Caldier seeks 6th term; 4 challengers create crowded District 26 race

State Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Gig Harbor, of the 26th Legislative District, will seek yet another defense of her seat as a state representative, but a former Oregon legislator, three candidates running rookie campaigns and multiple legislative conduct reports stand in her way in a crowded race in the Aug. 6 primary.

Caldier has held her seat since 2015 and aims to keep it in her party’s hands. Her campaign has commonly been seen alongside fellow Republican Jim Henderson, who is running for Position 1 in the same district, in a combined effort to “stop a (democratic) supermajority” in the state house.

“I am extremely concerned what policies will be passed if the Democratic majority gains supermajorities in both chambers,” she said. “We need to bring balance back to our state and stop the rising crime and inflation.”

The Central Kitsap High School and Olympic College alum’s campaign focuses on her accomplishments of past terms including work to end the statewide eviction moratorium, relief on tolls and ferry funding, and resuming police pursuits, as well as a continued interest in healthcare as she herself has overcome health challenges.

“After losing my vision eight years ago and getting a prosthetic eye, I understand the challenges people face advocating for themselves and navigating bureaucracy,” she said.

But the incumbent’s campaign faces two reports finding Calider in violation of legislative conduct rules. The first found she had demonstrated patterns of bullying and swearing at staff members. Her response led to a second investigation and report stating that conduct violations were made when she publicly identified people whose names were redacted in the first investigation.

Caldier did not address the report in her election statement.

Among her four challengers is former Oregon state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, D-Port Orchard. She was elected to her sole two-year term in 2018. She did not seek a second term, and now believes she will be ready to hit the ground running in this state on issues such as affordable housing and stabilizing rent, increased funding for schools and students that includes career training programs, and ensuring affordable and accessible healthcare.

“I’ve had to make tough choices in my legislative role—but those choices were always made by listening to everyone who wished to weigh in, weighing relevant factors, and leading by considering how to best help and protect the interests of working people and families,” she said.

Those interests, she said, also include reproductive rights after the federal overturning of Roe v. Wade. Mitchell said such a decision “rolled back the clock on women’s and reproductive rights,” and she would work to ensure the power dynamic in the state would not lead to a compromise of a right to choose.

In 2019, industry activist group Timber Unity launched a recall effort against the rookie lawmaker after her votes in support of a carbon-focused House Bill, which would eventually die on the state’s Senate floor. The recall effort failed as Timber Unity was unable to gather the required signatures.

”I’m not afraid to stand up to special interests, to protect our environment, or fight to protect reproductive rights,” she said. “As a former elected official, I have a track record of exactly that.”

Lori McPherson is the second democratic challenger and is also filing in Kitsap. The rookie candidate’s campaign was sparked by decisions by Caldier that she believes showed contempt to single parents like her, going further to call the attention shown to low-income and senior communities deceitful and lazy.

“We should never have to hear, ‘I don’t need your support, I’ve got lobby money!’ when we seek help from our representatives,” she said in her statement. “I pledge, in every way, to be the opposite of this attitude.”

Filing out of Gig Harbor is Republican Rachel Harter – an advocate against “woke politics” and for parental rights, public safety, and fiscal responsibility – and independent Josh Smith, who aims to address inflation by reducing taxes for working families and seniors while funding school, transportation and small businesses.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Rachel Harter

Rachel Harter

Tiffiny Mitchell

Tiffiny Mitchell