EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story misstated topics covered in questions. Candidates were not asked about housing and crime but the subjects were covered in responses.
Candidates for District 24 seats in the Washington House of Representatives sparred over the differences between Democrat and Republican policies as they answered questions before a crowd and on the radio at a Jefferson County League of Women Voters’ candidate forum July 13.
Incumbents Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger, both Democrats serving in the district’s Position one and two respectively, were joined by Republican challengers Brian Pruiett — who seeks to unseat Tharinger — and Matthew Rainwater, who’s vying for Chapman’s seat.
Another Republican, Sue Forde, is running for the Position one seat but was unable to attend the forum due to a prior commitment, and Democrat Darren Corcoran, a candidate for position two, also was absent.
Questions posed to the candidates by the moderator covered such familiar topics as inflation and health care, with candidates each given time to respond to each question.
The Democratic incumbents cited investments they’ve been able to make in the North Olympic Peninsula. Tharinger, an incumbent since 2011, said through his positions on various House committees he was able to secure funding for infrastructure projects and dental health clinics. Chapman, in office since 2017, said the state Legislature has taken on several critical issues.
“People are talking about a possible recession but I tell you tonight, I’m grateful to live in a state where a woman has a right to choose, unequivocally in state law,” Chapman said. “I’m grateful that I live in a state where climate change is not just debated and tossed under a rug somewhere.”
But their Republican challengers were deeply critical of the Democratic majority in the state Legislature and said that the policies coming out of Olympia are increasing costs and enabling criminals.
Pruiett said environmental regulations passed at the state and federal levels were adding cost burdens to businesses and families and called for the state to repeal its gas tax. Pruiett also said the state was spending too much on services and not seeing adequate results.
“So if you’re paying so much money for government services, and you’re not getting all those services, then I think we need to reduce those services that are producing the fees because you’re not getting the services anyway,” Pruiett said.
Pruiett said the state’s education system spends more than $18,000 per pupil but still had high failure rates in math and reading.
The challengers were critical of police reform bills that came out of the state Legislature in 2020 and 2021.
“The Democrat party got together and crafted the laws that handcuffed our law enforcement and kept them from being able to do their job,” Rainwater said.
Incumbents pointed to what the Legislature had done to boost alternative energy. Tharinger said the Legislature was looking at ways to electrify the state’s transportation system, including the state ferries, as a way of lessening the state’s dependence on oil products.
“You know we’re blessed here in Washington to have abundant hydropower and the ability to electrify our transportation system with that hydropower will be pretty exciting,” Tharinger said.
Chapman said companies like Alaska Airlines have started using residual materials that had been left over after timber harvest to make biofuels and said several investors were looking at taking some of the North Olympic Peninsula’s leftover timber products.
The forum lasted for over an hour and touched on several topics, including the state’s health care, housing, tax policy and sexual education in schools.
Though Forde was unable to attend, a representative read a prepared statement on her behalf.
“Sue (Forde) has lived worked and raised a family in North Olympic Peninsula for 33 years,” the statement said. “Sue will work to reduce taxes, restore safety to our communities and bring balance to our state government. It’s time for a change.”
The state’s primary election is Aug. 2, and ballots were mailed to voters beginning Wednesday. The top-two primary will narrow the field to two candidates in each race, regardless of party affiliation.
Video of the forum an be viewed at https://www.lwvwa.org/Jefferson or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBIDcHP1srhVawhk9X-javQ.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com