Opinion

District 30 Legislature hopefuls duke it out | Bob Roegner

Last week, the Federal Way Mirror and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored a debate for the candidates for the state Legislature that was both informative and lively.

When combined with their mailings and comments in The Mirror, a more complete picture of each candidate starts to emerge. The race for the state Senate between Democratic incumbent Tracey Eide and Republican challenger, Federal Way School Board President Tony Moore, has provided the most contrast and the most fireworks. Since control of the state Senate may hinge on the outcome of just a few races, this race has become one of the most closely watched in the state. The primary resulted in a small lead for Eide.

With the state's budget woes, Moore's theme has been that the "state does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem," and he has repeatedly directed the blame at Eide. Moore is a good speaker and used the debate format to his advantage with short direct answers to the public-generated questions. He was critical of Eide raising taxes and allowing state spending to "get out of control." He also felt the state was making it harder for business to be successful with its mandates. He told those in attendance that Eide is a powerful Senator and didn't support the Federal Way School District in its lawsuit against the state.

Eide responded that while she has been in office, the school district's budget has improved. But she was thrown off her game a little by Moore's aggressive style. She did get her message out, which was "I walk the walk" and can deliver to Federal Way. She noted her accomplishments including funding for the I-5/SR-18/SR-161 Triangle traffic improvement project near Costco, which she said will bring 6,000 jobs; obtaining a grant for the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce's business incubator project, which will start new business; and passing a bill to help education by lowering the voter approval threshold for some school issues to a simple majority.

Eide defended her position on the state budget and challenged Moore to identify what cuts he would have made. Moore missed an opportunity by referring people to his website, rather than listing his suggested cuts, which left the issue hanging with the media. However, he did show an additional political organizing skill. About 75 percent of the audience were Moore supporters.

The debate between Democrat Carol Gregory and Republican Katrina Asay to replace Skip Priest in the House of Representatives lacked the "spirited nature" of the Senate candidates, but provided insight in its contrasts. Gregory has worked in the governor's office and in the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. She has been a school teacher and chaired the Small Business Advisory Council. She ran against Priest two years ago, so she has campaign experience at this level. She has a good background, knows the issues, and it shows. She is prepared and business-like in her approach. Asay also has relevant experience, but a different type, as she is the mayor of Milton. In the strong mayor form of government, she has had to hire and fire staff, and manage a budget for seven years. She was a tax preparer and holds a real estate license. Both agree education is the paramount duty of the Legislature. Asay acknowledges she doesn't have strong education experience and would rely more on experts. But she is an intriguing candidate whose style is both earnest and sincere.

Both candidates oppose an income tax, along with I-1098, and would support helping small business. Gregory opposes both liquor initiatives. Asay said she supported both at first, but after considering the impact on some businesses, she isn't sure how she would vote now. Asay wants the B&O tax (business and occupation) eliminated, and Gregory wants it reformed. Both believe the initiative process is a bad way to set state policy. Gregory led after the primary, but she was the only Democrat. Asay split the vote with several other Republicans, but there were more total Republican votes cast. Like the Senate, it is a tossup.

In the other House race, Democratic incumbent Mark Miloscia is being opposed by Republican Shawn Sullivan. There is some agreement, as both oppose the recently passed "7-11" taxes on candy and soda pop. But each candidate also would have a different agenda in Olympia. Sullivan says he will never vote for a tax increase, while Miloscia says "never say never." Sullivan's background is in business and he wants to improve the business climate by looking into employment security, labor and industries, and opposes a higher minimum wage. Miloscia favors a higher minimum wage to help working families, and is interested in reducing homelessness, helping single parent households and improving education. Miloscia led by a significant margin coming out of the primary, so it may be difficult for first-time candidate Sullivan to catch up.

Voters, do your homework. Read the voters pamphlet, The Mirror and the candidates' literature.

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