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PRIMARY ELECTION: District 30 candidates tackle education, jobs, health care
Education, jobs, taxes and health care dominated a public forum that featured Federal Way area candidates for state Legislature.
Eight total candidates are vying for District 30's two seats in the state House of Representatives. The top two finishers for each position in the Aug. 7 primary election will advance to the general election in November.
The candidates forum, sponsored by The Mirror and Federal Way Chamber, was held Tuesday at Federal Way High School's little theater.
DISTRICT 30 STATE REP., POSITION 1
Five candidates are competing for this state representative position, which is being vacated by Mark Miloscia, a Democrat running for state auditor. The candidates are:
• Linda Kochmar, a Republican: Kochmar has served on the Federal Way City Council since 1997, including stints as mayor, deputy mayor and chairwoman of multiple committees. Kochmar is a risk manager at Lakehaven Utility District, where she has worked 33 years. In her opening statement at Tuesday's forum, Kochmar said her regional connections are an asset and that she would be a representative people could trust in Olympia.
• Roger Flygare, a Democrat: Flygare owns a small court reporting business. He has worked with state lawmakers to pass bills related to the court reporting profession, such as license requirements and protection of job performance. In his opening statement at Tuesday's forum, Flygare said his experience owning a small business sets him apart. In his closing statement, he said he'd advocate for a "state bank."
• Tony Moore, a Republican: Moore was appointed to the Federal Way School Board in 2008, and currently serves as board president. Moore has been behind the recently-enacted accelerated academics and standards based education policies. He owns a tire wholesale business. In his opening statement at Tuesday's forum, Moore said education reform is his main focus, but also to improve the economic environment for small businesses.
• Thom Macfarlane, a Democrat: The political newcomer has a 27-year background in the information technology field, and once worked in the Oregon State Legislature. He promises, if elected, to advocate for job creation, economic development, education reform and veterans. In his opening statement at Tuesday's forum, Macfarlane said he knows how the legislative process works, and that he would "stand up for the rights of working people and veterans."
• Jerry Galland, a Republican: Galland ran for the other state representative position when it was an open seat in 2010. He also ran for South King Fire and Rescue commissioner in 2011. This longtime Boeing employee operates a blog that shares his views on the fire district. In this opening statement at Tuesday's forum, Galland said he'd be an advocate for property rights and individual rights.
Candidates frequently referred to "the McCleary decision," a January ruling by the state Supreme Court that calls for reform to education funding.
Kochmar called for changing the outdated funding formula so that "property poor" districts like Federal Way can receive adequate money. She advocates for the creation of a special budget for school funding "so it won't get raided."
Macfarlane calls for finding more ways to generate revenue to ensure equitable education funding above and beyond the McCleary decision. Galland said lack of money is less of a problem than making sure the money is being used properly for education.
Flygare called for redefining basic education in Washington and making sure "we're teaching what we need to teach." He noted the Puget Sound Skills Center as an example of a direction for education.
Moore said the McCleary decision introduces more accountability to spending. That same level of accountability needs to be looked at by people who know education, he said, and that money follows in areas that get results.
Another education topic that surfaced was charter schools. In November, voters will decide on Initiative 1240 and whether to allow private charter schools in Washington. Kochmar and Galland supported the idea of charter schools as a matter of choice, while Moore, Flygare and Macfarlane expressed their opposition to charter schools. Flygare said he supports the recent House Bill 1546, a governor-supported measure that allows more flexibility in creating innovative public school programs. All candidates said the focus should be on fixing public schools and reforming the current education system.
Taxes and regulations
As far as business regulations, all candidates said regulations hurt businesses and called for fewer regulations. The candidates criticized the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax as an obstacle to business growth. Kochmar proposed simplified regulations and taxes with sunset clauses. Moore proposed a review for any tax or regulation older than 20 years.
Garnering mixed responses was the topic of Initiative 1185, a proposed measure that would require approval from two-thirds of the Legislature, or a vote of the people, to raise taxes.
Moore supports it. "Revenue is not the issue. Priorities are the issue," Moore said. "Cuts help you see priorities."
Flygare said the bill would hobble government, and "when you hobble something, it doesn't work well."
Galland supports the measure. "Just 50 percent saying yes isn't enough," he said.
Kochmar opposes the measure. She said the answer is to prioritize spending for education and public safety. "I will not raise your taxes," she said.
Macfarlane opposes the measure, calling it "a huge stranglehold on the legislative process."
Most candidates opposed the implementation of a state income tax, although Macfarlane supports the idea and Flygare is open to it. Macfarlane said the current sales tax is regressive and hurts people on low and fixed incomes, and that the real issue is tax reform. Flygare said an income tax could be a possible solution if it could replace the sales tax. "We need parity for people," Flygare said.
