Tax increases passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature are in the gun sights of many candidates running in two conservative legislative districts that overlap the southern flanks of Thurston County.
Labor issues are also cropping up in one of the hottest south county races – the 2nd district challenge by Republican J.T. Wilcox of Roy against Republican state Rep. Tom Campbell of Spanaway. The district takes in southwest Pierce and eastern Thurston counties.
Wilcox outpolled Campbell in the Aug. 17 primary by nearly 59 percent to 41 percent, a troubling message from voters to Campbell. Wilcox also has raised nearly as much money – $166,245 to Campbell’s $173,192.
Wilcox says he would be better for business than Campbell and says the incumbent’s voting record – as rated by the Association of Washington Business and Washington State Labor Council – “would certainly indicate he’s not friendly to business.”
Campbell, who describes himself as an independent with a record of working across party lines, favors gun rights, worker rights, environmental protection and consumer rights. He says he’s done well for the district on transportation projects, including the Yelm bypass and the cross-base highway for Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“I’ve been able to work in a hostile environment and maintain relationships to get things done,” Campbell said. “Most people know I get the job done in Olympia.”
Also on the Nov. 2 ballot for south county voters:
• House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis faces a challenge from Democrat Corinne Tobeck in the 20th district, which takes in Lewis County and a southwestern swath of Thurston. Tobeck is a Thurston County resident and has a business background. DeBolt easily led in the primary, has a commanding fund-raising edge in the traditionally Republican district and is in a position to become speaker if the GOP wrests back control of the House, which Democrats now hold 61-37.
• Democrat Marilyn Rasmussen was ousted from the state Senate by voters in the 2008 election. The longtime former lawmaker and dairy farmer is attempting a comeback against Republican Rep. Jim McCune for the other House position in the 2nd District. McCune, a commercial fisherman, led easily in the primary, and Rasmussen is recycling elements of her previous campaign – literally crossing out “Senate” on some brochures and writing in a reference to the House position she is seeking.
WILCOX VS. CAMPBELL
The Wilcox challenge to Campbell appears to be the closest race and is the one most likely to change the GOP’s representation in Olympia. Campbell is a Republican but sits alone, refusing to join the Republican caucus, and on many health or labor issues sides with Democrats.
“I’d be in there pitching in the caucus instead of being outside being excluded,” Wilcox said, but he declined to say if Campbell’s approach is hurting the district. “That’s for the district to decide.”
Campbell says his bipartisan approach works well and fits with what voters really want, even if it angers the parties. He said he provided the heft to pass major bills by crossing the aisle, including a bill to restrict access to precursor chemicals used by methamphetamine cooks and a major bill on hospital-acquired infections.
He also has chaired the House environmental health committee, to which Democratic Speaker Frank Chopp appointed him.
The Washington State Labor Council and the Washington Federation of State Employees donated funds to a political committee, Second Defense. That money went into another PAC called For the People that helped fund three independent-expenditure brochures before the primary.
The fliers attacked Wilcox and his family business’s record on jobs and worker safety. One said “Wilcox’s workers feared for their safety” and that “J.T. Wilcox puts profits before people.”
It claimed 52 labor violations, 25 serious infractions and more than $42,000 in fines – figures that are higher than the 14 serious violations and $17,635 in paid fines that the Department of Labor and Industries shows since 1998.
“He’s laid off a lot of workers while his own personal income has grown to his family farm. So we worry about his commitment to the workers that are there in his district,” labor council spokeswoman Kathy Cummings said.
Cummings added that the council endorses Campbell, who has one of the best Republican voting records on labor in the House. “We support our champions. He is great on transportation issues and jobs,” Cummings said.
Even McCune, a fellow Republican who won’t take sides between Campbell and Wilcox, says Campbell is effective on transportation.
On the other hand, the Association of Washington Business is backing Wilcox – even though Campbell voted against the tax package passed this year and also opposed the temporary suspension of the Initiative 960 requirement that lawmakers muster a two-thirds vote to pass tax increases. Both were key votes the AWB tracked.
In fact, the AWB gave Campbell an 87 percent rating on its 2010 legislative scorecard of key policy votes, far better than the 47 percent he received in 2009 or his lifetime score of 59 percent. Campbell’s record was 100 percent on fiscal matters the AWB tracked.
Campbell’s missteps, according to the AWB, included votes in favor of two failed bills, one to require uninterrupted meal breaks for health care workers and one to let workers take leave from work to attend a limited number of school activities for their children. Those two votes helped Campbell’s labor record, as did a vote for a bill that dealt with bargaining rights for symphony workers.
House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said recently that he thinks the race was over in the primary, given Wilcox’s advantage.
Campbell’s campaign has received its largest contributions of $1,600 from Citizens for Better Government in Puyallup, the City of Destiny trial-lawyer PAC in Tacoma, Stephanie Greenall of Lynwood, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77 PAC in Seattle, Inland Northwest PAC in Spokane, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 PAC, Washington Chiropractic Trust, Washington Beverage Association, Washington Education Association, Waste Management, Washington Federation of State Employees and others.
