PORT ANGELES — State legislative candidates Mike Chapman and Sue Forde, running to represent District 24, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, pitched themselves to voters Wednesday.
Democratic incumbent Chapman of Port Angeles, who has served in the seat since 2017, and Republican challenger Forde of Sequim, a former chair of the county Republican party, outlined their priorities for the next legislative session during a meeting of the Port Angeles Noon Rotary Club.
Forde attacked Chapman and the Democratic majority in Olympia — where Democrats control both houses of the state Legislature and the governorship — saying they passed laws that raised costs and damaged public safety.
As a small business owner, Forde said, “I understand all of the taxes and regulations that our state government lays on us, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to run.”
Forde said she wants to create a property tax exemption for those paying less than $250,000 for property.
Chapman said one of his priorities in the upcoming session is eliminating the small business tax, which he called an income tax on owners.
Speaking to a crowd of several dozen, Forde said the Democratic control of Washington’s state government was in need of a shake-up, and that new ideas are required to break the status quo.
Chapman defended his record in the Legislature, saying he had been made chair of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in his second term as a lawmaker.
He also voted against his party in a series of police reform bills that have drawn criticism for curtailing law enforcement’s ability to prosecute criminals.
“When it came to police reform bills that people have criticized, I was the only person to stand up to my party,” Chapman said.
“I actually gained stature in Olympia by being willing to stand up to my party.”
Forde was particularly critical of laws that allowed gender-affirming and abortion services to minors without parental consent.
When candidates were asked about their stance on the state’s abortion laws, Forde, referring to a 1992 ballot initiative, said the voters of Washington had spoken and the state’s laws were a settled matter.
She said she was more concerned about children.
“When we see our kids are subjected to confusion with transgender issues at kindergarten age, that concerns me,” Forde said. “I think we need to address that issue, big time.”
She said laws Chapman voted for that allowed minors to obtain abortions or gender-affirming surgery needed to be repealed.
“A 13-year-old can go and have an abortion and be sent back to school without ever consulting their parents,” Forde said.
Chapman pushed back against Forde’s characterization, calling some of her remarks, “hyperbole beyond the pale and not really worthy of a debate.”
Forde cited Senate Bill 5313, which Chapman voted for, which prohibits health insurers from declining coverage for gender-affirming surgeries.
Chapman said he supports a woman’s right to privacy, including abortion, and would oppose any legislation that seeks to undo the state’s protections.
As to access to health care, Chapman said, “those are decisions that families will make, parents and their children, and that’s where we’ll leave it.
“At the end of the day, you all have the right to live your life the way you choose to, love who you love, marry who you marry.”
According to a website maintained by the Northwest Justice Project, a publicly funded legal aid group, “depending on your provider, you might be able to get puberty blockers and/or hormone treatment at any age without an adult’s consent as part of birth control services.”
Another bill Chapman voted for, SB 5889, requires insurers to cover reproductive health services including gender-affirming surgeries, Forde said. The bill said that this included “a minor who may obtain health care without the consent of a parent or legal guardian, pursuant to state or federal law.”
In the recent Aug. 2 primary election, Chapman won 57 percent of the vote in District 24, which covers Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties, to Forde’s 29 percent.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on Oct. 19. Voter registration is available online at votewa.gov. Washington allows same-day, in-person registration for elections at county auditor offices.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at [email protected]