Kochmar opposes a state income tax and compared the benefits of Washington over Oregon, which has an income tax but no sales tax. Moore said the state doesn't have a taxation problem — it has a spending and priority problem. If more priority is placed on helping businesses become profitable, more jobs will be created.
"The only way I'm for a new tax is if it demolishes another," said Galland, who opposes a state income tax.
The candidates were asked whether they support a single-payer health care system in Washington state.
Flygare said yes. He supports the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. "We all should shoulder those costs," he said. "I'd like to see that here."
Galland opposes such a system along with Obamacare.
Kochmar said there is a need to provide health care to all individuals, but the problem for some people is that "it forces us to buy something we don't need."
Macfarlane supports a single-payer system, and that uninsured citizens affect the rest.
Moore opposes a single-payer system. "Cost is the main prohibitor," he said. "The problem is expense."
Kochmar and Moore oppose medical marijuana in the state, while Flygare, Macfarlane and Galland support medical marijuana. All noted the difficulty in regulating and properly dispensing the drug.
Candidates were asked about their support for same-sex marriage, in light of Referendum 74, which seeks to overturn legislation that legalized same-sex marriage in Washington earlier this year.
Flygare and Macfarlane said they support marriage equality. Kochmar said she didn't think it should be an issue in this election and declined to take a position. Moore and Galland said they believe marriage is between one man and one woman, although Galland opposes the referendum, believing it will fail.
Sound Transit's light rail project to Federal Way has been delayed indefinitely due to a lack of tax revenue, despite voter approval of the project. In response to a question about light rail, the candidates generally expressed support for the project.
Moore called for a public-private partnership to make light rail a reality in South King County. Flygare suggested rearranging the taxation subareas to even the playing field. Galland blasted Sound Transit for taking money from Federal Way area voters. Kochmar proposed changing Sound Transit's governing board from one that's appointed to a board that's elected by the people. Macfarlane echoed Kochmar's sentiments, calling light rail a "political football."
DISTRICT 30 STATE REP., POSITION 2
Two Democrats are challenging incumbent Katrina Asay, a Republican, for this state representative position.
• Rick Hoffman, a Democrat: Hoffman is a political newcomer who serves on the board for the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and works as an electrical engineer at Boeing. He has also served in the National Guard. Education is his top priority, along with housing and jobs. "The value of a single human being needs to be respected," Hoffman said of the most important issue he wants to address. "In Olympia, we seem to have cash funds that are more important than a human being."
• Roger Freeman, a Democrat: Freeman, an attorney for 17 years who works with parents dealing with Child Protective Services, was elected to the Federal Way City Council in 2009. His most notable accomplishment since taking office is reviving the city's annual Martin Luther King Celebration. "Can I use one word to say education/jobs?" Freeman said when asked about his top priorities, which are funding education and creating jobs.
• Katrina Asay, a Republican: For position 2, incumbent Katrina Asay, a former mayor of Milton, faces two challengers. Asay was elected to the state representative seat vacated by Skip Priest, who became Federal Way's first elected mayor in 2010. Asay helped pass tougher legislation related to illegal cash for gold sales. NOTE: Asay did not be attend the July 10 debate. Scroll to the bottom of this report to read her letter.
Both candidates assailed the state's education funding formula.
Hoffman called the formula "outdated," and wants distribution of funds throughout the state from wealthier communities in order to achieve more equitable funding for all.
"It didn't take the McCleary decision for me to know that education funding was pretty sad in this state," he said.
When asked if he would support raising taxes to fund education, Hoffman said, "we do need to raise revenue. … from the 1 percent that benefit the most. That's the proper way to fund our education."
Freeman said funding education is a matter of will, and that additional funding can come from an amended model. Freeman said he wants to distribute funds based upon the needs of communities, and will comb over the budget and find money for funding education because "kids deserve it."
Freeman opposes raising taxes for education. "It's not a taxing issue, it's a prioritization issue," he said.
While neither Freeman nor Hoffman have experience in running a business, both said they have other life experiences that will serve District 30.
"I've spent my life volunteering in the community and advocating for folks," said Freeman, adding that passing good legislation requires a sound mind and a commitment to the people being served.
"We need different perspectives in the Legislature," Hoffman said. "Having a business owner's perspective is one of many."
The candidates were asked to cite examples of leadership in the community.
As a city councilman, Freeman helped revive the Martin Luther King Celebration by securing city money for the event. He has worked as a truancy attorney and said he founded the Coalition to End Truancy.
In addition to representing Boeing scientists, machinists and engineers, Hoffman volunteered for three years as a tutor at Concord Elementary, a low-income school in Seattle.
Both candidates support medical marijuana in Washington.
"Why would you deny someone medication they need to make their life tolerable?" Hoffman said, adding that he supports recreational use of marijuana. "It's not addictive, yet we can go to the grocery store now and you can buy some Johnnie Walker (Scotch whisky)."