The House Republican Organizational Committee is the top donor to Wilcox with $2,500, followed by Premera Blue Cross with $2,400. Contributions of $1,600 came from Associated Builders and Contractors PAC in Bellevue, Walt Baydo of Roy, AT&T Services in San Antonio; Builders United in Legislative Development of Seattle; Farmers Employees and Agents PAC of Olympia; Green Diamond Resources of Shelton; David Morse III of Bellingham; Northwest Grocery Association of Washington PAC of Wilsonville, Ore.; Schorno Farms of Yelm; The Regence Group of Portland; Washington Food Industry PAC of Olympia; Wal-Mart Stores of Arkansas; Washington Health Care Association of Olympia; and the Washington Affordable Housing PAC.
TOBECK VS. DEBOLT
In the 20th, DeBolt captured nearly two-thirds of the primary vote and is making flood control along the Chehalis River his top priority. He says upper-basin retention ponds are needed to impound water and reduce the need for tall levees.
His second priority if re-elected is job creation in a district hit by high unemployment rates; he also wants to pass a “sustainable” state budget without new taxes. DeBolt acknowledges that his caucus failed to say how it could have balanced a budget without the revenue increases Democrats passed, but says he offered ideas to Gov. Chris Gregoire before the session.
He also said he would have cut the Disability Lifeline program, which provides medical care and stipends to people with temporary disabilities, but would not seek to cut student financial aid. And unlike some GOP legislative candidates, he would not cut all-day kindergarten funds.
Tobeck, a former Tumwater School Board member, says DeBolt is giving lip service to education funding and isn’t supportive of services people need during the recession. But she was unable to give specifics when she spoke to the newspaper’s editorial board.
“I’m carrying the voice of the people to the floor,” Tobeck said, suggesting she would bring a different attitude to bear on issues. “I have not been bought off by any special interests. I am supported entirely by the community.”
On the jobs front, Tobeck said she would seek to do more to help displaced workers through education and retraining, especially for alternative energy or “green” jobs. To shrink the expected $4.5 billion budget gap next year, she would look for committees and commissions to eliminate and tax breaks to end.
She said passage of the income tax initiative (I-1098) on high earners would help bring in new revenue for health care and education.
DeBolt opposes the new revenue and says the state should look for ways to make four-year colleges more efficient. He said they could look to community colleges for better bid procedures on contracts.
Asked about the economy, he said he would not have looked to extend unemployment benefits but instead to put people to work. He said businesses need better access to capital, and he pointed to Michigan as a state where government and banks are working together and lowering unemployment costs.
Although his caucus has sought to cut government costs, he described Gregoire’s proposed contract for state employees as “disheartening to the morale of employees.” Gregoire wants employees’ share of insurance premiums to rise to 26 percent, up from 12 percent, so that the state’s contribution to employee health and other insurance benefits can be held even.
On floods, both candidates support some kind of effort to retain water before it hits the flood plains. But Tobeck said she understands that people in Pe Ell are not keen on retaining ponds upstream from their homes.
Tobeck also assails DeBolt for being a lobbyist for TransAlta, the Canada-based power company that runs a power plant in Centralia and is DeBolt’s employer. But she did not point out specific examples of where he overstepped the line in his legislative role to benefit TransAlta.
DeBolt has raised $146,530 and spent $92,912, compared with Tobeck’s $14,800 raised and $9,312 spent. Top contributions to DeBolt’s campaign include $1,600 each from the Washington Refuse & Recycling Association PAC in Ilwaco; Amgen in Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Anheuser-Busch Cos. in St. Louis; AT&T Services in San Antonio; Avalon Health Care in Salt Lake City; Avista Corp. of Spokane; BNSF Railway Co. in Fort Worth, Texas; Boeing Co. in Seattle; Certified Public Accountants PAC in Bellevue; Chehalis tribe; Philip Morris USA in Sacramento, Calif.; Premera Blue Cross in Seattle; Puget Sound Energy in Bellevue; Puget Sound Pilots in Seattle; SEIU Healthcare 775 NW in Federal Way; Verizon Corp. in Olympia; Washington Association of Realtors in Olympia; Washington Beverage Association in Olympia; the Washington Forest Protection Association in Olympia; and numerous others.
Tobeck’s major contributions include $2,500 from the Lewis County Democrats; $990 from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters in Kent; $800 from Thurston Democrats; $800 from the Lewis-Thurston-Mason labor council; $800 from the Washington Education Association PAC in Federal Way; $500 from the Iron Workers District Council of the Pacific Northwest in Portland; $500 from Eva Mae King in Olympia; and $250 each from Barbara Holm of Olympia, Cindy Jackson of Lacey, Dean Seymour of Olympia and Debi Seymour of Olympia. Former Tumwater schools superintendent Norm Wisner gave $125.
