Democrats Jeff Davis of Olympia and Lynda Ring-Erickson of Shelton, Republican Drew C. MacEwen of Union and independent Glenn H. Gaither of Shelton hope to move on in the primary elections next month as they seek the Position Two seat formerly held by Rep. Fred Finn.
The top two vote-getters advance from the Aug. 7 primary to the November ballot.
There are only two candidates vying for Position One, so they will automatically go on to the November election. They are Republican Dan Griffey, a firefighter and small-business owner in Allyn, and Democrat Kathy Haigh, a veterinarian in Shelton.
Ring-Erickson, a Mason County commissioner for 7½ years, said she would use her experience working with county and city government as a state representative.
In addition to “keeping the jobs we have,” Ring-Erickson, 63, said she would focus on finding a “dedicated, stable source of income” for K-12 education after the state Supreme Court ruled this year that the state’s constitutional duty to adequately fund basic education had not been met.
“I’ve had people talk to me a little bit about maybe restructuring some of the property taxes, or one of the things … I might look at is a statewide utility tax on maybe some or one utility,” she said about raising funds for education.
More money needs to go directly to classrooms, said MacEwen, a 39-year-old investment adviser. He said 59 cents of every dollar makes it to the classroom, a number that “needs to be a lot higher.”
Davis, 44, agrees that something needs to be changed in the education system to better prepare students to compete on global scale without putting additional financial strain on the public.
Gaither is the only candidate who disagreed with the high court’s decision. The 50-year-old corrections officer said the problem is not the amount of funding that goes toward education, but what is done with that funding.
“The product we are getting off that money is dismal at best,” he said. “There are kids out there that do good in school, but I don’t think the curriculum is challenging them.”
On handling budget shortfalls, each candidate had differing ideas, though majority agree they would not vote to raise taxes.
“That’s the last thing we need to do,” Davis, a longshoreman, said. “That is going to hurt the citizens that much more in a tough time.”
Davis did not have specific ideas about where to help cut funding to balance the budget, saying there have been “tremendous amounts cut already,” and suggested the state look at other revenue streams to help make up the dwindling budget.
One of MacEwen’s priorities is to reduce the regulatory tax burdens on businesses to help turn the economy around.
“We need to be looking at the state budget over the last couple of bienniums,” he said. “A lot of the cuts are cuts from what the Legislature wanted to spend, not cuts from previous levels … we need to go to a zero-base budgeting system, and not operate because one agency had ‘X’ amount of dollars last year that they should get this year.”
Gaither said the key to turning the economy around is getting constituents wages that can support a family.
“We had a budget surplus and the reason we had a budget surplus is because we had a strong economy,” Gaither said. “We need to get people back to work at family supporting wages, not minimum wage, but livable wages so they will start spending money and the revenue will come back.”
While she would prefer not to raise taxes, Ring-Erickson said “there is a possibility” taxes would need to be raised to bolster areas such as education and law enforcement.
“I think if we are going to raise taxes, we need to be clear about why we are doing it and what we are raising it for,” she said. “I think we need to invest in our future.”
The candidates’ budget-balancing ideas varied. MacEwen said the state must learn “to live within its means.”
“Making Washington more business-friendly so business can grow and hire more people – that’s the solution,” MacEwen said. “The solution isn’t beating people down even more.”
Gaither said the first step is to restructure state agencies and look for inefficiencies. Davis suggested looking at corporations that receive incentives to be in the state, and make sure the companies are living up to their expectations.
Ring-Erickson suggested cutting spending on state parks and focus on working with local governments for the upkeep of parks.
The candidates’ stance is split on Referendum 74, which, if approved would uphold the Legislature’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
Davis and Ring-Erickson would plan to approve the referendum, while MacEwen said he has no plans to “usurp the will of the people.”
Gaither said he likely would vote against the referendum.
“I think the only reason this thing came up is with everything else in the tank, they made it their priority because it’s politics,” he said.