State legislative candidates Jim McEntire, left, and Steve Tharinger chat Tuesday before a candidate forum. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

State legislative candidates Jim McEntire, left, and Steve Tharinger chat Tuesday before a candidate forum. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Climate, bonds topics at legislative candidate forum in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — Two candidates for the state Legislature who want to represent the 24th District differed on climate change and on reducing voter-percentage requirements for school bond measures at a forum Tuesday.

Four-term state Rep. Position 2 incumbent Steve Tharinger, a Sequim Democrat, said he favored upcoming legislation to reduce the voter threshold for approving bonds from 60 percent to 55 percent.

His challenger, Sequim Republican Jim McEntire, opposed the proposal without a vote of the people and suggested Tharinger reflects “Seattle values,” not those of the 24th District.

The district includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County.

“There is a high hurdle you should get over if you are going to bind the public, bind the taxpayer for decades to pay off a bond that should be more than a simple majority or even 55 percent,” McEntire told the 40 Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting participants.

Tharinger said the legislation is part of a bipartisan effort to change a constitutional requirement.

It was set in the late 1800s when state residents were “property rich and cash poor” and were protective of property taxes.

Since the recession around 2010, the state has been passing close to $3 billion of bonds across the state, he said, citing “a lot of pent-up demand.”

Tharinger, asserting science “is very, very clear on climate change and global warming,” said he favors moving toward a fossil-free economy by 2050, adding in a later interview that he would consider a carbon tax to cut fossil fuel emissions.

McEntire said he is opposed to a carbon tax, asserting would fall too heavily on rural residents, and said that climate change models are “too imprecise” to guide legislative policies.

McEntire said the main reason he is running “is to have someone that represents the 24th District in a way that fits the values and the inclinations of the people that live here,” he said, referring to the spirit of “the scrappiest of the scrappy” that first drew settlers to the area.

“The Seattle values, the urban, don’t always fit what needs to happen out on the coast because we have an economy that essentially is based on natural resources,” McEntire said.

He said the only way to revive the economy is to focus on “the real wealth” of the area, which is focused on “growing things and exporting them, or making things and exporting them.”

McEntire also cited a Thurston County Superior Court judges’ ruling earlier this year in a public records lawsuit filed by a media coalition that included Sound Publishing, which owns Peninsula Daily News, the Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum.

The judge ruled state lawmakers’ emails, text messages and other records are subject to public disclosure.

Lawmakers including Tharinger responded with a bill that exempted them from the voter-approved Public Records Act that was vetoed — at the urging of Tharinger and other lawmakers — by Gov. Jay Inslee .

“The 24th District needs a legislator that respects the constraints on the Legislature that are stated in the Constitution,” McEntire said.

Tharinger said a task force is developing a proposal that will address open-records reform.

Had the Legislature acted immediately after the ruling, each legislator would have had to have an entire staff to handle public records requests, he said.

“Get in touch with me,” he urged attendees. “I have nothing to hide.”

Tharinger, a former subcontractor and former Clallam County commissioner, said he had lived in Clallam County for 40 years.

“I have a sense of what makes the North Peninsula tick,” he said, touting his chairmanship of the chair of the House Capital Budget Committee and membership on the appropriations committee.

He said he has improved regulations for adult family homes, making it easier to transfer licenses between owners who are spouses, and carried his focus on avoiding government debt as a county commissioner to his tenure as a state legislator.

Tharinger also pushed for $1.9 million in funding for workforce training in partnership with Peninsula Community College and Olympic Medical Center that will develop a pool of locally trained nurses rather than forcing OMC to hire them from Seattle, he said.

Although McEntire and Tharinger will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, they urged meeting participants to vote in the Aug. 6 primary. Those ballots will be mailed to voters July 18.

“I think it’s important as an indicator of what the base is thinking about,” McEntire said in an interview.

Tharinger said in an interview that the primary gives the top vote-getter momentum going into the general election.

He gained the most votes in primaries in 2016, 2014, 2012, and in his first election in 2010, when McEntire finished second among four candidates and lost to Tharinger in the general election, 52 percent-48 percent.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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