Question Federal Way candidates in 2012 | Bob Roegner

The campaigns are now in full swing. There are clues you should watch for when evaluating the scores of candidates running on the ballot for statewide and local office.

Pay particular attention to the local races for the Legislature, where you can meet and ask questions of the candidates on July 10 at Federal Way High School. Some are already out doorbelling, so they might end up on your front porch.

One of the most important things for voters is to get good information from unbiased sources about the candidates. The Mirror and other media outlets will offer insight and balanced coverage. Another is the Municipal League, which will provide ratings. The League is also looking for citizens to be part of their candidate evaluation process. The South King County Chair this year is Judy Turpin from Federal Way. Give them a call if you are interested. Remember to read their ratings — they are non-partisan.

Pay attention to endorsements. Who is supporting whom will tell you a lot about a candidate, good and bad.

Don’t be fooled by the name of a group. If the committee for “Motherhood and Apple Pie” is supporting a particular candidate, that might sound good, but a lot of groups try to hide their special interest agenda with a good sounding name. Make sure you understand who the group is. If it is one you are familiar with, then use the information accordingly.

District 30 state representative position one has three well known Republicans running: Federal Way School Board President Tony Moore, Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar and Jerry Galland, who has run for office previously. The Democrats, Roger Flygare and Thom MacFarlane, are not as well known but are just as earnest. Incumbent Mark Miloscia is running for State Auditor. In position two are Republican incumbent Katrina Asay and Democrats Roger Freeman, a member of the Federal Way City Council, and Rick Hoffman.

In the top-two format, a lot will be riding on the primary. How will the candidates try and distinguish themselves from each other? How will you decide who to vote for?

Candidates themselves will seldom attack their opponent. They will usually get a third party to do it. Think through what you hear. Is something said about a candidate really true, does it make sense or has it been stretched to make it sound worse than it is? Or is it even relevant?

Look at the candidates’ differences on policy. Which are you most comfortable with?

Every candidate, no matter which party they represent, supports education, public safety, more jobs and improved transportation. All the candidates will try and be as vague as possible on “how” they are going to improve everything. Be cautious when a candidate says they will “always” do something or “never” do something. There aren’t many absolutes in politics. Try and get more details about “why.”

Candidates are vague for a reason. They want to avoid too much detail because the more detail they give, the more likely their opponent is going to find something to attack, or some special interest group will find fault. Elections are won by putting together coalitions of groups. And groups have agendas. Does a particular group’s agenda match yours?

There are candidates running for office this year, like most years, that don’t actually understand how government works and what they can actually do if elected. They will try and give simple answers to complex problems.

Education funding, as an example, doesn’t have a simple answer. Force the candidates to demonstrate they understand the issues enough to give a thoughtful response. If they want to make education a priority, and most candidates do, then ask them what they are going to cut or what trade-offs with other state funding they will support.

Nobody wants to raise taxes, but you can’t increase spending for everything either, which is what most candidates would like to do. Every candidate will have pretty much the same priorities, so ask for details.

Democrats have been suggesting that the answer is to close loopholes and stop tax breaks for businesses to get extra money. Republicans have countered by saying the government should cut the waste to get more money.

Ask which loopholes or tax breaks? Some might have valid reasons for being there, or they would have already been closed. And which government waste? One person’s waste is another person’s necessary program. And after three years of budget cuts, most of the “waste” is probably already gone. Don’t accept either of these answers. Ask for specifics and how their ideas would add up to meaningful changes.

Four of the local candidates running for the Legislature are current office holders. That gives them an advantage in name familiarity and fundraising. It also gives them a public record you can evaluate. How have they been doing?

The non-office holders may not have a public record, but if they want to serve in the state Legislature, then you should expect them to be well prepared and knowledgeable. If they aren’t, that’s a bad sign.

Keep track of where the candidates’ money comes from. It will give you an indication of who they will vote with in Olympia. With control of the Legislature hanging in the balance, that will be especially true this year. Both seats here in Federal Way are in play and will receive significant attention from outside groups.

A candidate’s party label as a Democrat, Republican, independent or even bull moose might give you an idea of their philosophy, which can be helpful. Try and evaluate the candidates’ knowledge and potential for effectiveness. Policy disagreements are part of the election process. Look for candidates that elevate the dialogue, not lower it.

Neither party has all the answers. Be wary of candidates whose platform is to blame the other party. Which candidates have the ability to work across party lines and actually get something constructive accomplished? Who has creative ideas that aren’t just a reflection of their party’s talking points?

To pass a bill in Olympia, you need 50 votes in the House, 25 votes in the Senate and the governor’s signature. It is unlikely that one party will control all three, so the ability to cooperate is important come January.

In the end, vote for the candidate who will care more about good public policy, rather than how their vote will affect their re-election. It’s your government. Vote wisely.


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