Race for state seat grows to 5

Two more candidates have entered the race to succeed retiring state Rep. Brendan Williams, expanding the field to five Democrats seeking the 22nd district.

The newest entrants are third-term Tumwater City Council member Judi Hoefling and Department of Health employee Joe Mihelich of Lacey.

Hoefling works for Behavioral Health Resources and helped found the five-county 211 help network. She grew up in a logging camp near Quilcene, has led the Thurston County Chamber, and said she has worked to help the homeless and provide treatment to addicts.

Mihelich is a union shop steward and ran for the Aberdeen City Council four times in the 1990s, losing by one vote in his 1999 race. He said his priorities are to “properly fund” education and education reform, protect the environment, and reform government.

Already in the race are Stewart Henderson, a private consultant and prodigious fundraiser who got deeply involved in the Thurston County campaign for President Barack Obama; Steve Robinson, a longtime expert in natural-resources policy and education; and Chris Reykdal, a Tumwater School Board member who picked up the district’s first major labor endorsement last weekend from the International Association of Machinists Local 751.

“My penchant for fairness, my tenacity, my lifelong experience in dealing with tough issues, and maybe a little of my white hair and grandmother’s wisdom will be of particular use in the State House to keep the bar of public service high and focused where it should be – on jobs and making our communities healthy in mind, in spirit and in resources,” Hoefling wrote on her Web site. She also expressed hope that she can influence a political process she sees as too partisan and fractious.

In an interview, Hoefling described herself as a moderate Democrat and said she supports economic development, believing tourism is one low-cost way to bring more revenue into the Olympia area.

Mihelich said he would get rid of the Washington Management Services or workers who don’t need to be in the management ranks. He also would consolidate some state services, which he thinks can be done “without jeopardizing union work.’’

“I’m a Democrat with some strong independent views. I’m able to go and see both sides of the picture,” Mihelich said, adding, “I believe that government needs to do a better job in predicting problems.”

Williams, an attorney, is completing his third term after winning in a field of five Democrats and three Republicans in 2004. He replaced Democrat Sandra Romero, who now is a county commissioner.

Williams has been a vocal champion of state employees and the environment. He feuded with House Speaker Frank Chopp after Chopp killed his bills that would have given rights and warranties to homebuyers dealing with shoddy construction.

Williams is not yet endorsing anyone, saying last week that he prefers to see candidates vetted by labor groups and others.

Republicans still are looking for a candidate to run, and House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said during the GOP’s county convention March 27 that this might be the best shot the minority party has of taking back a seat in the 22nd, which has gone Democratic since the early 1980s.

Rep. Sam Hunt, the other 22nd district Democrat, has no challenger so far for Position 2.

Henderson and Robinson both have spoken of job creation and environmental protection as major themes of their campaigns. Reykdal, who is the deputy director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, has pledged to take on the unfairness of the tax system and boost funding for public schools.

Reykdal formally kicked off his campaign last weekend with the machinists’ endorsement. Machinists political director Larry Brown said in a news release that Reykdal “has stood up for working families on both public and work force issues.”

The race is shaping up to be an expensive one. Henderson has raised $25,125, and Reykdal has $19,080, according to Tuesday morning reports by the Public Disclosure Commission. Robinson has $2,400, and Hoefling is just getting started, while Mihelich filed for “mini-reporting,” which means he’ll limit his spending to $5,000.

Hoefling is the chairwoman of the Tumwater Council’s public-safety committee and also serves on the Thurston, Mason and Lewis counties Community Action Council. She previously served on the Thurston County Disability Board and was the first female executive director of the Thurston County Chamber.

Mihelich said he has management experience, having run restaurants in the 1990s; he has a teaching degree and worked the past three years in a pilot project of the Medical Quality Assurance Commission. He and his wife have three teens, and he is active officiating youth and high school sports.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688