Freeman supports the medicinal use of marijuana and said legalization will help the state save money that's spent in the "war on drugs."
"I would vote to legalize it," he said. "My only concern is that the federal government doesn't recognize it (as medicine)."
"I am married to a woman. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, no doubt about that," Freeman said. "The other thing is I know people can't control who they fall in love with."
Freeman said he would make sure no laws discriminated or inhibited a person from "exercising their right to love someone."
Hoffman looked at the issue from a historical perspective.
"I think everybody deserves the opportunity to go through the misery of divorce," he said, noting that not long ago, interracial marriage was illegal in the U.S. In those times, he said, opponents expressed fears similar to those targeted at same-sex marriage.
"It's a matter of freedom, equality and liberty," Hoffman said, "and they should have the right to marry."
Both candidate addressed Initiative 1185, a proposed measure that would require approval from two-thirds of the Legislature, or a vote of the people, to raise taxes.
Hoffman said the requirement leads to gridlock, as evidenced in the California Legislature and the U.S. Senate.
"It doesn't work. It's minority rule," Hoffman said. "It brings states and communities to their knees."
Freeman took a similar stance.
"Having to convince two-thirds of the people to vote in favor of legislation really does hamstring the will of the people," he said, adding that the requirement frustrates the system. "It's contrary to the will of the people. A simple majority is what democracy is built on."
Freeman said that when Sound Transit first announced that light rail to Federal Way would be delayed, his first inclination was to sue.
"We got the short end of the deal," he said, adding that Sound Transit breached its contract with voters who approved the project. He suggests putting the light rail back on the ballot and give voters a chance to "undo" the plan.
"We certainly can change a vote," he said. "The people of Federal Way and the district need to re-decide that and send a message to Sound Transit."
Hoffman supports light rail as a solution to job creation and relieving traffic. Alternate transportation will ultimately improve the business climate, he said, by getting people off the highways and free trucks from gridlock so they can deliver their goods.
"We need to decide why those funds haven't been spent," he said of the light rail money, "then put them to use where they were intended."
Click here to watch a video clip of closing statements by candidates Roger Freeman and Rick Hoffman at Tuesday's forum.
Letter from Katrina Asay
One of the hardest things about being your state representative is trying to be everywhere I am requested to be. Sometimes the choices are tough and when they are, I make the choice based on the long-term benefit for the people of our district. Such it is with the choice I made for tonight.
I was asked to join a small group of legislators in traveling to San Diego at my own expense to learn about the life and needs of our Navy veterans. As much as I wanted to be with you tonight, I was not able to justify campaigning — being at the forum tonight — over doing the job that you elected me to do.
As always, I will be available to meet with you one-on-one or in a group upon my return later this week. Please feel free to give me a call on my cellphone at (253) 332-8483 to set up a time should you desire to do so. Thank you for your understanding.
Below are just a few things we accomplished for our district over the past two years.
The citizens asked for safer communities and I drafted and passed two major pieces of legislation dealing with property crimes.
The citizens asked for more jobs for Federal Way and Senator Eide and I worked together to bring a $2.5 million grant to Federal Way for the infrastructure needed to support redevelopment in the downtown area.
The citizens asked for help when a non-profit organization for kids was being unfairly taxed and Senator Eide and I drafted and passed legislation helping that organization and the youth.
The citizens asked for financing for the next phase of the improvements of the triangle project at I-5 and Highway 18 and we were able to secure $1.5 million for that endeavor.
The citizens asked for accountability from Sound Transit for the $12 million Federal Way sends them each year and we drafted new legislation that did just that.
Again, thank you for taking the time to be here tonight and for accepting my apology for not being able to.
COMING UP: CONGRESS DEBATE
Five candidates for U.S. Congress District 9 will take the stage in a forum that runs 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at Federal Way High School's little theater.
The district is Washington's first majority-minority congressional district, and is currently held by Democratic Rep. Adam Smith. The redrawn 9th District stretches from Tacoma in the south to Mercer Island and Bellevue in the north.
The 9th District is now comprised of 50.3 percent "non-white" residents. The map for legislative districts was redrawn to make room for the new 10th District in the Olympia area. The new district was created because more than one million new residents have moved to Washington since 2000.
Candidates challenging Smith for the position are Jim Postma (Republican), Dave Christie (Democrat), Tom Cramer (Democrat) and John Orlinski (Republican). Click here to learn more about the candidates.
VOTE BY MAIL
Monday, July 9, was the last day to register to vote for the Aug. 7 primary election. Residents of King County can check their registration status by visiting the county’s My Voter Guide portion of kingcounty.gov/elections or by calling the voter hotline at (206) 296-8683.
Ballots for the vote-by-mail election will be sent to voters in mid-July.