Incumbent Rep. Mike Chapman, a Democrat, shakes hands with Republican challenger Jodi Wilke after a candidate forum in Chimacum on Tuesday night. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Incumbent Rep. Mike Chapman, a Democrat, shakes hands with Republican challenger Jodi Wilke after a candidate forum in Chimacum on Tuesday night. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Legislative District 24: Chapman, Wilke differ on school violence, corporate personhood

CHIMACUM — State Rep. Mike Chapman and challenger Jodi Wilke tackled the issues of school violence and whether corporations are people during a forum in Chimacum.

Chapman, a one-term incumbent and a Port Angeles Democrat, disagreed with his Republican opponent from Port Townsend during the Tuesday night League of Women Voters of Jefferson County and American Association of University Women forum, arguing that corporations should not be able to influence elections.

They are vying in the Nov. 6 general election for Chapman’s seat in the state House of Representatives. Chapman is in the Position 1 seat, representing the 24th Legislative District, which covers Jefferson and Clallam counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

Chapman said he supported Initiative 735, a 2016 measure that called on Congress to come up with a constitutional amendment to address campaign finances, saying if he didn’t feel his position was so important he wouldn’t have raised any money.

“I would love to get money out of politics,” he said. “I thought about this campaign — quite frankly — of unilaterally disarming myself but I think holding this seat and the work I do is too important to not raise any money.”

He said he would prefer a public financing of campaigns in which candidates would all have the same amount of money for campaigning.

Chapman said this year he’s operating on a “shoestring” budget and that he isn’t fundraising.

Chapman’s campaign has more than $100,000 in contributions and has spent more than $82,000, $40,000 of which were surplus funds he contributed to the House Democratic Campaign Committee, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Wilke has so far raised more than $40,000 and spent more than $30,000.

Wilke said corporations should be able to make campaign contributions.

“Being a person who has owned a business in the past, I don’t feel like my opportunity to voice my opinion should stop just because I incorporate a business,” she said. “If I want to use the money from a business I have grown in political ways, I should be allowed to do that.”

She said that incorporating a business gives it “personhood” which protects its shareholders from lawsuits and that should apply to political speech as well.

Wilke and Chapman also were asked about how to curb gun violence in schools and keep students safe.

Wilke criticized Chapman for voting against a budget amendment that would have provided $30 million for additional school resource officers in Washington state.

Wilke said she recently talked with students in Forks who are concerned. She said the students wanted more counseling at schools to prevent school shootings.

“I really like that idea,” she said. “I think it’s really great the kids are thinking proactively about it. In my mind, the issue with gun violence is so much an issue with social concerns.

“As long as we are focusing the matter on the hardware rather than the software, we avoid the opportunity to address an issue that is extremely important,” she said.

Chapman, a former law enforcement officer, said he had supported a proposed bill by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, that would have established regional school safety centers that would include mental health support, threat assessment raining and prevention planning. That bill died in committee last year.

“I’m very confident the Legislature will not leave the next session without taking a comprehensive approach to school safety,” Chapman said.

Chapman said he supports Initiative 1639, a measure that aims to limit gun violence. Among the provisions he supports are raising the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21, the same age required to purchase handguns.

He said he also believes in safe storage laws.

Van De Wege’s bill, SB 6224, is the “right vehicle moving forward for comprehensive school safety,” Chapman said. “We failed this last session. We didn’t get it done.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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