Two more engage in race for House

Longtime natural-resources policy hand Steve Robinson says he'll run next year for the 22nd District seat that state Rep. Brendan Williams is giving up after three terms.

Robinson, 59, is the second Democrat to announce for the seat and said he is running on a jobs-creation and sustainability platform. Stewart Henderson, owner of a management consulting business and a large local fundraiser for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign last year, announced for the seat in July and said he also is running on a jobs- creation theme.

Robinson brings a wide background in American Indian and native natural resources issues, having worked more than two decades for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. Robinson, who also has native ancestry, has a background as a businessman and journalist, won an Emmy Award for producing an educational film, and had roles with community, advocacy and educational organizations.

“I have a combination of skills and experience that would make a good legislator. My intent would be to be someone who, as much as I can, represents all members of the district and all interests, but (also to) move forward and find jobs in clean industries,’’ Robinson said. “Sustainability is my middle name. I have a strong, strong belief in that.”

Robinson’s roles include former president of the Olympia Jaycees, president of Northwest tribes’ Salmon Homecoming, and member of the National Congress of American Indians, the Environmental Education Association and the Thurston County Environmental Action League.

“I have a whole lot of people who are strongly encouraging me,” Robinson said, noting he has “a good 20 years up at the Legislature” working on natural resources concerns. “It’s the kind of job I would hit the ground running on.”

Both candidates say they expect company in the race, just as Williams won his first term in 2004 in a field of five Democrats and three Republicans. Both were careful to speak well of others.

“That’s great – the voters of the 22nd deserve a wide range of candidates to choose from, and a thorough discussion of the important issues facing our state,” Henderson said in a formal statement. “At the same time, I’m confident in the initial strength we brought to this race, and the momentum we’ve built up over the past several months. … I plan to work harder than any other candidate, raise more money, make more phone calls, and knock on more doors.”

Henderson is president and owner of Third Way Consulting Group and a former assistant director of the state Department of Labor and Industries. He has said his campaign is centered on job creation and improving the small-business climate, but that he also wants to bring focus to environmental issues including action on a climate-change bill.

Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County said she does not take sides “when I know two people well and like them both. I think they both would be good.’’

Williams, a liberal with a strong labor and environmental voting record, has said he is not endorsing anyone early.

Scott Roberts, chairman of the Thurston County Republican Party, said he does not have a GOP candidate in line yet, and he had no comment on the two Democrats that have stepped forward so far. But Roberts said his party is glad to see Williams go and he said a backlash against the federal health reform bill in Congress might spur people to run in 2010.

Robinson said he was born in Albany, Ore., graduated from the University of Oregon in 1972, worked for Oregon newspapers until taking a public affairs director job in 1974 at the Washington Department of Natural Resources in Olympia; in about 1981 he moved to Everett and was vice president of marketing for a family-held Robinson properties firm; he joined the Thurston County-based fisheries commission in 1985.

His family’s roots include Scottish and Welsh pioneers in the Willamette Valley on one side and the native Salish-Kootenai people on the other.

Henderson, 50, is a native of Detroit who moved to South Sound in 1999. Both candidates have adult children.

Robinson said he’s not met Henderson but from he’s heard “I understand he’s a good man … someone I’d vote for” – except that he thinks he can offer more himself.