoenike.
“It’s a full-time job and then some,” she said. “And you spend about 85 percent of your time listening and solving people’s individual problems.”
Angel said those can be as daunting as keeping someone’s business from being shut down to making sure a disabled veteran has his dental surgery approved by the Department of Social and Health Services.
“I’ve had to do a lot of that,” she said. “And when I do, I make a point to ask why a problem that couldn’t be solved before could be cleared up in 48 hours when a legislator got involved. Why did it have to reach that point.”
First elected in 2008 after serving two terms as South Kitsap’s county commissioner, the Port Orchard native was the only Republican in the 26th District delegation and found her party in a decided minority in Olympia.
“I’ve never known anything else,” she said, noting that six of her eight years as a commissioner were spent alongside two Democrats. And for the other two, then-Central Kitsap Commissioner (and current Bremerton Mayor) Patty Lent was about as likely to vote with the board’s other Democrat as with Angel.
“That makes it very difficult to get anything accomplished,” Angel said. “And it’s even harder to get credit for it when you do.”
Case in point, Angel said she authored an amendment during the past session that would require the state to put more money into education from the proceeds of selling Power Ball tickets, only to be told the measure wouldn’t make it out of committee.
“So I went cross the aisle and found a Democrat I knew agreed with my idea and asked her to sponsor it,” Angel said. “And it passed. Same exact amendment, but it only passed once the Republican took her name off of it. That’s how it works down there.”
Up until now it did.
This time around, Angel thinks the Legislature will see a seismic shift.
“When I was running just two years ago, people would hear that I was a Republican and slam the door in my face,” she recalled. “This year, everyone’s trying to sound like a Republican. But I think the voters are smart enough to see through those who are only conservative come election time.”
In the current economic climate, Angel believes the GOP could very well wrest control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats. But even coming close would be an improvement.
“Government is supposed to be a collaborative process,” she said. “But it isn’t in Washington. The Democrats have had one-party rule for years, and look where it’s gotten us. At this point, I’d settle for just winning enough seats to ensure they have to negotiate.”
Should the Republicans capture a majority, however, Angel said she’s line to chair the House Local Government and Housing Committee.
“We could make so many improvements and do so much for the people of this district if I was in that position,” she said. “It would make a huge difference in how this state is managed, and we’re this close to making it happen.”
Angel said the state can reverse its economic fortunes in short order, but it’s going to require a complete change in course.
“Instead of treating companies that make a profit like they’re doing something wrong, we need to recognize they’re what pays for everything,” she said. “Instead of finding ways to drive them away, we need to make sure the ones we have stay and then recruit more just like them.”
That means reducing the regulations and crushing tax burden they face.
“Local, county, federal and state regulations are just piled up on top each other,” Angel said. “It’s a wonder anyone makes a profit at all with everything they have to overcome. If government has any role at all in stimulating the economy, it’s just to get out of the way and let the free market do what it’s supposed to do.”
As for Angel herself, her goals are pragmatic.
“Every morning I wake up and realize I have eight or 12 hours that day to make a difference,” she said. “If I use all that time as productively as I can, there’s no reason I can’t get something meaningful accomplished. It’s OK to get there a little at a time, just so long as you get there.”