PORT ANGELES — The race between Democratic state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and Republican Connie Beauvais has become personal despite both automatically moving on to the Nov. 3 general election.
The two are on Tuesday’s primary ballot, but votes for either will not affect both moving on to face off in the general election.
Both disagree on taxes, which Beauvais wants to cut and which she said Van De Wege raised, while Van De Wege questioned her math, they said Friday in interviews. They also disagree on sex education.
Beauvais, who will be 69 on Nov. 3, wants to repeal a recently passed Senate bill and leave sex education curriculum decisions, including those related to sexual-orientation, to school districts and parents.
Van De Wege, who will be 46 on Nov. 3, defends SB 5395, saying more local control would cause more teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
But while the two have yet to meet in a candidate forum, a sharp dividing line has emerged in their campaigns.
Van De Wege and Beauvais, a Port of Port Angeles commissioner, are reaching out in different ways to the 106,000 voters of the 24th Legislative District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County; the latter has less than a quarter of the voters.
According to the state Public Disclosure Commission, Beauvais has generated $66,400 in contributions and spent $47,000 on her campaign, compared with the $9,100 spent by Van De Wege since the May 11-15 filing week.
He has recorded $92,600 in contributions with the PDC.
In the last two weeks since primary ballots were mailed to voters, Beauvais has paid for three rounds of campaign mailers that include a direct challenge to her Sequim opponent’s commitment to fighting COVID-19.
Beavais has donated $10,700 to her campaign, while the state Republican Party has donated $18,700.
“Where is Kevin Van De Wege?” one mailer says, paid for, like the other two, by the state Republican Party.
“Kevin is MISSING from COVID relief efforts.”
Van De Wege countered Friday that he’s been on the front lines as a Clallam Fire District 3 lieutenant for 51 hours a week as well as being a state legislator, trading out vacation time and off days with other firefighters during legislative sessions.
“Right now, I’m a bit disgusted and disappointed with what she’s doing,” he said.
“I never in my life imagined an opponent would hit me for being a firefighter.”
The five-term former state representative accused Beauvais of being a career politician.
“Every day I’m fighting this pandemic, whether it’s by being a firefighter or being a legislator and being a public servant, and she’s taken the action of attacking that, and I don’t think the voters of the 24th District appreciate that,” he said.
“She’s opted to attack me for being a public servant, and that obviously takes a lot of money to get that across,” he said.
“My goodness,” was Beauvais’ response to Van De Wege’s ire.
She stood by her criticism of him, pointing to her own efforts to distribute thousands of pounds of potatoes and onions in the district — on her own time — earlier this year as part of a COVID-19 relief effort.
Beauvais, who works full time as the Crescent Water District manager, told Peninsula Daily News beforehand and afterward that it was not campaign related, and said Thursday she would not allow a participant to display a campaign sign during the food distribution.
In a campaign mailer, she says she “personally worked” to deliver the food to local families.
“I also know I’m a full-time employee of an essential business, but I still took time to go out and meet with businesses,” she said Thursday.
“I spent over three weeks of my life putting all that potato distribution together.
“It took time to do that beyond my regular work.
“I don’t have anything to apologize for.
“He could have done exactly the same thing.”
Van De Wege said every election is important and would not discuss his campaign expenditure strategy.
So far, they include $4,600 recorded July 17 with the state Public Disclosure Commission for a mailer.
They also include $1,700 in payroll taxes for his teenage son and daughter, 19, a Western Washington University student who worked on his 2016 campaign, Van De Wege said.
Beauvais has spent $9,200 alone on radio advertising, mostly in Grays Harbor but also in Clallam County.
Each district must choose from alternatives provided by state officials or can devise a curriculum that complies with certain requirements. Education must be provided at least once to grades K-5 and at least twice to grades 6-12.
Students can be excused from the classes at their parents’ request.
Referendum 90, on the Nov. 3 ballot, would allow the bill to take effect if it is approved and would not allow it to take effect if it is defeated, thereby not requiring schools to provide comprehensive sex education.
Beauvais said there should be more local control of sex education, saying SB 5395 takes too little account of the wishes of parents and teachers.
“They are degenderizing and sexualizing kids in the same fell swoop,” she said of the legislation.
“Sexual identity does not need to be taught at the kindergarten level,” she said of “degenderizing.”
She said she did not know what kindergarten children would be taught under the legislation.
Van De Wege said leaving sex education entirely up to school districts and parents does not work, asserting that more teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease occurs in districts where it is not taught.
“That a big part of the reason that the state stepped in and passed [SB 5395],” he said.
Beauvais supports repealing recent tax increases that she said totalled $8 billion. She wants to revert to a state budget from two years ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic has “changed the whole discussion” revolving around the budget, she added.
“We need to look at the whole, big picture again.”
Van De Wege speculated that the tax increases Beauvais referred to could cover several years.
House Republicans have cited $10 billion in tax increases approved by lawmakers in 2019 with a fiscal impact between 2021-25, as described on their website at tinyurl.com/PDN-TaxHikes.
They include a long-term-care payroll tax generating $3.7 million and $3 million in K-12 levy authority, not automatic tax increases.
“Essentially, the only time we raised taxes was for Boeing,” Van De Wege said.
He added he is looking forward to the January legislative session.
“I feel confident we will be able to get through the session with a balanced budget,” he said, pledging to balance “environmental needs and job needs” if he is re-elected to a second term.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].