PORT ANGELES — State Senate candidates Kevin Van De Wege and Danille Turissini sat farther apart on political issues than the few feet separating them at a general election forum at the Clallam County Courthouse.
Sitting Wednesday at dais chairs reserved for county commissioners, they differed on imposing a capital gains tax to fund education, increasing the statewide minimum wage and preventing at-risk individuals from having access to firearms for up to two years under Initiative 1491.
The two candidates are vying for the 24th District state Senate seat being vacated by longtime lawmaker Jim Hargrove, who is retiring from the legislative body.
Van De Wege, a Democrat, and Turissini, who filed as a “GOP/independent party” candidate, took questions from an audience of about 55 participants at the forum sponsored by the Clallam County League of Women Voters.
Ballots for the Nov. 8 general election will be mailed Wednesday to voters in the district, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County.
Van De Wege is a five-term 24th District state representative and Clallam County Fire District No. 3 firefighter-paramedic.
He said he supports firearms-limiting I-1491.
Turissini is a Port Ludlow resident and former grass-roots director for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
She said she opposes it.
If approved, judges could issue what are called extreme-risk protection orders that would prevent individuals who are deemed a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms for up to two years.
Turissini said she is cautious about imposing restrictions on firearms little by little.
“It seems like there is incrementalism that happens, and I want to be very cautious about that in all cases related to firearms.”
There is no research that shows innocent people are safeguarded by having firearms taken away, she added.
Van De Wege said the requirement of a court order safeguards gun owners’ rights under the initiative.
He added that he opposes a ban on assault weapons because “it goes after law-abiding citizens.”
Van De Wege also said he supports statewide Initiative 1433, which would increase the minimum wage from $9.47 an hour to $13.50 by 2020.
In response to a question on I-1433’s impact on seniors on fixed incomes, Van De Wege said seniors’ expenses can be covered.
“The costs can be divvied up,” he said.
“If seniors can’t pay for their care, government funding steps in so quickly.”
But Turissini said the higher wage imposed under I-1433 is not enough to solve the low-wages problem.
“I don’t like one-size-fits-all solutions,” she said.
Turissini said she favors a “tiered” solution that applies differently to different geographic areas “so it does not crush the businesses such as in our community.”
Turissini and Van De Wege also responded to a query on bringing equity to what the questioner said was the state’s regressive tax system.
Van De Wege said the state needs to find the revenue to fully fund K-12 basic education as mandated under the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.
He said if tax loopholes can’t be closed to fill the gap, he favors imposing a capital gains tax.
“That would tax the folks that are most able to pay,” he said.
“That would help make our taxes more equitable and less regressive.”
Van De Wege added that he favors taxing the sale of nonretirement stocks and bonds, not the sale of property.
Turissini said the business-tax system needs reforming rather than imposing a capital gains tax.
The Legislature seems to impose taxes “on a whim,” she said.
“There are quite a few services and quite a few things the government is funding that we should take a look at.”
Van De Wege defended the Legislature, saying lawmakers have streamlined costs.
“I would love to hear examples that you might have,” he said.
Turissini suggested sunset clauses and re-assessing spending on a regular basis.
“It seems like not a lot of thought goes into the process other than repeating, repeating, repeating,” she said.
She asked the audience, for example, if the state lottery pays for education.
“No,” she and members of the audience said loudly.
Van De Wege said that is incorrect.
He said about $100 million goes toward K-12 school construction.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].