26th District: Three Democrats seeking to reclaim legislative seats

PORT ORCHARD — With evidence of a so-called “Blue Wave” possibly cresting when results of the Nov. 6 general election surface, political candidates from both parties have been pounding the pavements in the 26th Legislative District these past weeks hoping to persuade remaining undecided voters to their side.

Democratic and Republican candidates running in the district for the open state Senate seat vacated by retiring incumbent Jan Angel were at a political forum Sept. 13 hosted by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. Democrat Emily Randall and Republican Marty McClendon had just five minutes to introduce themselves to chamber members, but the candidates managed to clearly delineate their top district issues.

Marty McClendon, 26th Legislative District State Senate candidate

In turn, McClendon offered members in attendance a list of issues he said are important to the community: health care, transportation congestion, veterans, higher education and a “stable regulatory environment.”

The real-estate professional said he has been a Realtor for 19 years, first starting in Kirkland and then joining ReMax in Port Orchard. He then moved over to manage the Prudential office in Silverdale. A father and husband, McClendon said he first bought a home in Bremerton and started volunteering in the community as a T-ball and football coach. He later relocated his real-estate career to Gig Harbor.

The Republican also has had a varied working career as an anesthesia technician, church pastor and radio show host. He said a couple of serious medical issues have illuminated the issue of health care for him personally. His son twice dealt with leukemia diagnoses and his wife battled breast cancer.

He spoke for a few minutes about traffic congestion relief: “Jan Angel last year got money tied into the capital budget to address congestion in the area. I’ve been working with the mayors of Port Orchard and Gig Harbor on specific solutions to make sure you’re in your cars less.”

McClendon also said he’s a supporter of increasing vocational-technical and apprentice programs for area residents, including for veterans and school-age students. He wants to start the learning process earlier so that middle-school students can experience those programs.

Emily Randall, 26th Legislative District State Senate candidate

For Randall, making sure all families in the 26th Legislative District have affordable access to health care, especially that provided by Medicare and Medicaid, is a top priority. She outlined her personal experiences growing up in South Kitsap in which a younger sister, who was born with the rare neurological condition known as microcephaly, was always in danger of succumbing to the disease without critically needed medical treatment.

“We didn’t know how long she’d live — maybe an hour, maybe a day,” Randall said. Her father, who worked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, had a good job, she said, but even with good health insurance, it wasn’t enough to cover her sister Olivia’s expensive medical care. In the year following her birth, the state Legislature expanded Medicaid and Medicare coverage, allowing her sister to receive the care she needed, she said.

“Instead of worrying that we were going to lose our house, we were just worried about making sure she got the care that she needed,” Randall said.

Thanks to that care, Randall said, her sister lived until she was 19.

The Democrat said a significant number of people living in the district “are living right on the edge. They are just one health emergency away from really being thrown for a loop and losing everything [because of a medical crisis].”

Randall said she was the first to go to college from a family that worked hard and lived the American Dream.

“I feel so blessed to have grown up in a family of veterans and community-minded people who instilled in me the values of taking care of ourselves but in the hard times, taking care of each other.”

Connie FitzPatrick, 26th Legislative District House Seat 1 candidate

A native of Port Orchard and a graduate of South Kitsap High, Connie FitzPatrick said her family legacy of service in the Navy was a significant influence on her as she started her young career. Seeing active duty herself about a submarine tender, FitzPatrick and her husband chose to start a family in Gig Harbor.

Her family was unable to afford to send FitzPatrick to college. But following in the footsteps of her grandfather and father, she said being in the Navy allowed her to get a secondary education in cosmetology and a decade-long stretch as a small-business owner. Much of her experience as a mother was tied to volunteering in her son’s school and her interest in education.

“My top priority is education,” FitzPatrick said. “What I’m hearing from voters around the district is that the schools are bursting. They need a new school built down here. We need to support education, not just here in South Kitsap, but across our state.”

Jesse Young, 26th Legislative District House Seat 1 candidate

Young, a Republican incumbent, told chamber members that he grew up in Tacoma with a mother who “taught me the value of working hard.” He graduated from high school as valedictorian of his class and was a Washington State Scholar who later was accepted into the University of Notre Dame.

After graduation, Young said he had his wife moved to Silicon Valley in the Bay Area, where he started his career in technology in 1999. Becoming a software engineer and working at spots around the world, the Republican said he has served as an IT specialist for companies in the healthcare, aerospace and finance fields.

“When I was appointed in 2014 to the Legislature,” Young said, “I think I brought a unique skillset and I think I’ve been able to show that skillset produces fruit on your behalf.

“I’ve been working to provide my kids and your kids the same opportunities that I had to make better of yourself and provide a better future.”

Young said his skills have given him an entree into what he called “geek” committees: “It gives you an opportunity to go into an area where there aren’t a lot of political battlelines drawn in terms of policy. One of those is environmental impact.”

He said that by teaming with a Democrat in Seattle, he’s been able to work on “keystone environmental policies” in the state, including one that would push to increase the “electrical build-out for our EV [electrical vehicles] in our state.”

Michelle Caldier, 26th Legislative District House Seat 2 candidate

Caldier, an incumbent Republican, was not able to attend the Chamber of Commerce forum due to a scheduling conflict. Instead, Debbie Trudeau, the chair of the 26th Legislative District Republican Committee, read a statement in support of Caldier.

Trudeau stated that Caldier, who is in her fourth year in office, has been recognized for her bipartisanship and ability to work across the aisle in Olympia.

“She’s worked on legislation to decrease healthcare costs, fix how we fund education and fight for sexual assault victims. Prior to her election, she devoted her dental career to helping the nursing home population and has donated over $1 million of [dental] care to seniors, children and veterans.”

As a small-business owner, Caldier’s stand-in said, “she understands the challenges that a small businesses face in our state. She’s opposed to a head tax, a capital gains tax, to a state income tax or an increase in a B&O or any kind of regressive tax.”

Joy Stanford, 26th Legislative District House Seat 2 candidate

Stanford enters the race to become a state representative with a 20-year record as a health educator and a community member in the area, she told the members.

She moved to the district with her husband and young son — and three months later, was expecting a second child. But today, the challenger said she recently dropped off her 18-year-old son to begin college at Boise State.

Stanford said she worked for 10 years at Group Health, the last five as a Medicare sales consulting agent. “I’ve worked with seniors in King, Kitsap and Jefferson counties. I’ve put together 14-15 years working with seniors.”

But spending hours commuting to and from Gig Harbor to Seattle took its toll, she said, prompting Stanford to transition to work as an emergency substitute teacher in the Peninsula School District. She later took on an opportunity to serve as a community liaison in Thurston County to help seniors understand end-of-life decisions.

At the cusp of becoming an empty nester, Stanford said she made a decision to run for political office because of the issues confronting the community.

“I could see all the issues that were happening here; we have an overcrowded situation both in Peninsula School District and South Kitsap School District. We need to create solid solutions, one of which is to reduce the need for a super-majority [requirement] for passing a bond or levy.

“Let’s talk about transportation. We need to get expanded bus service both here and in Gig Harbor, and bring back bus service to my Key Peninsula folks.”

Stanford also said mental health issues, including those interconnected with drug abuse, also need to be addressed.

Bob Smith | Independent                                Matt Murphy, executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, prepares to introduce candidates running for 26th Legislative District seats in the state Legislature in Olympia.

Bob Smith | Independent Matt Murphy, executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, prepares to introduce candidates running for 26th Legislative District seats in the state Legislature in Olympia.