Elections

District 30 candidates: Highlights from forum at Highline Community College

District 30 candidates for state representative. From left: Republican incumbent Skip Priest (position 2); Democratic incumbent (position 1); Democratic challenger Carol Gregory (position 2); Republican challenger Michael Thompson (position 1). - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
District 30 candidates for state representative. From left: Republican incumbent Skip Priest (position 2); Democratic incumbent (position 1); Democratic challenger Carol Gregory (position 2); Republican challenger Michael Thompson (position 1).
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Three out of four candidates for District 30 state representative participated in a brief forum Oct. 16 at Highline Community College.

Republican incumbent Skip Priest and Democratic challenger Carol Gregory are vying for position 2.

Democratic incumbent Mark Miloscia and Republican challenger Michael Thompson are competing for position 1. The election is Nov. 4.

Miloscia was unable to attend Thursday’s candidates forum, which was sponsored by Highline Community College’s faculty union and held in front of a mostly student audience.

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Education

Carol Gregory emphasized that education funding for all levels — kindergarten through higher education — would be her number-one priority if elected. Gregory is a former teacher, former president of the Washington Education Association and union leader.

Gregory also said the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) should not be the only measure of success.

Gregory expressed concern that the Federal Way School District, which faces a $12 million budget shortfall, has had to file lawsuits against the state in order to receive basic education funding. She said Federal Way’s scenario is the result of the state’s lack of educational leadership and proper school funding.

Gregory challenged Skip Priest’s voting record against the budget, which contained provisions on funding education in Washington. Gregory later said she would not vote no on a budget because she didn’t like something in it, and would ask if there are more things in the budget that need to be funded, rather than focusing on a particular issue.

Priest said he opposed the budget because of how the money was being doled out, and that an election opponent will say if you vote against the budget, you vote against everything.

“It’s not always how much you spend, but how you spend it,” Priest said.

Priest talked about his involvement with the state Basic Education Finance Task Force in finding solutions to funding. According to the state, the task force reviews “the definition of basic education and all current basic education funding formulas.”

Priest said he is also focused on dropout prevention and supports opportunity grants that help open doors to higher education for low-income adults. Another priority is making the community college system more affordable, Priest said, also noting that if education isn’t properly funded, “other costs go up.”

Michael Thompson, in his first attempt at public office, would like to see International Baccalaureate (IB) standards become the state’s graduation standards. Thompson said he has an education reform plan that addresses the state’s dropout rate as well as problems caused by the WASL, which he opposes. Thompson said he would focus on funding solutions and bridging gaps.

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Health care

Thompson said there are not enough choices for health care coverage in the state.

“The insurance industry has a stranglehold on the medical community,” he said. Thompson said he would work to increase the number health care choices as well as decrease the pharmaceutical companies’ influence on health care costs.

Priest said health care policy is driven at the federal level, and that Washington state should model its health care leadership after Massachusetts. Though Priest did not elaborate on the Massachusetts comment at the forum, Massachusetts has recently undergone health care reform that aims to cover 100 percent of residents.

Priest spoke of his involvement with the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, which is investing in programs to lower health care costs. He also supports health care for all children.

Gregory supports legislative health care funding to cover all Washington state children by 2010, and wants to see health care for more small business employees. Gregory said she is an advocate for preventative care and considers health care her other top priority, after education, if elected.

The three candidates agreed that the state cannot afford to allow veterans to go without health care.

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Transit

Priest said expanding bus service is the top priority for transportation issues in District 30. He said the state and voters must stop delaying transportation projects.

Priest referred to the “cost of delay” that compounds problems caused by freeway and road congestion. He said there are problems with “pre-tolling” and “congestion pricing,” both of which address peak transit usage and demand.

Thompson said freeway “choke points” must be addressed first before considering light rail or expanding mass transit options.

Gregory said light rail is a huge issue, and that the state must address how to move people out of their cars and into mass transit. She also acknowledged the need for a solution involving Federal Way’s “triangle” where State Route 161, State Route 18 and Interstate 5 converge.

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Environment

Gregory said the state should enhance and support efforts by people and businesses who seek alternative energy solutions. Gregory supports alternative fuel sources such as wind and solar power, and said alternative fuels can create new business opportunities in the state.

Thompson said alternative energy projects can improve air quality in Washington. As an inventor, Thompson said he is working on alternative energy solutions that can be applied to cars being driven today, and he would bring those ideas to Olympia.

Priest would like to see the development of a “green job mentality” that complements Washington state’s service-oriented society. Priest also pointed to his experience with Friends of the Hylebos (a Federal Way conservation group) as well as environmental honors from the Washington Conservation Voters.

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Economy

All three candidates briefly touched on their views regarding the state’s economy.

Priest said he played a role in the Legislature six years ago to help bring the state toward recovery from an economic slump. He also supports pension funding for retirees. Aside from education, health care and public safety are Priest’s other primary focuses for funding.

Gregory’s short-term goal is to help balance the state’s budget as required by law. She vows to support “what protects the most vulnerable in society.” For the long-term, Gregory believes education funding for all levels will help living wage jobs and quality of life.

Thompson said the state needs to work toward developing a stronger economic base that opens doors for small businesses. This in turn will provide jobs and a solid base for the state’s economy, he said.

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Learn more about the candidates:

• Skip Priest: www.skippriest.com

• Carol Gregory: http://friendsofcarolgregory.com

• Michael Thompson: www.electmichaelthompson.com

• Mark Miloscia: www.markmiloscia.com/

• All candidates: www.kingcounty.gov/elections.aspx

• Also visit www.fedwaymirror.com to read the state representative candidates’ answers to a questionnaire from The Mirror, as well as past coverage of debates.

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