South Sound's less-visible campaign in the 22nd Legislative District has drawn two candidates to challenge five-term Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt.
The best-known challenger is Justin Kover, who filed as a Democrat and works for the Olympia Patient Resource Center, which provides information about medical marijuana to patients. Kover ran for Tumwater mayor last year, finishing last in a field of five candidates. Against Hunt, he has raised $1,937 and spent nearly all of it.
Christopher “Chris” Ward, who describes himself as a retail worker in Olympia, filed to run with “No Party” preference. He has reported raising no money.
Ward also filed several citizen initiatives this year and indicated months ago on his website that he would run for U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. His ballot proposals went nowhere, and he never filed for the Senate. His website, www.ward2010.com, has been adapted for the legislative race.
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Hunt is a well-known Democrat and former state employee. He has been a leading advocate for state employees and has spoken out for raising revenue for public schools. His campaign raised $32,019 in campaign contributions as of Wednesday and spent $6,992.
The incumbent apparently feels secure in his position. He chose to skip a League of Women Voters candidate event last month in favor of attending an environmental group’s function at Quinault. Hunt’s legislative record includes opposition to increases in state employees’ share of medical costs; he also favors an income tax, and his environmental record earned him endorsements from Washington Conservation Voters and Thurston Conservation Voters.
Kover could not be reached last week to comment, but he said in June that his campaign is about a broader objection to Hunt – including Hunt’s effort to regulate the citizen initiative process and increase the initiative-filing fee from $5 to about $200. Kover also criticized Hunt for taking the position – which the U.S. Supreme Court recently backed up in a ruling on last year’s Referendum 71 – that the names of voters on citizen initiatives should be considered public record.
“The three planks of my campaign are open government, truth in budgeting and protecting our initiative process,” Kover said at the time.
Kover went on to say in an e-mail that he is an advocate for legalized marijuana and better patient access to marijuana. He also described himself as an activist and said his objections to the Olympia water system plan for 2009-14 helped lower water rates; he said his campaign for Tumwater mayor exposed the city’s alleged use of inflated sewer rates to run a municipal golf course; and he worked against a county ordinance for prairie soils.
Hunt questioned Kover’s credibility and noted that Kover, who later had his voting rights restored, was convicted of felony assault in 1999 and had other run-ins with the law.
Hunt defended his record on the initiative process, saying he supports it. He has said he collected at least five pages of signatures for Initiative 1098, which proposes a high-earners income tax.
Ward’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment last week. But the candidate carried a campaign sign to the Black Lake Grange’s candidate forum July 29 and told an Olympian reporter at the event that he doesn’t believe Hunt represents the district. He cited Hunt’s votes to temporarily suspend Initiative 960, which imposed a two-thirds supermajority vote requirement for tax increases to pass in the Legislature, and Initiative 728, which dedicated tax funds for class-size improvements in public schools.
Ward said the state needs to make more efficient use of taxes, allowing more online high schools and letting ninth-graders take college coursework through the Running Start program.
Ward also filed citizen initiatives to lower the state’s spending limit each year, limit expense reimbursements for lawmakers, require proof of citizenship to receive welfare benefits, and bar employment actions by the state Military Department based on sexual orientation.
Brad Shannon: 360-357-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/politicsblog