PORT ORCHARD — While politics on the national level can’t be topped for its smorgasbord of missteps, intrigue and drama, there’s a tossed side-salad of diversity and bombast at the state and local level, especially among a crowded group of candidates vying for seats in the 26th Legislative District.
The candidates running for office in the district offer voters a bit of a twist this primary election: diversity. Half of the 10 candidates running for the district’s three seats are women; a Latina and Latino are candidates and one is an African-American woman.
The legislative district, which includes a wide swath of South Kitsap County and portions of Pierce and Mason counties, was rocked during the candidate filing week in May involving the 26th District’s well-entrenched Republican state senator, Jan Angel.
The Port Orchard veteran legislator filed for reelection early in the week, then in a bit of political gamesmanship, she withdrew in the last hour on the last day of filing. That set the stage for radio talk-show host Marty McClendon’s entry at the last minute — preventing the sitting district representatives from switching races and preempting other potential candidates from joining the race.
McClendon is perhaps best known in the political arena for running, and losing, three campaigns for office, including the lieutenant governor’s race in 2016. He also served as chair of the Pierce County Republican Party and is a Gig Harbor real estate broker in addition to his radio gig.
McClendon is light on specifics about what he would do in Olympia if elected. Judging by broad statements he’s made over the past several years, the Republican said he is opposed to taxes and “stifling regulations” on local businesses.
A solid conservative who adheres to Christian right policies, if previous campaigns are any indication, McClendon has sent out mailers admonishing district voters to beware of “extreme Seattle-style politics” that he said wouldn’t work in the 26th District — a jab at Democratic challenger Emily Randall. She’s a newcomer to politics, was raised in Port Orchard and lives in Bremerton. Randall said she returned to the area to be with her family, but the campaign has kept her walking throughout district neighborhoods to meet voters.
Randall is advocating expanding access to educational opportunities and affordable healthcare. The Wellesley College graduate worked in the healthcare field with Planned Parenthood, Children’s Hospital and her alma mater. The 32-year-old Latina was raised in a union household and was the first in her family to attend college.
Adding a dash more drama to the state senate race is Bill Scheidler, who is running as an independent. The “thorn-in-the-side” candidate, who has run for office unsuccessfully previously, has railed against what he says is widespread corruption in government. In that regard, Scheidler has alleged that the district’s current representatives have “turned a blind eye to what they have learned.”
State Representative, Position 1
Incumbent Rep. Jesse Young’s has had a few issues with the Legislative Ethics Board — he’s been fined twice for skirting state rules delineating what’s proper for legislative duties and appropriate for campaigning. Young ran afoul another time and was penalized with the loss of a legislative aide after being charged with verbally abusing staff members.
Apart from those considerable issues, Young has been a longtime advocate in the Legislature for freezing Narrows Bridge tolls and improving transportation systems on the Peninsula.
Young is being challenged by Naomi Evans, a 39-year-old Bremerton School Board member. The fellow Republican, a bookkeeper and parent coordinator at the ARC of the Peninsulas in Kitsap, has focused her campaign on the issues of education, homelessness and the district’s shrinking affordability.
On the Democratic side, third-generation Navy veteran and small business owner Connie FitzPatrick is a first-time candidate for office. Raised in Port Orchard, FitzPatrick said in the county’s voters’ pamphlet that “I’ll stand up for students, veterans and families.” She also plans to work to reduce transportation costs for district families.
State Representative, Position 2
Incumbent Republican Rep. Michelle Caldier is making a bid for re-election by touting her bipartisanship approach in solving district problems. She referenced her collaboration with Democratic state Sen. Ruth Kagi on foster care (Caldier was a foster child for a portion of her youth) and Sen. Patty Kuderer, also a Democrat, on a bill to curb excessive executive and board pay at nonprofit insurance companies. The legislator also has been involved in working to close gaps in the state’s mental health system.
Caldier has engaged in some scraps with her fellow GOP primary challenger, Randy Boss, during the campaign. The general contractor from Gig Harbor, 69, has battled with Caldier over a complaint filed by one of his supporters with the Legislative Ethics Board. The board dismissed the complaint, but that hasn’t quieted the noise from Boss’s camp. He’s been a reliable firebrand for the conservative right and has fought against numerous school bond measures and taxes.
Boss said he’s in favor of “fresh approaches” to the state’s problems in Olympia, but stated in the voters’ pamphlet that he’s against “throwing more tax dollars into a broken system.”
Joy Stanford, a Democrat running her first campaign for office, has a platform dominated by the issues of education, healthcare and state’s infrastructure. Stanford, who is a substitute teacher in the Peninsula School District, said she will institute common-sense approaches in the Legislature if elected.
Marco Padilla, who is running with the People Over Party affiliation, is campaigning as an independent voice in Olympia. He said his approach in the Legislature would be to “put people over party.” The Navy veteran has been active in veteran causes and is the founder of Latino Veterans In Action.