The fall ballot began to fill out Tuesday in two Olympia-area legislative district campaigns. In the 35th, a swing district that runs from south of Olympia to Shelton and Bremerton, first-term Republican Drew MacEwen of Union is challenged by Democrat Tammey Newton of Allyn. Newton works as executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Mason County and MacEwen runs a financial advising firm.
In another contested race, second-term Democratic Rep. Chris Reykdal of Tumwater is challenged by Republican Steve Owens of Olympia in the 22nd district, which encompasses the capital city, Lacey and Tumwater and has been a Democratic stronghold for about 30 years.
The 35th is expected to be among the five or 10 most competitive districts statewide – including the Senate race where Republican Travis Couture of Belfair and Democrat Irene Bowling of Bremerton filed this week to take on veteran Sen. Tim Sheldon, who is a Democrat that aligns with Senate Republicans. And in the other House seat in the 35th, eight-term Democratic Rep. Kathy Haigh is opposed by Republicans Dan Griffey of Allyn and Josiah Rowell of Union.
A victory by Newton could help expand Democrats’ 55-to-43 majority in the House.
“I am running for state representative to get things done in the Legislature,” Newton said in a news release sent after she filed Tuesday. "I am a tenacious, 'pull herself up by the bootstraps' type of person and I plan to focus on job creation, the economy, and education."
“I welcome it. That’s the beauty of democracy,” MacEwen said of the challenge. “I think any time we can have a vigorous debate it makes all of us better. I look forward to running an aggressive and invigorating campaign.”
Like Newton, MacEwen says he wants to work across party lines, and he cited work on the capital budget as evidence he can do that, and he said he’s won an endorsement from the Washington Federation of State Employees. Earlier this year MacEwen worked with the Democratic chairman of the House capital budget on a potential bond issue for school construction that would have used lottery proceeds, and it passed the House with 90 votes before dying in the Senate.
Newton said she is completing a master’s degree in business at the University of Washington and will make education funding a priority. She also wants to keep college tuition affordable and expand vocational training opportunities.
Her announcement made no mention about raising new funds for education. Lawmakers are likely to need new revenue next year if they want to fulfill the state Supreme Court’s mandate in the McCleary case to fully fund basic education, although MacEwen contends new or higher taxes are not needed.
Newton said she would push for “Washington first” rules letting in-state firms get first shot at state contracts. She said she has run a successful business and worked in the high-tech industry before running Habitat. She also serves as chair of the Housing Coalition of Mason County.
In the 22nd, Owens could not be reached immediately to comment. Reykdal said he has never met Owens but welcomes the challenge.
“I think it’s really great for the community. I’m looking forward to the debate. He sounds exceptionally well qualified. He has a military background and works in software,’’ Reykdal said of Owens.