By Christi Baron | Olympic Peninsula News Group
FORKS — Senate candidates traded views on jobs, housing and COVID-19 during a forum hosted by the Forks Chamber of Commerce.
Incumbent Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, and Republican challenger Connie Beauvais took questions from about a dozen chamber members Oct. 14 during the Zoom debate.
Beauvais, third district commissioner for the Port of Port Angeles and manager of the Crescent Water Association in Joyce, said she has a varied background in government as well as the private sector.
She said she felt COVID-19 has further disenfranchised the population, adding “we need a balanced budget and not tax increases.”
She has not said what programs she would cut to balance the budget but has said mental health programs are a high priority due to the pandemic.
She said: “We need to fix the fish and land issues and not allow arrearages that put impacts on our junior taxing districts. I will listen to you.”
Van De Wege is a former House member ending his first four-year term in the Senate. He chairs the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee and also serves on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee.
A fulltime paramedic-lieutenant with Clallam County Fire District 3 in Sequim, Van De Wege said he was Zooming in from his job at the fire department.
“I am running again to continue to work for jobs,” he said.
“When people have jobs, they can continue to support schools and their community.”
Van De Wege said he was passionate about vocational training and that taxing large corporations in the state has resulted in funds that help send children to school.
The shortage of available housing and what to do about it was addressed by the candidates.
Van De Wege said because people will continue to come, “it is so much deeper than finding contractors to build houses.”
Beauvais agreed it was a difficult issue:
“This is a problem all over: the conversion of rentals into B&Bs is less headache for the property owner. We need to reduce the soft costs of housing, address permit costs, sales tax, look at tiny houses.”
The question was asked, “What can we do to get to Phase 3?”
Van De Wege said it is important that we move on, saying the governor is not taking much legislative input.
Beauvais said she has seen so many businesses and families struggle, “we need to allow counties to make decisions, work with their county health advisor.”
The two also discussed healthcare premiums as well as L&I cost and minimum wage.
In closing, Van De Wege said it has been an honor to be senator.
“Not everyone likes what I say, but, I am honest and forthright.”
Beauvais said she was in support of adult workforce training, “We have lost our skilled workers.
“I understand business, my opponent votes with the 1-5 corridor, I will spend time in the district to understand what is needed.”