PORT ORCHARD — Candidates running for seats in the 26th and 35th legislative districts who have moved on to the general election Nov. 6 shared their background stories — and a sprinkling of their political priorities — at a forum staged by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 13.
Consider their appearance more of an introduction than a traditional back-and-forth issues debate. Still, the session was illustrative for chamber members attending the monthly luncheon at the Port Orchard Order of Eagles.
While each of the 10 candidates attending the forum — 35th Legislative District state Sen. Tim Sheldon and 26th Legislative District state Rep. Michelle Caldier had previous commitments elsewhere and were unable to attend — spoke of their personal histories leading up to their most recent run for office, there was little time for them to talk politics or engage in verbal swordsmanship.
Here is a synopsis of the 35th Legislative District candidates’ talk with chamber members:
Irene Bowling, 35th Legislative District State Senate candidate
With Sheldon away in Eastern Washington, Irene Bowling, the incumbent Democrat’s opponent (who also is a member of the same party), shared with chamber members her background. A Kitsap County resident who lives near Chico Way, Bowling is a small business owner and music teacher who has taught at Olympic College and a number of area high schools.
One of the reasons she is running for the state senate seat is her concern about job development, the economy and support for small business. Her 39 years as a business owner has driven her interest in revisiting the state’s taxation codes with the intent to rewrite it so it’s fairer to small business owners.
“As a business owner myself, I realized that things like the B&O (business and occupation) tax is no good,” Bowling said. “I would like to work on that. I’m concerned about property taxes and all the different regulations that we have in business. People don’t realize that when you start up a business [you deal with] all the hidden costs of starting up that business.”
Tim Sheldon, 35th Legislative District State Senate candidate
(Sheldon was unable to attend the forum due to a previous commitment in Eastern Washington)
Dan Griffey, 35th Legislative District House Seat 1 candidate
Incumbent Dan Griffey is a lifetime resident of the 35th Legislative District and a 27-year firefighter veteran. A father and grandfather of three each, he is the ranking member in the Legislature on the Public Safety Committee and a member of the Early Childhood Learning and Education Committee.
“What have we done for South Kitsap?” he said. “I’m trying to end the statute of limitations on felony sex crimes so monsters like pedophiles should have to look over their shoulders the rest of their natural life, and that’s a big deal for South Kitsap County.”
Griffey said he worked on a safety improvement plan, as well as Gorst interchange “chokepoint” improvements and ensuring property owners can drill a well and be able to develop their property. He said he also worked with Rep. Sherry Appleton to make a referendum vote necessary before a city can annex a landowner’s property.
“We have improved safety on the Highway 3 corridor by just putting rumble strips down at very little cost. That’s improved safety quite a bit.”
James Thomas, 35th Legislative District House Seat 1 candidate
James Thomas said that while he wasn’t born or raised in the area, “this was the place I wanted to be more than any place on earth.” The Democratic challenger to incumbent Dan Griffey said he has an extensive background as a member of two Mason County government commissions: the Mason County Economic Development Council and that county’s Planning Advisory Commission. He has chaired both commissions for the last two years.
For the past 20 years, Thomas has owned a manufacturing business that provides medical device parts.
He told chamber members that his campaign is based on three ideas: jobs and prosperity for today; education and opportunity for tomorrow; and the environment, “which is our greatest legacy.”
Education, “I think, is the most important to the folks in Kitsap. In our country, we have started to take our eye off the ball on education. People are saying, ‘Now, maybe a college degree isn’t so important. Let me tell you, in the rest of the world, everybody knows that, while a college education is great today, it is absolutely going to be necessary tomorrow.”
David Daggett, 35th Legislative District House Seat 2 candidate
Daggett, a Democrat who is running against incumbent Drew MacEwen, outlined his extensive and varied career as an engineer, university professor and business owner. As a member of a family with deep roots in the area, Daggett’s career path led him to a lengthy career as an engineer at Boeing. With a Ph.D. in engineering, he later taught at California State University, then began a startup company in Arizona. Daggett returned to the aerospace workforce as a senior engineer at Rolls-Royce, then returned to Boeing as a Technical Fellow. Holding that designation, he was put in charge of a 20-person team designing early concept airplanes for the global company.
The candidate told the audience that working as a program team leader is much like being a politician.
“They gave us a lot of money and they said, ‘How will you spend this money efficiently to design the next airplane?’ We had a lot of different groups [designing different parts of the aircraft], and each one of them wants to spend a lot of money to get their technology on the airplane. So, it was up to our group to figure it out. It’s very business-oriented in designing an airplane,” he said of the process to determine the optimal ways of allocating funds.
Daggett states that he sees top priorities as improving the local economy, fiscal responsibility, protecting jobs and fighting for equality and against political corruption.
Drew MacEwen, 35th Legislative District House Seat 2 candidate
Drew MacEwen, a Republican incumbent, is a partner with Coreen and Steve Sego in owning and operating the Dock Bar and Eatery in downtown Port Orchard. He first arrived in Kitsap County in the early 1990s during his career with the Navy serving in the nuclear program as part of the submarine force.
“I did the math and discovered that I spent one year underwater,” MacEwen laughed. “I did my time in the Navy and had a lot of good experiences.”
After leaving Navy service, he entered the investment business during the “dot.com” era. He said, euphemistically, “What could go wrong? I was young and cocky.” In August 2001, he started his own company — three weeks before 9/11 occurred. The proverbial ceiling came crashing down on MacEwen and many others like him in the aftermath. That forced him to work a third-shift factory job in which he got off work at 6 a.m., rode his bike to his office for a two-hour nap, then hit the phones.
“That’s what got me through that time period,” he said. “I learned a lot from that. We are Americans, and we can overcome. Whatever your dreams are, we can do it.”
MacEwen said he has worked across the aisle in the Legislature on a number of issues, including the Holly Ridge Center in Bremerton, the Gorst interchange and the Belfair sewer extension with the Port of Bremerton and the City of Bremerton.
Upcoming: Candidates running for seats in the 26th Legislative District will outline their background and issues priorities.