DISTRICT 35 | Sheldon faces couple of newcomers in Senate race

Democratic State Sen, Tim Sheldon, a member of the Senate's Majority Coalition, is being challenged by a fellow Democrat and a young Republican in the Aug. 5 primary.

The top two-voter recipients will face off in the November general election.

Sheldon, 67, was elected to the State House in 1990 and served four terms before he was elected to the Senate in 1997. He is in his fourth, four-year term. He and Sen. Rodney Tom joined the Republicans in a “Majority Coalition Caucus,” resulting in a power sharing agreement, effectively giving the two Democrats control of the state senate along with 23 Republicans.

Sheldon has a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania and earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Washington.

He is the general partner of Sheldon Properties, a family owned tree farm. Sheldon was a Mason County PUD commissioner (1999-2003) and a Port of Hoodsport commissioner (1986-1992).

“The last two years with the State Senate under Majority Coalition control have shown how the Legislature can work across party lines to pass a budget without new taxes,” said Sheldon. “This sustainable budget means more jobs for the 35th District. The positive feedback from citizens of our district since we accomplished this bi-partisan effort made me decide to run for re-election. These folks tell me I have represented them well, and appreciate that I worked hard on their behalf, rather than on behalf of the political parties, party bosses or special interests."

Bowling, a Democrat, is a small business owner, life-long educator and professional concert pianist.

This is her first time to seek an elected office.She was among the top three candidates to replace Commissioner Josh Brown during the appointment process and is a former precinct committee officer and state committeewoman

The 57-year-old Bowling has a doctorate of music from UW, master's degree from University of Maryland and bachelor's degree from Arizona State University.

Bowling said she worked hard as an educator and a small business owner and feels she has something to offer the state.

"It has been made clear that we have a responsibility to fully fund basic education, but we still have not seen a plan to get there,” Bowling said. “We have woefully underfunded systems of transportation and infrastructure, and yet the Majority Coalition Caucus has been unable to pass a transportation package and was unwilling this last year to pass a capital budget. If we don't make these critical investments, then we are dramatically reducing our potential economic growth.”

Travis Couture, 26, said he decided to run for the state Senate because the state has some major problems that need to be solved.

“We cannot continue to elect the same politicians year after year and expect them to pull us out of the messes that they helped to create,” said Couture, a Republican. “The 35th District has suffered for over two decades due to a severe lack of leadership. It’s time to look forward and build a bright and vibrant future in the 35th.”

Couture, a submariner in the U.S. Navy, has a degree in marine engineering and is a contractor for Lockheed Martin. He ran once for Mason County commissioner and is a precinct committee officer.

Q. Would you, or do you support an increase in the minimum wage to $15? Why?

Sheldon: A minimum wage increase to $15 in our area would devastate our small business community. Large corporate franchises would be able to absorb this huge increase, but small businesses with much lower profit margins would be forced to put many of their low-wage employees back on the unemployment lines. I understand the vital role of small businesses in our state's recovering economy. Mandating a $15 minimum wage for small business is completely counter-productive to job creation and high employment.

Bowling: I think that $15 may be too high for a statewide minimum. $12-$12.50 is probably a realistic state-wide minimum but we have to acknowledge that there is a difference between a rural economy and an urban economy. There is no doubt that wages have not kept up with inflation or with productivity, but we should try to have flexibility in our policies aimed at helping small businesses and unique local economies.

Couture: I do not support a $15 minimum wage. An increase in the minimum wage will reduce job opportunities, and hurt business and economic growth. Instead we should look to relieve people of some of their tax burdens to give them back money they have already earned.

Q. Do you support requiring a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes? Why?

Sheldon: Yes, I have voted several times to uphold the citizens' right to require the Legislature to raise taxes only with a two-thirds majority vote. The citizens of my district passed this initiative with huge majorities. I firmly believe their wishes should be respected, and the two-thirds requirement should be upheld by the Legislature.

Bowling: No. The two-thirds majority creates a situation in which a simple majority can put in place a tax credit or exemption and then that same loophole can be protected from closure by a minority long after its usefulness. The State Supreme Court has ruled the two-thirds majority unconstitutional and I believe it is time we put this issue behind us.

Couture: I do support the two-thirds majority to raise taxes. I will respect the will of the people, who have overwhelmingly spoken on this issue time and time again. It should be harder for government to raise taxes, especially in an era of out of control spending and reckless taxes.

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?

Sheldon: My opponents have proposed radical ideas to comply with the McCleary decision that requires the Legislature to uphold the Constitutional language that, “… education is the paramount duty of the State.” I propose a realistic solution: the state should dedicate two-thirds of all new revenue to education. Our state is projected to collect $2.4 billion in new revenue next biennium. This is common-sense budgeting that would prioritize our paramount duty by funding education first.

Bowling: We need additional revenues to comply with McCleary, but it is not as simple as “increasing taxes” or "prioritizing spending" as the question proposes. Families at the middle and bottom of the income ladder deal with a burdensome and regressive tax code and I do not support compounding that problem. I think the best place to start is closing tax loopholes that have already been identified as not having a positive fiscal impact. I think we can all agree that our schools are more important than protecting tax breaks for big oil companies.

Couture: I do not support raising taxes. We need to pass "Fund Education First" legislation to give students the first dollar, not the last dime. The education system needs reforms and the voters want more alternatives and school choices. These reforms would help take the burden off of K-12 education. The state is taking in more revenue than ever before, we have the money to fund education we just have to prioritize.

Q. If elected, what are three issues you would focus on for the district?

Sheldon: While my opponents only promise bi-partisanship, I have actually formed bi-partisan coalitions in the Senate that will help me achieve the following:

• Schools - Funding education first with two-thirds of all new revenues, while ensuring our rural school districts receive compensation from the state equal to the compensation of schools in more affluent communities.

• Transportation - Referring a transportation improvement package to voters only after the Department of Transportation has been reformed.

• Small Business Expansion - Streamlining the permitting process across State agencies to encourage small businesses to expand and grow, enabling economic recovery.

Bowling: The first thing we need to address is support for education. Fully funding basic education is going to require billions of dollars in funding beyond where we are today. We also need to get higher education back within the means of average working families. We need to get serious about our transportation and infrastructure needs. Our state needs to work with our counties, cities, and port districts to get people to work and goods to market. Completing sorely needed transportation and capital projects will create jobs now and make us more competitive for future growth.

Couture: There are many issues facing us, and peoples opinions vary on which are most important. Transportation in our district could be vastly improved, starting with a Belfair Bypass, more freight mobility and relief from traffic congestion. We need to reform the WSDOT to make it a better steward of tax dollars. Education is our paramount duty, we need to pass "Fund Education First" legislation, promoting school choice, and provide much needed reforms to the school system. We need economic growth. Our district is suffering from high unemployment, poverty, and all the bad things that come with it. I would promote my plan to give a five-year B&O tax holiday for new businesses to bolster economic growth.


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