RASMUSSEN VS. MCCUNE
Rasmussen served six years in the House and 16 in the Senate before losing to Republican Randi Becker in 2008. The conservative Democrat says she is making a comeback “because I want to represent the community like I’ve always done.”
But McCune, who is very conservative on both social and fiscal issues, led her by 61 percent to 39 percent in the primary.
Rasmussen, also a conservative, has distanced herself from majority Democrats now calling the shots in Olympia, saying the state has never had a Legislature “fail like the last two years” with its reliance on federal aid and difficulty balancing budgets.
Like many Republicans, Rasmussen says cuts needed to be made and will be needed to bridge the $4.5 billion gap next year. But she didn’t identify where to cut and said she wants to protect funding for schools.
McCune blames growing budgets for the state’s fiscal problems, despite Democrats’ actions that cut more than $4 billion in spending the past two years. “Spending is out of control,” he said, adding in the same breath:, “We’re not spending on education, public safety and protecting the most vulnerable in our state.”
McCune said some cuts will have to be made that might eliminate programs and said “we’ve got to go through these agencies’ budgets and cut them back.” He refused to identify any possible cuts on grounds “it wouldn’t be fair to the persons in those positions at this time.”
Rasmussen said she spent far less than McCune per vote in the primary and believes she can “still put people first” if elected.
As of early this week, McCune had raised $57,256 and spent $31,939. His top contributions were $1,600 each from Philip Morris USA in Virginia, Physicians Insurance in Seattle, Wal-Mart’s PAC in Arkansas and the Washington Restaurant Association in Olympia; $882 from a low-cost fundraiser; $800 each from AT&T in San Antonio, Baydo Chevrolet in McKenna, Centurytel Inc., in Louisiana, Gun Owners Action League in Bellevue, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle Mariners, state-office-builder lessor Brent McKinley in Arlington, Connie McKinley in Arlington, and others.
Rasmussen reported raising $12,223, including $1,600 from the Pierce County Professional Fire Fighters Local 726 in Puyallup, $800 from IBEW Local 77 PAC in Seattle, $800 from the Washington Education Association PAC in Federal Way, and the Washington Medical Political Action Committee in Seattle. Farmers Employees and Agents PAC donated $600. Former state senators donating included Harriet Spanel of Bellingham and Sid Snyder of Long Beach, $100 each, and Rosa Franklin of Tacoma, $55; Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County contributed $50.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/politicsblog
20th district, House Position 1
Contact: 360-219-7072, info@richard debolt.com.
Occupation: Public relations, TransAlta.
Experience: House member, 1997-present; House Republican leader in 2004 and 2005-present; president of United Way of Lewis County, 2007-08; former director, Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce.
Education: B.A., international relations, University of Wyoming; Henry Tolls Fellow, 2001.
Residence: Thurston County.
Contact: 360-754-0793, corinne@ corinnetobeck.com.
Occupation: Owner of consulting firm.
Experience: Runs Tobeck & Associates, 1990 to present; liaison for Lewis County Board of Commissioners, 2007-09; former executive director for West Olympia Business Association, Tumwater Chamber of Commerce, and Government Building Owners and Lessors Association.
Education: B.A., management studies, The Evergreen State College; leadership certificates from leadership academies for Lewis County and the Washington State School Directors Association; National Rifle Association certificate.
2nd District, House Position 1
Contact: 253-846-5911, electmccune @gmail.com.
Occupation: State representative.
Experience: Representative for 2nd District, 2005-present; commercial fisherman and small-business owner more than 40 years; received Guardian of Small Business Award and Cornerstone Award; received “Going to Bat” award for supporting disabled veterans, 2010; “Friend of Farmers” (Washington Farm Bureau).
Education: Highline High School; private courses in law and early American history.
Contact: 253-847-3276, marilyn@rainier connect.com.
Occupation: Cattle and timber farmer.
Experience: Served six years in the state House, 16 years in the Senate; served seven years on the Eatonville School Board; member of business organizations, legislative task forces, and community and youth organizations, including Caring for Washington Individuals with Autism Task Force, Joint Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Marymount Association for Senior Housing Board since 1988 and Ohop Grange.
Education: Three years of study in education and political science at the University of Washington.
2nd district, House Position 2
Contact: 253-843-4455, thomasj email@example.com
Experience: Member of the Washington House of Representatives, 1993-96 and 1998-2010; serves as chairman of the House Environmental Health Committee; previously co-chairman and ranking minority member of the Health Committee; previously served on the Joint Select Military Affairs, State Government, Judiciary and Finance committees.
Education: B.A. in police science and administration, Seattle University, 1977; Doctor of Chiropractic, Life Chiropractic College, 1983.
Contact: 360-458-6903, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Occupation: Farmer and consultant.
Experience: Former chief financial officer of Wilcox Family Farms; public relations; volunteer firefighter, 1987-95; chairman of the national “Got Milk” campaign, 2005-06; president of the Yelm Lions Club, 1994; Washington egg commissioner, 1992-95; other dairy and poultry group roles.
Education: B.A. in history, Washington State University, 1985.