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DISTRICT 35 | Pair of Republicans challenging incumbent for House seat
Two Republicans are trying to unseat a longtime Democrat for the 35th District’s state House seat for Position 1.
State Rep. Kathy Haigh (D-Shelton) will face Dan Griffey and Josiah Rowell in the Aug. 5 primary. The top two finishers will face off in November for the two-year term.
Haigh, 63, has served in her current post since 1998.
“Originally, I served on the local school board because I feel strongly that public education is the key to keeping our communities and our nation safe and strong,” said Haigh. “Decisions concerning the quality of, and funding for, our public schools is in question legislatively, which is why I am running for re-election.”
Haigh said she supports increased funding for schools in order to give students smaller class sizes and more highly qualified teachers.
She earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine in 1976 and owns Haigh Veterinarian Hospital in Shelton.
Before becoming state representative, she was a school board member for 12 years.
Rowell, a newcomer, is looking to make a splash in the local political front.
The 30-year-old U.S. Navy reservist and logistics specialist said he chose to run for state representative because “we need leaders who represent our communities and district, not Seattle and King County.”
“I am dedicated and committed to the issues and challenges that we as a community face in the 35th District and the state,” Rowell said. “After serving for over a decade in the United States Navy and completing three deployments in support of Iraq and Afghanistan, I have made a commitment to refocus my efforts in the 35th District and Washington state.”
Griffey, who lost to Haigh in 2010 and 2012, is again attempting to unseat Haigh. He lost by less than 3 percent of the vote in 2012 and by less than 1 percent in 2010.
“During that time I gained a lot of knowledge and spoke to many people right at their front door about the issues that they were facing. I am determined to make a difference for them,” he said.
The 1989 Mason High School graduate has been a firefighter for more than 27 years.
“I have lived in the district my entire life and I have seen our values and traditions left by the way side,” said the 43-year-old Griffey. “Employment opportunities are disappearing and crime rates are rising. I sat in the gallery in 2010 and watched as our representatives overturned the will of the people, requiring a two-thirds majority to support new taxes before they could be implemented. In my very first election against a longtime incumbent I received more than 49 percent of the vote. I have come closer than any other candidate has and I can’t give up on the people.”
He also served on the Washington State Republican Party committee for two terms and as chair of its Resolutions Committee.
The following questions were sent to the candidates. Here are their replies:
Q. Would you, or do you support an increase in the minimum wage to $15? Why?
Haigh: I believe we must consider an increase to the minimum wage. At the current rate, far too many people are working full time, and yet, are forced to rely on government services to make ends meet. Fifteen dollars per hour may be appropriate in Seattle, but local economic conditions in rural areas of our state are very different and the impact on locally owned business may be too severe at $15 dollars per hour. A gradual increase to possibly $12 per hour is more acceptable in areas outside the urban core of this state.
Rowell: No. Workers took a heavy hit in the recession that began in 2008 and they are still struggling to find employment that pays enough to raise a family. Recently politicians have begun talking about a large increase in the minimum wage, assuming that businesses will be easily able to absorb the extra cost. We need to be careful not to injure either our workers or our businesses through arbitrary wage floors. We need to focus on providing young people with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the job market and on growing our economy by reducing regulation.
Griffey: No, I would not support an increase in the minimum wage. Businesses should be the ones setting the wages that they deem appropriate for the work they are offering. I am open to the idea of training wages and I know that in order to retain quality trained workers, businesses will offer appropriate pay. If we step out of the way of our job creators and revenue generators (business owners) we will see that they will flourish and our citizen’s income will mirror their success.
Q. Do you support requiring a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes? Why?
Haigh: I do not support a two-thirds majority vote, except to pass a constitutional amendment, as the law is written. I believe the democratic process is representative government with the majority vote of the elected representatives as is now in our constitution.
Rowell: Yes. I support the two-thirds majority because the voters of the state passed the initiative four times. As your next representative, I will respect the will of the people.
Griffey: The Legislature can pass house rules that all new taxes are only imposed if two-thirds of the members vote yes. We can also amend the Washington State Constitution to achieve the two-thirds majority tax payer protection act. In the 35th Legislative District over 70 percent of our district supports this initiative. Coincidentally that is over two-thirds. It is time the people are heard.
Q. To fully comply with the McCleary decision to fully fund education, do you support increasing taxes to meet the shortfall or instead would you prioritize current spending priorities?
Haigh: The McCleary decision has two parts, first of which is to fully fund our schools according to the decisions we made in House Bill 2776 and 2261 which determined what basic education actually entails. This may require some changes in our taxes, and it will take a lot of work in both the House and the Senate to find the right combination of closing tax preferences for corporations and industry, but it may also include some new tax laws, including the removal of sales tax exemptions for people who live outside the state of Washington. The second part is to reduce the burden on locally collected property tax levies. This may involve a tax shift to collection of property taxes at the state level instead.
Rowell: No, I do not support increasing taxes. I support passing an education budget that meets our constitutional obligation, before we fund any discretionary programs. I support a close examination of the regulations and requirements we’ve imposed on school districts and teachers to make sure we are not stifling effective teaching, experimentation and innovation; and most importantly, that we’re not forcing every child to fit an educational model that isn’t suited to them. I support including adequate continuing education and pay for teachers as part of ensuring basic education is provided to every student in the state.
Griffey: First of all we are expecting additional revenue of about $2-3 billion but money does not fix everything. Education needs to be funded first and in a standalone budget with stable resources and results. It is irresponsible of the legislature to pass unfunded mandates that take away our students time with the teacher and lessen the effect and control our local school boards can exercise.
Q. If elected, what are three issues you would focus on for the district?
Haigh: I will be working on dropout prevention and student re-engagement to help every student graduate from high school. As we move forward with full funding of our public schools from the state level, I will work to be sure we do not lose our local control of schools through forced consolidation. I will be working to ensure that with full funding of our K-12 education system we do not reduce the support and goals for early childhood education or take away more state support from our higher education institutions.
Rowell: My top three priorities when elected will be local jobs and economy, accountable and responsible state spending and funding K-12 education.
Griffey: Education, property rights and job creation are all very important to me. What I want to leave you is how I plan to vote. I will use this litmus test on every bill.